Why You Aren’t Losing Weight in a Calorie Deficit

A client recently asked me to make sense of a calorie deficit and why she’s not losing weight following one. After a quick dive into her food journal, it was easy to figure out why she wasn’t losing weight following a calorie deficit.

Many believe that simply following a calorie deficit is a fool-proof plan to lose weight. After all, if you burn more calories than you consume, your body should start shedding those extra pounds. Yet, when it comes to weight loss, there is a lot more to it than calories in and calories out. 

As you will see, several factors should be considered, including what you eat, hormone imbalances, stress levels, sleep patterns, and much more. I am not a fan of measuring calories or counting macros. Dieting is stress on your body, which elevates your cortisol levels. And cortisol is a major roadblock to weight loss. 

I will tell you about possible reasons you aren’t losing weight in a calorie deficit and what you can do about it. Before we get into that, let’s talk about what is a calorie deficit. 

What is a Calorie Deficit? 

Calories are nothing more than a unit of measurement for energy from what you eat and what you drink. Calories hold no nutritional value other than knowing how much energy your body will get from that particular food. The idea of a calorie deficit is that when you deprive yourself of calories from food to meet your body’s energy needs, it will burn fat for energy. While that’s true, it’s only part of the picture. 

Macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fats contain the highest number of calories. Just because a food has low calories doesn’t mean it’s any better than a food with a high-calorie count.  

Following a calorie deficit means eating fewer calories than burning through exercise or physical activity. A common mistake many people make when counting calorie burns is only calculating the calories burned through exercise. They fail to account for the calories you burn as your body performs basic physiological processes like digesting food, breathing, or eliminating waste. Your body uses energy 24 hours a day, even sleeping. The number of calories you burn during these activities is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR).[1]https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-basal-metabolic-rate

The Basal Metabolic Rate Factor

Weight loss is a complex science that’s a little more complicated than calories in versus calories out. Just because you are burning 500 calories on a 2-mile run and limiting your calorie intake to 1,500 doesn’t mean you’re getting adequate energy from your food. Knowing your BMR will help you determine how many calories you should consume so your body has enough energy to perform its processes.  

Calculating your BMR

Factors that affect your BMR include age, sex, height, and body weight. Think of your BMR as the number of calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day. Most people’s BMR is fairly low at around 1,500 calories. To figure out your BMR, follow the following formula: 

  • For adult men: 88.4+(13.4 x body weight in kilograms) + (4.8 x height in centimeters) – (5.68 x age) = BMR
  • For adult women: 447.6+(9.25 x body weight in kilograms) + (3.1 x height in centimeters) – (4.33 x age)= BMR

For example, my basal metabolic rate as a 195-pound, 5-foot, 11-inch, a 45-year-old man would be 1,792 calories. Remember, this is the number of calories my body needs to function normally without any physical activity. 

To determine your total calorie needs to maintain your current weight, multiply your BMR by your activity level with the Harris-Benedict formula:[2]https://www.gatewaypsychiatric.com/calculating-calorie-needs/

  • Sedentary (little to no exercise): BMR x 1.2 
  • Light activity (1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375 
  • Moderate activity (3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (6-7 days/week): BMR x 1.725

Because I engage in moderate activity, exercising 3 to 4 times per week, my total calorie intake needs to be 2,777 calories per day to maintain my weight. This is where it gets tricky. 

Getting to a Calorie Deficit

The general idea is that you will lose weight if you burn more calories than you eat. That’s considered a fool-proof weight loss strategy. The concept is that when your body doesn’t have enough energy from food, it will use up its stores of energy (fat and muscle), which causes the weight to come off. If you maintain a 500-calorie deficit, you should lose one pound a week. In a perfect world, that should be pretty simple. However, it’s not that simple. 

What you eat in a calorie deficit impacts your success. Processed foods, medications, and too much sodium and sugar can lead to water retention. It doesn’t matter how many calories you’re burning if you’re retaining water. Hormone fluctuations, stress, and poor sleep can also interfere width your weight loss. If you’re not losing weight in a calorie deficit, a few factors could get in your way. 

8 Reasons You are Not Losing Weight in a Calorie Deficit

You’ve heard me say results are linear and can differ from person to person. In a calorie deficit, you won’t lose weight linearly. Your body weight fluctuates, going up, down, and up again. However, over the long term, your weight should decrease. If you’re not seeing the weight come off and following a calorie deficit, one of these eight factors could get in your way. 

1. Metabolic Adaptation

Your body doesn’t want to lose weight and has a built-in defense system when you try to lose too much weight too fast. This defense system is called metabolic adaptation, which happens when your body adjusts to reduce the number of calories it needs while resting to account for the deficit.[3]https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-your-body-tries-to-prevent-you-from-losing-too-much-weight#Nutrition-experts-weigh-in

The Four Parts of Your Metabolism

We often think of our metabolism as one entity, yet it consists of four components: BMR, NEAT, EAT, and TEF. We discussed BMR earlier, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of your metabolism.[4]https://www.nestacertified.com/the-four-components-of-metabolism/

  • Non-Exercoise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): This energy is expended on unintentional exercises, such as fidgeting, walking to the bathroom, playing with your kids or pets, or cleaning your house. NEAT accounts for about 30% of your energy expenditure but can be higher. 
  • Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT): Have you heard the expression, “you can’t out-train your diet?” This is the amount of energy you expend during exercise. The higher intensity of training, the more calories you burn. However, EAT only accounts for about 10-15% of calories most people burn, which is why you can’t out-train your diet. 
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): TEF is the number of calories you burn in digesting food. Only 10-15% of your calorie expenditure comes from TEF, yet it is still part of your energy expenditure. 

Each of the four components of your metabolism impacts fat loss. For example, your size dictates your BMR. The bigger you are (weight, height, muscle, body fat, etc.), the higher calorie intake your body needs to function. Conversely, the smaller your body is, the more you need calories. 

TEF and EAT also get impacted by a calorie deficit. As you eat less food, the number of calories you burn in digesting food will also be lower (TEF). Remember, a more petite body burns fewer calories during exercise (EAT). 

2. Age 

I hate to say this, but losing weight is more challenging as you age. One reason is that you lose muscle mass as you age, and lean muscle is more efficient in burning calories. At the same time, your metabolism is slowing down. 

Hormonal changes as you age also affect weight loss. Women going through perimenopause or have reached menopause have lower estrogen levels, which can cause weight gain.[5]https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/menopause-and-weight-gain

Men don’t get off any easier. Low testosterone levels make it harder to burn calories. When testosterone levels fall below normal, muscle mass declines, slowing your metabolism.[6]https://www.menstclinic.com/blog/what-does-testosterone-have-to-do-with-weight-loss Vitamin D is a great nutrient to promote optimal testosterone levels in men and estrogen levels in women.[7]https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/how-to-increase-estrogen

3. You are Not Patient

One primary reason people do not progress with weight loss is a lack of patience. Here is why. When you start a calorie deficit, you see really fast results and get motivated. However, be wary. These results are a false sense of achievement. 

Once the results slow down– and they do for everyone– you’ll start freaking out and give up. You cannot force fat loss, so slow down and be patient. How long it will take for you to see significant progress depends on many factors, such as weight, age, sex, and hormone levels. Wait at least 3 to 4 weeks to see actual results. 

4. You are Not Tracking Weight Loss Appropriately

You should weigh yourself at the same time every day, preferably in the morning before you eat anything. Weight can fluctuate up to four pounds each day. For example, one day, you may weigh 175, and the next day you could weigh 179 or 171. 

What you eat, when you eat, and a woman’s menstrual cycle can all cause weight fluctuations. To get a better idea of whether you’re losing weight, create weekly averages or use an app to track your weight.

5. Stress 

Remember what I said about dieting and cortisol? The stress hormone cortisol is the No. 1 roadblock to weight loss. You could be doing everything you should– exercising regularly, sticking to a calorie deficit, and cutting sugar– but it means nothing if you’re stressed. 

Here’s why: High cortisol levels increase sugar cravings and slow down your metabolism simultaneously. You can’t always control the stress in your life, but following stress management strategies and practicing self-care can help lower your stress levels. 

6. You are Doing Too Much Strength Training

This is a double-edged sword. For one, cardio doesn’t burn fat, and you don’t burn more calories doing cardio than you do in other exercises. On the other hand, weight training will cause you to burn fat and gain muscle mass. Additionally, exercise increases bone density. That’s why it’s essential to focus on exercise helping you feel better, not lose weight. In the end, it all takes care of itself. 

7. Underlying Health Conditions

Weight loss can be difficult for anyone. If your weight loss has stalled, you should talk with a medical professional to check for an underlying reason you’re not losing weight. Here are five medical conditions that make it harder to lose weight:[8]https://rgvweightloss.com/5-health-conditions-that-make-it-harder-to-lose-weight/

8. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep 

Sleep is vital for your well-being, but it’s also crucial if you’re trying to lose weight. A study of people following a calorie deficit for 14 days showed that subjects who got adequate sleep burned more fat than those who got less sleep.[9]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9031614/

A lack of sleep slows down your metabolism, leads to less energy, and causes you to eat more for energy. Adults should get 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. 

 Exercise helps with healthy sleep patterns. I take 10mg of melatonin each night to help me get optimal sleep. An herbal tea, limiting caffeine, and creating a bedtime routine can help improve your sleep. 

Final Thoughts on Calorie Deficits

Counting calories and tracking everything you eat can be added stress to your life. Stress will hinder any progress you make with your weight loss goals. Instead of tracking macros and counting calories, eat a whole foods diet of organic meats and produce, limit alcohol, and don’t over do it with exercise.

If you want to optimize your diet to achieve your weight loss goals, let me help. I can assure you that you can lose weight and not have to count calories or track macros. To get started,  schedule a free discovery call, and let me help you get on the path of Living Very Well™. 

Paleo Apple Cinnamon Chicken

You don’t have to wait until fall to enjoy the sweet taste of apples and cinnamon. This Paleo Apple Cinnamon Chicken brings the taste of fall to your lips any time of year. Apples and cinnamon are one of my favorite duos, and the best part is this Paleo Apple Cinnamon Chicken is Paleo and Whole 30 compliant. I promise you will absolutely love this decadent main course.

How to Make Paleo Apple Cinnamon Chicken

This Paleo Apple Cinnamon Chicken contains just three components: chicken, apples, and bacon. I used honey crisp apples, but you can use any apple you prefer. I would advise against granny smith apples.

First, cook the bacon in a pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon and leave the grease in the pan to cook the chicken. While the bacon and chicken are cooking, core and peal two apples and chop them into cubes. If you have an apple corer it will save a lot of time. Once the chicken has cooked on one side, flip it over and add the apples and half of the spices (cinnamon, cardamom, and ground ginger). Leave the herbs (sage and rosemary) out of the pan for now.

Add the remaining spices and herbs with about a minute left to cook.

What Makes This Paleo Friendly?

All of the ingredients are foods our hunter-gather ancestors ate. I used organic chicken, and I recommend you do, too. Buying organic food can be expensive, so at the very least, buy organic meat.

This meal is packed with protein. The one pound of chicken used in this Paleo Apple Cinnamon Chicken contains 49 grams of protein, while the two strips of bacon adds six more grams.

The spices and herbs offer additional health benefits. Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and may help lower inflammation. Cardamom touts anti-inflammatory properties and is great for gut health. Ginger boosts serotonin and dopamine levels and also has anti-inflammatory properties.

This Paleo Apple Cinnamon Chicken can be made to be Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) friendly by removing the black pepper. It can also be low FODMAP compliant by removing the apples.

When Can I Eat Paleo Apple Cinnamon Chicken

This is great for a quick lunch or the main course with dinner. If you think cinnamon and chicken sound weird together, stop and open your mind. I thought it was weird, too, but was pleasantly surprised by the taste.

Serve with butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or a vegetable of your choice, and thank me later.

Paleo Apple & Cinnamon Chicken

Serving Size:
Serves 4
Time:
20 minutes


Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1-2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger (or use fresh minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1 spring rosemary, chopped
  • A few sage leaves, chopped
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Chopped dried dates (optional)


Directions

  1. Heat a large cast iron skillet and add the bacon. Cook until crispy on both sides, about 5-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your bacon.
  2. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. When the bacon is done, remove it from the pan and set aside to cool. Leave a thin layer of bacon fat on the bottom of the pan (if you have excess, drain it in a separate container).
  3. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on the first side, until golden brown. After turning the chicken once (so the first cooked side is facing up), add the apples, half your spices, sea salt and pepper. (Save the herbs for the last few minutes of cooking).
  4. Allow to cook for 4-5 minutes on this side, then flip and add the rest of the spices and herbs (and dried fruit, if using).
  5. When the chicken has about a minute left, chop your bacon into bits and scatter it over the chicken.

Note: For AIP Diet, remove black pepper. For low FODMAP, leave out the apples.

The Exercise and Insulin Resistance Connection

I recently wore a continuous glucose monitor and discovered I have insulin resistance, a condition when the cells in your muscles, fat, and liver stop responding to the hormone insulin as they should. As an active person, I wanted to learn more about the connection between insulin resistance and exercise and if my struggle to maintain a healthy weight was related. 

You might think of insulin resistance as prediabetes, but they are very different. Prediabetes and diabetes occur when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to keep your blood glucose levels in a normal range. Insulin resistance occurs when your cells cannot use insulin, leaving more glucose in your bloodstream than is needed for energy. The excess glucose gets stored as fat in your abdomen area. 

Several studies show that you can reverse diabetes due to insulin resistance through physical activity.[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3782965/ In fact, exercise and insulin resistance share a very beneficial relationship. I will tell you more about the connection between exercise and insulin resistance, what exercises are best for insulin resistance, and how exercise can reverse the effects of insulin resistance. First, let’s talk more about insulin resistance. 

exercise and insulin resistance

What is Insulin Resistance?

When functioning optimally, your body’s insulin response operates this way:  

  1. When you eat food, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose for energy. Your body prefers glucose for energy over protein and fat because glucose is readily available and used for short bursts of energy. 
  2. Once the carbohydrate gets turned into glucose, it enters your bloodstream. This signals the pancreas to release insulin to control how much glucose gets in your bloodstream. 
  3. Insulin guides the glucose in your blood to enter your muscles, fat, and liver cells to use what it needs and store the rest for later. 
  4. When glucose enters the cells and your blood sugar decreases, your body tells your pancreas to stop producing insulin. 

For many reasons, such as a family history of type 2 diabetes, being overweight, and living a sedentary lifestyle, your cells cannot respond appropriately to insulin. When your cells can’t respond to insulin, your pancreas makes more insulin to overcome increasing blood glucose levels.[2]https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/insulin-resistance-syndrome

Elevated insulin levels can result in weight gain, making insulin resistance more severe. In addition to weight gain. Insulin resistance is associated with high triglycerides, hardening of the arteries, and high blood pressure. 

Insulin resistance is also the main symptom of metabolic syndrome, which leads to fat buildup around the waist. 

Symptoms of Insulin Resistance

Even if you are not overweight, you can still have insulin resistance. If you have insulin resistance and your pancreas can produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in the range, you won’t have any symptoms.[3]https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/insulin-resistance-symptoms Very often, people with insulin resistance show no symptoms at all. It’s usually discovered during an annual exam or routine blood tests. 

However, some signs could indicate insulin resistance, including:[4]https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obesity/multimedia/vid-20536756

  • A waistline of 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women
  • Blood pressure of 130/80 or higher
  • A fasting glucose level of 100 mg/dL or higher
  • An A1C of 5.7% to 6.3%
  • Fasting triglycerides level over 150 mg/dL 
  • HDL cholesterol level over 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women

Talk to your doctor if you believe you have insulin resistance and ask them to order a blood test. 

Over time, the cells of your pancreas that produce insulin become overworked, and insulin production slows or stops altogether. When this happens, you can develop prediabetes, which remains invisible until it develops into type 2 diabetes. The good news is that exercise can reverse insulin resistance. Before we discuss that, let’s talk about insulin’s role in exercise.  

Insulin Production During Exercise

Insulin sensitivity increases during physical activity. This happens so that your cells can use any available insulin to transport glucose during and after your workout. However, your body doesn’t need insulin during exercise to use glucose. When your muscles contract while you are working out, your cells can take up glucose and use it for energy whether or not there’s insulin in your bloodstream.[5]https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/fitness/getting-started-safely/blood-glucose-and-exercise

In fact, low-impact exercise and strength training decreases insulin production by the pancreas. However, moderate- to high-intensity exercise increases insulin secretion to adjust for muscle resistance to insulin.[6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4844153/

Regardless, cortisol levels spike during high-intensity exercise. One role cortisol plays during exercise is inhibiting insulin secretion and stimulating glycogen release for energy, and this causes a temporary spike in blood glucose levels during exercise.[7]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2021.626427/

Insulin’s role happens after you’ve stopped exercising.[8]https://portlandpress.com/biochemj/article/478/21/3827/230182/Interactions-between-insulin-and-exercise Due to the high glucose levels in your bloodstream during exercise, your pancreas senses the need for insulin. It begins production once cortisol levels return to normal during the cool-down period. Even if you have insulin resistance, your body’s sensitivity to insulin increases for 16 hours post-activity.

So, what does that mean? It means that exercise improves your body’s insulin response and reduces the effects of insulin resistance, thereby lowering your risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

How Exercise Improves Insulin Resistance

According to a study, physical activity and exercise can not only prevent the development of type 2 diabetes; it can possibly reverse diabetes and insulin resistance. So, how does this happen?

Exercise reduces insulin in a couple of ways. First, low- to moderate-intensity exercise forces the muscles to utilize glucose from the bloodstream, clearing out the excess glucose that your body would typically store as fat. 

Regular exercise increases insulin sensitivity and reduces levels of A1C– glycated hemoglobins, or red blood cells coated in sugar.

  • A normal A1C range is 4.8 to 5.4 mg/dL or less.
  • Prediabetes levels range from 5.7 to 6.4 mg/dL.
  • Anything higher than 6.5 mg/dL is considered type 2 diabetes. 

Talk to your doctor about testing A1C levels. You can purchase at-home diabetes tests from companies like LetsGetChecked ($89) and Everlywell ($49)  and review the results with your doctor.

As I mentioned earlier, high-intensity workouts temporarily increase blood glucose levels due to high cortisol levels. However, once you’ve completed the workout, your body utilizes the glucose. Increasing muscle mass improves your body’s ability to utilize glucose and reverse insulin resistance. You should incorporate more resistance training into your workout routine to optimize your body’s insulin sensitivity. 

Exercise for Insulin Resistance

Any type of exercise can be beneficial, yet what the right amount is in regard to exercise and insulin resistance? The American College of Sports Medicine outlines the following recommendations:[9]https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2022/02000/Exercise_Physical_Activity_in_Individuals_with.18.aspx

  • Cardio – 3 to 7 days per week for a total of 150 minutes at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity with no more than two consecutive days without activity. This includes a HIIT class, running, swimming, or brisk walking. 
  • Resistance training 2 to 3 nonconsecutive days per week at a moderate to vigorous intensity; 8 to 10 exercises performed for up to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions to near fatigue per set involving major muscle groups. 
  • Flexibility and balance training– 2 to 3 days a week of stretching to a point of tightness or slight discomfort; light-to-moderate intensity balance exercises. This includes Pilates, TRX, and yoga. 

There are several opinions on what exercise is best for reversing insulin resistance. One study suggests that HIIT can reduce insulin resistance for up to 48 hours.[10]https://exerciseright.com.au/exercising-beating-insulin-resistance/ However, several studies show that 8 weeks of regular exercise can restore healthy insulin activity, which improves metabolism and reduces cravings.[11]https://www.healthline.com/health-news/8-weeks-of-exercise-improves-insulin-resistance-aids-in-weight-loss Yet, you can exercise all you want, but it won’t do any good if you aren’t focusing on your diet. 

Diet for Insulin Resistance

As a sports nutritionist, I advocate for eating a diet of fresh whole foods and ditching processed foods with added sugars, preservatives, and additives. Buying all organic food can be expensive, so at the very least, ensure your protein comes from organic animal sources. 

Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are rich in potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B, C, and K. Red vegetables, including red peppers, tomatoes, red cabbage, beets, and radishes, contribute phytonutrients, which contain antioxidants that can improve insulin resistance. 

Fruits such as berries, apples, pears, and peaches are also great foods for insulin resistance. However, some fruits like watermelon, pineapple, oranges, and bananas contain high amounts of natural sugar. They are fine in moderation. 

Organic meats such as wild-caught fish, free-range chicken and turkey, grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb are high in protein, which helps your body build and maintain muscle mass. How much protein you need depends on your activity level. The higher the activity level, the more protein you need. The other good part is that protein reduces sugar cravings. 

And don’t forget fats. Your body needs fat for energy, nutrient absorption, and hormone production. Avoid industrial oils such as vegetable, canola, corn, and butter. Stick with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and plant-based butter. 

You should also avoid sugary energy drinks, soda, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol. All of these foods can increase blood glucose levels and your risk of developing insulin resistance or diabetes. 

Final Thoughts on Exercise and Insulin Resistance 

Insulin plays a vital role in our body’s ability to use glucose for energy. When your cells become resistant to insulin, it forces your pancreas to work harder. Eventually, it becomes tired and stops producing insulin, which leads to the development of type 2 diabetes. If you are unsure how to utilize exercise and optimize your diet to help promote a healthy insulin response, let me help. Schedule a free discovery call, and let me help you get on the path of Living Very Well™. 

Can Exercise Damage Your Gut?

We all know that exercise is good for you. Exercise helps keep off the extra pounds, reduces the risk of disease, helps regulates your blood sugar, and improves your mental health. Yet, can exercise damage your gut?

You may not have expected to hear that. Still, if you are overdoing it in the gym, your gut becomes vulnerable to increased intestinal permeability and dysbiosis, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut microbiome. Moreover, too much exercise can weaken your immune system.[1]https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-another-reason-too-much-exercise-could-be-bad-for-you

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your daily workout routine. However, you might want to cut back if you do more than 60 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity exercise daily. If you’re worried, don’t be. I will explain to you how too much exercise can harm your gut and how you can protect your gut health while engaging in high-intensity activity. First, let’s talk about your body’s response to exercise. 

Exercise is Stress on Your Body

To understand how exercise can damage your gut, you must understand how your body responds– both during and after exercise. 

When you start warming up to work out, your central nervous system recognizes this and triggers your “fight or flight” response. It’s the same way your body responds to stressful situations, such as financial problems, tight deadlines, relationship problems, or being stuck in traffic. 

Your central nervous system tells the hypothalamus in your brain that it’s about to be in danger. The hypothalamus then signals your pituitary gland to release hormones and tells your adrenal glands to release cortisol, the stress hormone.[2]https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#Central-nervous-and-endocrine-systems

Meanwhile, your pituitary gland is also releasing human growth hormone and prolactin. The pituitary hormones signal your sex glands (testicles in men and ovaries in women) to release testosterone. 

This hormone response causes insulin levels to reduce, which causes spikes in your blood sugar while you’re exercising because your body uses most of your stored muscle glycogen (glucose stored in your liver and muscles) for energy during high-intensity exercise.[3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3248697/

In response to these hormones, your body releases serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins during exercise. These mood-boosting hormones provide essential benefits to your body during exercise. Serotonin helps lower cortisol levels, while endorphins signal the release of dopamine and attach it to the neurotransmitters in your brain that cause you to feel pain.[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3104618/ This is why you don’t feel sore right after exercising. So, how is all this connected to your gut health? Well, it starts with cortisol.

Cortisol and Your Body

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that aids growth, development, and sexual health. Nearly every cell in your body has receptors for cortisol, which has many functions in your body. Cortisol is essential for regulating blood glucose levels, blood pressure, inflammation, electrolyte balance, and metabolism.[5]https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/ However, cortisol’s primary job is to respond to stress. 

Occasional stress is normal and not harmful to your body. However, if your stress response never turns off, cortisol levels stay elevated in the bloodstream, which can negatively affect your entire body. Some signs of high cortisol levels include:[6]https://www.healthline.com/health/high-cortisol-symptoms#symptoms

  • Increased blood sugar
  • Weight gain and rounding of your face
  • Easy bruising
  • Muscle weakness
  • Severe fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Headache 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slowed healing
  • Low sex drive
  • Acne

Moreover, too much cortisol suppresses your immune system. It can damage your gut health by increasing permeability and limiting oxygen-carrying red blood cells flow to your stomach, leading to irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and irritable bowel disease. 

If you excessively exercise, cortisol levels stay elevated in your body in response to the stress from working out and make your gut vulnerable to infection. 

Cortisol and Your Gut 

If you exercise excessively by working out more than 60 minutes daily or not taking rest days, your cortisol levels are likely off the charts. This is hard on your digestive system and your immune system. Nearly 80% of your immune system lives in your gut.[7]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33803407 If your gut isn’t healthy, your immune system isn’t healthy. 

Cortisol aids in moving blood flow toward your brain, large muscles, arms, and legs, and away from your gut. The lack of oxygen-filled red blood cells leaves your gut microbiome vulnerable to harmful bacteria, which multiply without good bacteria to keep your microbiome in balance. This causes dysbiosis, and harmful bacteria, fungi, and parasites take over your gut.

Moreover, elevated cortisol levels make it harder for your immune system to fight off bad bacteria and viruses, leading to intestinal permeability and increased inflammation. Here’s what happens: 

Your intestinal wall has small channels that allow micronutrients from your food to travel to your bloodstream, which delivers the vitamins and minerals to your cells. Cortisol breaks these channels apart and makes them wider. Once this happens, microbes and undigested food particles escape into your bloodstream. Your immune system identifies these as foreign invaders and begins to attack them, increasing inflammation in your body. 

Suppose you have chronic stress from a high-demanding job, an abusive relationship, or a life-changing event. In that case, your cortisol levels are constantly elevated if you aren’t taking measures to reduce stress. By excessively exercising on top of your chronic stress, your cortisol levels are likely off the charts. Let’s talk about what defines “too much exercise.” 

What is Too Much Exercise?

Exercise has many benefits, but you can take it too far. No magic number of minutes determines how much exercise is too much. It depends on many factors, such as age, weight, medical history, and fitness level. 

But current research demonstrates that too much exercise may cause harmful effects known as overtraining syndrome, which often occurs in athletes, fitness enthusiasts, or people struggling with an eating disorder. If you’re not giving your body the time it needs to recover, some harmful side effects go beyond joint pain or muscle fatigue. 

These side effects include hormone imbalances, mood disturbances, poor sleeping patterns, reproductive disorders, and an increased risk of intestinal permeability and dysbiosis. 

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need 150 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity exercise and two days of strengthening activity per week. Moderate-intensity training includes running, aerobic exercise, cycling, swimming, or playing tennis or another team sport. 

Too much exercise can make you feel tired and increase feelings of depression, and it can affect your sleep patterns and your appetite. Not to mention, too much exercise elevates cortisol levels and causes an array of digestive problems.

A best practice is to set aside one day to rest and recover with no exercise. If you are engaging in high-intensity exercise regularly, you want to take a few steps to care for your gut. One of those is to reduce stress. Let’s talk about ways to reduce stress. 

Natural Ways to Reduce Stress

Understand that stress is not the same as anxiety and depression. Talk to a medical professional if you believe you have anxiety or depression. Here are five ways to reduce stress: 

1. Exercise 

There’s a difference between overdoing it and getting regular exercise. Moving your body is excellent for improving mood, reducing stress, and regulating sleep patterns. If you aren’t currently active, start with gentle activities such as walking for 30 minutes or riding a bike. Choose something you enjoy doing to increase your chances of sticking with it. 

2. Eat A Healthy Diet

Not only does what you eat affect your gut health, but it also affects your mental health. Chronic stress increases your sugar cravings. Processed sugar leads to high glucose levels, which causes weight gain. It also elevates cortisol levels. Eating a diet full of nutrient-dense whole foods and taking a multivitamin will give you nutrients essential for reducing stress, such as magnesium and B vitamins.[8]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7761127/

3. Consider Supplements

Ashwagandha, B vitamins, and Rhodiola have been shown to help reduce stress. An 8-week study of 264 people found that taking 300 mg of magnesium daily helped reduce stress levels. Combining this dose of magnesium with vitamin B6 was even more effective.[9]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6298677/

4. Reduce Caffeine

Caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety, not to mention disrupt your sleep patterns. Poor sleep can increase cortisol levels. Your daily caffeine consumption should be under 400 mg per day. That’s about 4 to 5 cups of coffee.[10]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519490/

5. Spend Time with Your Pet

Petting a dog or cat, or cuddling with your pet, releases oxytocin – one of your four happy hormones. Pets add to your life satisfaction and increase your self-esteem. Having a dog or a cat gives you purpose and reduces stress. 

There are plenty of ways you can reduce stress in your life. Aside from that, if you engage in high-intensity exercise regularly, you will want to take care of your gut. Let me tell you how.  

Caring for Your Gut 

If you are engaging in regular high-intensity exercise, you need to take two supplements to care for your gut health: Collagen and L-Glutamine. 

Collagen

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. A collagen powder should be part of your post-workout routine if you live an active lifestyle because of its robust benefits that support recovery from exercise. Here are four benefits of collagen for exercise:[11]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen 

  • It helps reduce joint inflammation
  • Improves muscle mass
  • Improves injury recovery time
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Contains eight of nine essential amino acids

More importantly, collagen is crucial in rebuilding and strengthening the gut lining damaged during excessive high-intensity exercise. The amino acids glycine and glutamine are essential for repairing the gut lining. This protein also aids in digestion and nutrient absorption. 

A high-quality hydrolyzed collagen powder containing type 1 and 3 collagen is easy to add to your diet. It’s unflavored and can be added to shakes, smoothies, and even your morning coffee. 

L-Glutamine

Glutamine is a source of energy for cells in the small intestine and helps rebuild the gut barrier by facilitating the reproduction of healthy cells. Because glutamine maintains the gut barrier, it also helps protect you from increased gut permeability. 

The benefits of glutamine don’t stop with gut health. Glutamine promotes muscle recovery,  boosts your immune system, and helps detoxify your liver.

Your body makes glutamine on its own, but if you’re active, it quickly depletes its natural sources. Adults who engage in high-intensity exercise should take 5,000 mg of glutamine daily.[12]https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-glutamine Glutamine supplements come in a flavorless powder or in capsules. 

Taking care of your gut is so essential if you are engaging in any form of high-intensity exercise. You can do this by not overexercising, giving your body enough time to rest, and supplementing with collagen and L-glutamine. Exercise should make you feel better. If you’re overdoing it with high-intensity exercise, you leave your gut vulnerable, which will impact your immune system and negatively affect your health. 

If you want to learn how to optimize your workouts and diet to improve your health, set up a discovery call with me and let me help you get on the path of Living Very Well™.

My Favorite Wellness Trends for 2023

The “new year, new me” slogan isn’t just for personal resolutions for the new year. It’s 2023, and there will surely be new wellness trends, while some will get left in 2022. 

Wellness encompasses more than just exercise and diet. It includes your mental well-being, gut health, skincare (even for men), and sleep health. In 2022, powdered greens were all the rave, and we all became more open about our mental health and prioritized work-life balance. 

So, what’s in store for 2023? Healthy sleep patterns will be a hot topic in the new year, as will exercise recovery, metabolic health, and sober-curious lifestyles. 

Here’s what I believe to be the hottest wellness trends in 2023 and what will get left in 2022.

Hot in 2023: Metabolic Health

Health and wellness professionals are ditching the outdated BMI index and shifting focus to optimizing metabolic health. This wellness trend is going to pick up steam in 2023. A popular tool to measure metabolic health is a continuous glucose meter worn on the back of your arm that checks blood sugar levels every few minutes.  

I tried a continuous glucose meter (CGM) from Nutrisense for two weeks. I received so much insight into what foods caused spikes in my blood sugar, which made managing my blood sugar easier. It’s how I discovered that I have insulin resistance, a metabolic disorder when the cells in your muscles, fat, and liver do not respond to insulin and can’t use glucose for energy. To compensate, your pancreas makes more insulin and becomes overworked.[1]https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/insulin-resistance-syndrome

If you have insulin resistance, it makes it harder to lose weight because your body stores excess glucose as fat. Here’s why: 

When everything is working optimally, glucose will enter your cells to give them energy, causing the amount of glucose in the bloodstream to lower, signaling insulin to decrease. Low levels of insulin signal the liver to release glycogen for energy. 

When your cells become resistant to insulin, your liver thinks there’s enough glucose in your body for energy and stores the excess glucose as fat. This makes it difficult to lose weight or keep off the weight.[2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4625541/

Signs of insulin resistance include

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Skin tags
  • Patches of dark, velvety skin
  • Fat that doesn’t seem to come off 

Your metabolic health impacts your kidneys, liver, and the risk of heart disease and stroke. Watch as CGMs become fashionable in 2023 as people emphasize optimizing their metabolic health. 

Hot in 2023: Getting Back to Fitness Basics

While high-intensity workouts are here to stay, the emphasis on maxing out your heart rate and burning calories will diminish in 2023. Many people are creating fitness videos for TikTok and Instagram – putting together moves they see in videos from influencers. 

The good thing about TikTok fitness is that the people creating these videos realize they aren’t getting the results they want without comprehensive health coaching. Expect the fitness industry to emphasize the basics of fitness– pull, push, squat, and deadlift. Look for more strength training and lower-impact workouts to take center stage in 2023.

Hot in 2023: Exercise Recovery 

Compression boots and massage therapy guns rose in popularity in 2022. Expect more recovery tools to become available and gyms to invest in recovery services such as infrared saunas, cryotherapy chambers, and cold tubs. 

Cryotherapy is great for metabolic health because the extreme cold temperatures turn on brown fat tissue, or brown adipose tissue (BAT), which burns fat to create energy for your body to regulate its temperature. One study found that people lost 2% of body fat when exposed to extreme cold temperatures over six weeks.[3]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10832164/

Also, recovery tools such as compression boots, infrared saunas, and cold tubs flush out your lymphatic system, reduce inflammation, and boost your immune system. 

Making sure you take off days is essential for recovery. You optimize the benefits of exercise during rest periods, not when you work out.

Hot in 2023: Sober-Curious Lifestyles

Dry January is a wellness trend that’s been around for several years. However, more people are examining their relationships with alcohol. Being “sober-curious” is a wellness trend that will heat up in 2023. I’ve been alcohol-free for 18 months, and it’s the best decision I have ever made for my health. 

More restaurants and bars are increasing their offerings of mocktails and non-alcoholic alternatives. The social stigma of alcohol is decreasing, which makes it easier to not feel like you have to engage in drinking when in a social setting. 

Check out the podcast episode I did with Amanda Kuda, an alcohol-free lifestyle expert in Austin, Texas. 

Hot in 2023: Sleep Hygiene   

I’ll admit it. I’m a morning person, and I wake up at 5 a.m. every day and go to bed at about 9:30 p.m. It appears that I may have been ahead of the times. A wellness trend in 2023 will be early to bed, early to rise, as late nights will get left in 2022. 

There’s science behind this hot trend. Many studies found that early risers have better digestion, healthy blood glucose levels, and better focus and memory. As an added benefit, sleep promotes weight loss.[4]https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/benefits-of-sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.[5]https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need#:~:text=National%20Sleep%20Foundation%20guidelines,to%208%20hours%20per%20night Getting into a bedtime routine will improve your sleep health. Here are ways you can boost your sleep patterns: 

  1. Eat foods rich in tryptophan, magnesium, and melatonin, such as chicken, turkey, and shellfish. Leafy greens and avocados are foods rich in magnesium. 
  2. Reduce caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. 
  3. Create a bedtime routine and go to bed at the same time every night. 

If you need help creating a routine, schedule a free consultation to talk about how I can help you optimize your health through my coaching programs

Hot in 2023: Digital Detox 

It’s time to disconnect from our phones and reconnect with life and experiences. Several experts predict that social media use will drastically decline in 2023 as we move to get back to creating more interpersonal relationships and connections. That’s great news! 

What’s even better news is that digital detoxes grew in popularity in 2022 and will likely be a hot wellness trend for 2023. A digital detox is a period you choose to limit or eliminate the use of digital technology. I used to do a digital detox on Sundays and plan to return to it in 2023. Being on your devices impacts your mental well-being, sleep habits, and eyesight. 

Now that I’ve told you about the hottest wellness trends for 2023, let’s talk about what will get left in 2022.

Left in 2022: Juice Cleanses

Juice cleanses have been a wellness trend for almost a decade. Yet, they provide no real health benefits, are expensive, and any weight you do lose is only short-term. On paper, juice cleanses are an appealing solution to detox your body, lose weight and get vitamins and minerals from fruits. However, you’re not getting as many nutrients as you believe you are. 

When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you remove all the fiber– an essential nutrient to metabolic and gut health. For instance, one apple contains 4.4 grams of dietary fiber. Yet, one cup of apple juice only contains 0.5 grams. Women should eat 21 to 25 grams of fiber daily, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams.

Fiber is essential for your metabolic health and reduces your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.[6]https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146935 Dietary fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut and helps regulate blood glucose levels. So ditch the juices and eat whole fruits and vegetables. 

Left in 2022: Collagen Drinks

Collagen is one of the essential proteins you can supplement with, especially if you exercise. If you’re relying on collagen water or drinks to supplement this vital protein, I have some bad news for you. It’s not working.

Your body naturally makes collagen on its own. However, your body’s collagen production slows down at around age 35. Once you turn 40, your body begins to lose collagen faster than it can make it. By age 60, your body has lost half of its collagen.[7]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1606623/

Collagen is vital for muscle recovery, growth, joint health, skin health, and vibrant hair and nails. Yet, you’re wasting your money if you are buying collagen drinks to add collagen to your diet. 

Adding a hydrolyzed collagen powder can be beneficial because it contains essential amino acids needed to build protein in your body. Hydrolyzed collagen is easier to absorb into your bloodstream. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is an affordable hydrolyzed collagen supplement. 

There are plenty of food options for collagen, such as spinach, kale, tomatoes, beets, wild-caught fish, and bone broths. 

Left in 2022: Intermittent Fasting

Outside of the Keto diet, there’s not a wellness trend that needs to go away more than intermittent fasting. The two are connected because intermittent fasting is designed to “flip your metabolic switch.” Here’s what I mean: 

Your body utilizes fat to turn into glucose for energy when it doesn’t get carbohydrates. Turning fat into energy takes more time than breaking down carbohydrates, so your body creates “ketones” for alternative fuel sources. 

The truth is the keto diet, or intermittent fasting is not a long-term solution to weight loss. Some side effects include fatigue, dizziness, poor digestion, sleep disturbances, dehydration, and vitamin deficiencies. It can also lead to disordered eating habits. 

The Keto diet and intermittent fasting are not sustainable diets. Your body needs food for nourishment and energy. Instead of fad diets, eat a diet full of whole organic foods. If you can’t afford to eat all organic foods, at the very least, buy organic meats. 

Learning about your metabolic health, focusing on your sleep hygiene, being sober-curious, and focusing on recovery are wellness trends you should try in 2023. Whatever your goals are for the new year, I invite you to schedule a free consultation with me so I can put you on a path to Living Very Well™ and help you achieve your goals. I hope you have a healthy 2023.

How To Get Rid of Your Hangover

New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, and with it comes parties, plenty of alcohol, and the dreaded hangover. January 1 is National Hangover Day, so I decided to give you tips on how to make a recovery a little easier.

It’s estimated that Americans will consume 360 million glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve. Considering that one champagne flute holds 7 ounces of champagne, that’s roughly 19 million gallons of champagne Americans will consume on New Years’ Eve. What’s even more staggering is that that’s not including cocktails, other wine, or beer. 

Alcohol is a staple in holiday celebrations, yet it has a lot of adverse effects on your health. One champagne toast at midnight is going to have minimal effects. However, if you overindulge in the festivities, you likely will wake up with a massive hangover the next day. Don’t worry. I have you covered. 

I will tell you about five ways to get rid of your hangover for faster recovery. You will also learn about the long-term effects of alcohol and how to understand blood-alcohol content (BAC). First, let’s discuss how alcohol gets processed by your body.   

How Alcohol Gets Processed by Your Body

Twenty percent of the alcohol content in just one drink gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream from your stomach, and the remaining gets absorbed through your small intestine. 

Generally, your body can process one standard drink in one hour. If you consume more than one drink in an hour, the additional alcohol accumulates in your bloodstream and body tissues until your body properly metabolizes it. The excess alcohol is what causes your blood-alcohol content (BAC) to rise. 

You may be underestimating the amount of alcohol you are drinking because the bartender, you, or your friend aren’t using standard measurements. Here is what equals one drink for each type of alcoholic beverage: 

  • One 5-ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol) 
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor (40% alcohol) 
  • One 12-ounce beer (5% alcohol) 

Malt liquor and microbrews tend to have higher alcohol content than standard beer, as do fortified wines such as cognac. 

Most of the alcohol in your body gets broken down by your liver, which processes 90% of the alcohol and turns it into water and carbon dioxide. Your lungs, kidneys, and skin process the remaining 10% through breathing, urine, and sweat.

Many factors determine how long your body metabolizes all the alcohol you consume. Once you take that first sip, 20% of it goes directly into your bloodstream.[1]​​https://www.mydr.com.au/liver-and-alcohol-breakdown/

A common myth is that food absorbs alcohol in your system. Alcohol gets quickly absorbed by the small intestine. When you have food, it slows down absorption and gives your body more time to process the excess alcohol.[2]https://www.healthline.com/health/drinking-on-an-empty-stomach#on-an-empty-stomach So, it’s not really food absorbing alcohol, it’s that food slows down your small intestine from absorbing it.

Another factor to consider is carbonation. Drinking a carbonated beverage such as soda, carbonated water, or champagne increases pressure in your stomach. The increased pressure forces the alcohol into your bloodstream faster. 

Understanding BAC

Blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) can vary among people and situations. For example, if you and your friend each have 20 milligrams of alcohol per deciliter, you both should metabolize the alcohol in an hour. However, both of your BACs can be vastly different. 

Your BAC is determined by how much alcohol in relation to the amount of water is in your blood. Your age, weight, amount of food you have eaten, and the ratio of drinks to time can impact how long it takes to metabolize alcohol. Liver disease and medications for anxiety, depression, blood pressure, and painkillers also can interfere with alcohol metabolism. 

Your body metabolizes alcohol at a rate of 20 mg/dl per hour.[3]https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body So, for example, if you have a BAC of .06 (60 mg/dl), it would generally take three hours for your body to completely metabolize the alcohol. Remember, any of the factors mentioned above can make the process longer or shorter. 

How to Get Rid of Your Hangover

I have a hard truth for you– there is absolutely nothing you can do to lower your BAC quickly. You need to let your body naturally metabolize it. Remember that your body removes just 10% of the alcohol in your system through sweating, breathing, and peeing. The rest is up to your liver, which will be hard at work metabolizing the excess alcohol in your system when it should be resting and repairing itself. Here are a few ways to support your recovery process and make it less painful. 

1. Drink fluids (Especially Electrolytes)

It might seem obvious, but drinking fluids is the first step to easing your hangover. It’s a bonus if your fluids contain electrolytes. Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes your body to remove fluids faster because it blocks the release of vasopressin, a hormone that decreases the urine volume produced by the kidneys.[4]https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/7-steps-to-cure-your-hangover-and-ginkgo-biloba-whats-the-verdict

If you aren’t drinking water with your alcohol, you’ll get dehydrated quickly. And dehydration is what causes that famous hangover headache. Water and food slow down how fast alcohol gets absorbed into your bloodstream, so be sure to eat and drink plenty of water.

Electrolytes are crucial to hydration. These minerals– sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride– support different processes in your body, such as fluid balance, maintaining your blood’s pH levels, and transferring electric signals from your nerves to your muscles. Your body loses electrolytes when you pee and sweat. If your hangover includes vomiting and diarrhea, you are losing electrolytes faster. 

A suitable electrolyte powder such as Nuun tablets or LMNT can reverse the dehydration caused by alcohol. Check the labels because some popular electrolyte products have high amounts of sugar. LMNT is my go-to hydration powder.

2. Sleep if Off

A big misconception is that sleep will “sober you up.” Unfortunately, that’s not true. Sleep does, however, reduce the side effects you will feel. Fatigue, headaches, and irritability are all part of a hangover made worse by not sleeping. The other common misconception is that alcohol helps you sleep. It actually does the opposite. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep after a night out to lessen your hangover symptoms. 

3. Eat some food

Do you remember what I said about alcohol absorption and your small intestine? If you eat some food, it will slow down the absorption in the small intestine. Food also increases the glucose levels in your blood, which in this case, is a good thing. Alcohol is toxic, and the toxins in alcohol lower your blood glucose levels. Your body needs glucose for energy to metabolize the alcohol in your system. So, go ahead and grab some food to help your hangover. 

4. Ditch the Tylenol® and Ibuprofen 

I bet you weren’t expecting to hear this. Acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol®) and alcohol are a dangerous combination for your liver and can cause liver damage. Aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate your gut lining and cause damage. Instead, stick with sleep, food, and fluids to eliminate your hangover. 

5. Add Activated Charcoal 

You might have seen activated charcoal products or heard about their detoxing properties. Activated charcoal is a highly effective binder used in emergency rooms for emergency overdose treatment. 

Activated charcoal is charcoal heated to extreme temperatures and treated with oxygen. This process changes the surface and causes the charcoal to become more porous. This porous structure allows the charcoal to bind with toxins, such as alcohol, and carry them out of your body.[5]https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/activated-charcoal-does-it-work

The key to activated charcoal’s effectiveness is when you take it, and it works best when taken on an empty stomach and an hour before your first drink. Since it is a binder, you shouldn’t take activated charcoal before or with any medications. It could make them less effective.[6]https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/charcoal-activated-oral-route/proper-use/drg-20070087

Understanding ways to support your body after a night of drinking is only the first step. Alcohol is toxic to your body and does have long- and short-term effects. 

How Alcohol Affects Your Body

It’s likely well-known that the short-term effects of alcohol vary based on how much alcohol you drink on a night out. One to two drinks lowers your inhibitions, while one or two more can cause you to slur your speech, become aggressive, and have blurry vision. Five drinks or more can cause you to be unable to control your bladder, breathing problems, or have alcohol poisoning. Moderation is crucial to lowering the severity of short-term effects on New Year’s Eve. 

Long-term use of alcohol can really take its toll on your body. A drink here or there is not going to cause long-term damage. When it becomes a daily habit, or you can’t stop after one drink, you are more likely to feel the long-term effects.

Long-term effects of alcohol include:[7]https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Infertility
  • Dependence or alcoholism 
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, liver, or colon
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Diabetes complications

Your body has the ability to repair damage by long-term alcohol use, but it takes about 5 to 7 years of sobriety to fully reverse the damages of alcohol.[8]https://www.ardurecoverycenter.com/2020/07/can-you-reverse-the-effects-of-alcohol/ Being sober isn’t easy, yet it can be rewarding and improve your health. 

Enjoying New Year’s Eve with a champagne toast or a couple of cocktails isn’t bad. If you do engage in more than a few cocktails, follow the above steps to lessen the effects of alcohol on your health and make your recovery a little easier. Have a safe and healthy New Year! 

Our Misunderstanding of Sugar 

You’ve probably been told to cut out the sugar if you want to lose weight, but you might be surprised to know that not all sugar is bad for you. There is a misunderstanding of sugar because the word sugar is a general term used to describe all types of sugar. The misunderstanding of sugar happens because when we talk about sugar we often don’t differentiate between natural and processed sugars. The problem isn’t sugar, it’s the source.  

I came across a post from CrossFit the other day that infuriated me. The post, which has the words “no sugar” in big red letters, was full of misinformation, especially the take on natural sweeteners. Other parts of this post were just as bad, but to group natural sweeteners together with artificial sweeteners was just plain irresponsible from a company that is sponsored by Monster Energy®.

The truth is that your body needs sugar for energy, not just to get you through your workouts. It gets sugar by breaking down carbohydrates into glucose. Fruit, honey, maple syrup, and even stevia are all-natural sweeteners that can provide your body with glucose for energy and are great substitutes for processed sugar.

I will tell you more about our misunderstanding of sugar, its role in your body, and why natural sweeteners are perfectly acceptable. Before I get into that, let’s talk about the different types of sugar. 

The Four Types of Sugar

Sugar is a carbohydrate form containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.[1]https://www.sugar.org/sugar/what-is-sugar/ When you eat a carbohydrate, it’s broken down into glucose during the digestive process. Glucose is your body’s primary energy source, including your brain and nervous system. 

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Think of it like this: Simple carbohydrates give you a quick burst of energy while complex carbohydrates give you more sustainable energy. While the goal is to give your body sustainable energy, the occasional sweet treat isn’t the end of the world. 

Complex carbohydrates contain three or more sugar molecules, whereas simple carbohydrates have either one sugar molecule (monosaccharides) or two (disaccharides). The four most common are glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose, and our misunderstanding of sugar lies with where it comes from. Let me explain.

Glucose

Glucose is the most common monosaccharide. Your body makes glucose from the food you eat. When you eat a carbohydrate, such as bread, potatoes, and fruit, your body breaks down the carbohydrate during the digestive process and creates glucose. Glucose moves into the small intestine, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream and sent to cells for energy. 

The pancreas releases insulin to regulate how much glucose gets into your bloodstream. Your pancreas constantly monitors your glucose levels every few seconds. When your glucose levels rise, insulin acts like a key and unlocks your muscles, fat, and liver so glucose can be stored in them as glycogen for use later.[2]https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/glucose-diabetes

Our bodies require glucose to function. If you exercise regularly, your body uses more energy and turns to glycogen to get you through your workouts.[3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3248697/ If you feel fatigued after workouts, you’ve likely depleted your glycogen stores. 

Glucose is a natural sugar when consumed from whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. When sugar is added to packaged foods and drinks, that form of glucose is added sugar. Nearly 6 in 10 American adults eat more added sugar than recommended every day.[4]

https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/PartD_Ch1_CurrIntakes_first-print.pdf#page=73

Fructose

Fructose is a simple sugar that makes up 50% of table sugar (sucrose). I’ll talk more about table sugar in just a bit. Fructose, also known as fruit sugar, is commonly found in sugary sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup and agave. If your product has added sugar, you can be sure it’s fructose. 

Too much fructose intake contributes to metabolic syndrome and disorders such as type 2 diabetes. However, some doctors and scientists believe fructose is a safe sweetener because it causes a low rise in blood sugar levels, unlike glucose.[5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22723585

Glucose and fructose are metabolized differently by your body. Remember, glucose is broken down during the digestive process. On the other hand, fructose is only broken down by your liver. When you eat a lot of fructose, your liver gets overloaded and turns fructose into fat. 

It is also believed that fructose leads to increased uric acid levels, fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, and obesity. When people suggest limiting sugar, fructose is on the top of that list. 

Sucrose

Commonly known as “table sugar,” sucrose gets formed by glucose and fructose molecule. Sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning two single molecule sugars are linked together. Despite being known as “table sugar,” sucrose is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables, including sweet potatoes, carrots, sugar beets, and most citrus fruits. 

You likely will find sucrose in all packaged foods. Sucrose is the most popular processed sugar in the world. It’s the type you buy in a bag at the grocery store and found in sodas and sports drinks, condiments such as ketchup and BBQ sauce, cereals, desserts, and ice creams. 

The source is what’s important. Eating sucrose through whole foods like vegetables and fruit will not harm your health. However, eating excess sucrose as an added sugar will have adverse effects, such as increased blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, leading to diabetes and obesity.[6]https://www.webmd.com/diet/whats-the-difference-between-sucrose-and-fructose

Lactose

Lactose is the natural sugar in milk and other dairy foods made from milk like yogurt and ice cream that forms when two other sugars, glucose, and galactose, join together.[7]https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25973 Lactose isn’t the easiest sugar to digest for many people, and nearly 10% of all Americans are lactose intolerant.

For the body to digest lactose, it uses a natural enzyme called lactase to break lactose down into these two sugars. If your body doesn’t make enough lactase, you may be unable to break down or absorb lactose properly, which can lead to symptoms of lactose intolerance. Many adults lose the lactase enzyme as they age, yet symptoms may be unnoticeable. 

Like sucrose, lactose is considered a natural and added sugar, depending on its source. Natural sources of lactose are acceptable and won’t cause any issues. Added lactose to packaged foods can lead to health problems, including obesity and diabetes.[8]https://foodinsight.org/what-is-lactose/

The common theme is that the natural sugar in whole foods is perfectly safe and won’t have any adverse effects. In contrast, processed foods can lead to blood sugar spikes, insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. You shouldn’t worry. Everything is fine in moderation, and as a matter of fact, your body needs sugar to function properly. 

Sugar’s Role in Your Body

Carbohydrates are the fuel that provides your body with cells. You don’t need to cut the carbs or even limit their amount, as long as you consume complex carbohydrates and not simple sugars. 

As I mentioned, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, your body’s natural fuel. Some glucose is essential for brain activity, your nervous system, and your red blood cells to function properly.[9]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224210/

The body has a natural feedback mechanism by which high glucose levels lead to increased insulin production, and low levels lead to decreased levels of this hormone. The body requires healthy insulin levels to function optimally. If there is too little insulin or it no longer functions properly, a person can develop diabetes.

Naturally occurring sugars come with various nutrients the body needs to stay healthy. For example, fruit contains fiber and multiple vitamins and minerals alongside fructose. Most foods and drinks with added sugars, such as chocolate and soda, lack these nutrients.

How Much Sugar Can I Have?

Adults’ daily recommended carbohydrate intake is 130 grams, with 45 to 65% of calories coming from carbohydrates. Eating various fruits and vegetables is a healthy way to meet these daily targets.

In contrast, it is recommended that less than or equal to 10% of daily calories should come from added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends that added sugars consumed daily should be less than 36 grams daily for men and 25 grams per day for women. 

Natural Sweeteners vs. Artificial Sweeteners

The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the label and look for any word ending in “ose.” That’s an indication there are added sugars in that food. If you’re still reading, you’ve likely picked up on a theme – natural sugars are good, and added sugar is bad. That doesn’t mean you should pass on the cookie or piece of cake or not drink a glass of wine at dinner. 

Natural sugars are an essential part of your diet. They include sugar in fruit, vegetable, honey, and maple syrup. Stevia is a plant, so using stevia as a sweetener is considered a natural sweetener. 

Artificial sweeteners and processed sugars such as table sugar, cane sugar, Sweet’N Low, Equal, and Splenda should be avoided. They contain no nutritional value and contain aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, which can lead to migraines, depression, weight gain, and gut health issues.[10]https://drkavitarao.com/hidden-dangers-artificial-sweeteners/

Instead of using one of these sweeteners, add a teaspoon of honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup to your drink or recipe in the place of table sugar or artificial sweeteners. 

Sugar is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in many foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Your body needs them. Many people consume too many sugary drinks and processed foods, which is the problem. Knowing the difference between added sugar and processed foods can help us clear up this misunderstanding about sugar in our diets. 

If you’d like to learn more about sugar, carbohydrates, and your health, schedule a free consultation with me so we can optimize your diet and put you on a path to Living Very Well™. 

What it Means to Be Living Very Well™

When you think about being healthy, what comes to mind? A healthy weight? Chiseled muscles? We all measure our health by weight and muscle tone because it’s convenient and supports the mainstream ideal that being physically fit and a perfect weight means you’re healthy. 

The reality is that your weight and muscle tone have little to do with how healthy you are. Everyone has a different body type, height, and muscle mass. I thought the same way for years and spent thousands of dollars on personal trainers only to see minimal results. The truth is that I didn’t have realistic goals and didn’t understand what it meant to be truly healthy

I lacked the education and resources to fully understand the human body and how it works as one unit instead of a group of independent systems. I believe that to be healthy; your health triangle must be connected with three equal sides. To address this, I created The Living Very Well™ Method. 

I will tell you later about The Living Very Well™ Method and how I’ve successfully used it with clients. Before I do, let’s talk about how I came up with The Living Very Well™ Method and how it fits my mission. 

Very Well Wellness’ Mission

In today’s fitness world powered by social media influencers, the idea of health has become convoluted so much that it’s hard to understand what it means to be healthy. It is so bad that even the healthiest people develop body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) or an unhealthy body image. BDD affects 2.4% of the population, yet a 2020 study discovered an alarming 15% increase in cases of body dysmorphia.[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7114025/

The reality is that the number on the scale or the definition of your muscles has little to do with how healthy you are. Everyone has different body types, body mass, height, and even bone density. Weight loss as a standard solution for good health is not the ideal recommendation.[2]https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2014/983495/

There is so much wrong information on the internet about being healthy, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of fad diets or trendy workout programs. 

Did you know that 73% of the people that set a new fitness goal end up quitting before reaching their goal? [3]https://www.healthline.com/health-news/you-probably-shouldnt-go-full-throttle-at-the-gym

As eye-opening as statistics like those are, it’s important to understand that the majority of people that fail with their goals go into them with unrealistic expectations. That’s why I’ve made it my mission to give you the tools to set realistic goals and still achieve optimal results. 

The Very Well Wellness mission is to empower people to live a healthy, energetic life through education, community, and the highest level of support. This mission is the foundation of The Living Very Well™ Method. 

The Living Very Well™ Method

I know what it’s like to want to live healthier, be overwhelmed, and not know where to start. I also know what it’s like to take extreme measures to try to reach my goals, only to feel tired all the time, have brain fog, and still not see results. The trap everyone gets in is focusing on fitness that’s not a good fit for their goals or failing to address their nutrition and lifestyle. 

Think of your health like a triangle. A triangle has three sides with equal supporting angles. Your health triangle is similar with three equal sides – fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle. If one angle connecting these sides is off, the triangle is not strong enough to support itself and will collapse. The Living Very Well™ Method addresses the three sides of your health triangle by breaking them into three tiers. To start, you must first address your nutrition. 

Tier 1: Nutrition

The food you eat controls every part of your body, so I address nutrition first. The Standard American Diet is the worst choice for food and is full of trans fats, refined sugars, and nearly 75% processed foods.[4]http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health-jan-june13-food_04-29/ Unfortunately, this is the way a lot of us eat. 

Processed foods contain ingredients that shouldn’t go in your body, such as preservatives, artificial flavors, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and simple carbohydrates. What it doesn’t have are nutrients. This way of eating can lead to obesity, malnourishment, and many health problems. You are sprinting uphill, trying to get healthy if you eat this way. 

What’s more, undiscovered food intolerances and sensitivities could be blocking any progress you make, especially with weight loss and reducing inflammation. I ask every new client to do an elimination diet before we begin any program to discover intolerances to certain foods.  That way we get off to the right start!

After discovering food intolerances, the second part of nutrition is eliminating processed sugars and eating a diet full of nutrient-rich foods such as organic meats, fruits and vegetables, and green vegetables. Hydration is also of equal importance in your nutrition and fitness, leading us into the second tier of the Living Very Well™ Method. 

Tier 2: FItness

Fitness is essential for a healthy lifestyle and to support overall wellness. It will give you energy, make you stronger, enhance your focus, and reduce your risk of chronic illness. But it needs nutrients to be effective, which is why nutrition comes before fitness. 

The key to success with fitness is understanding your goals and making them realistic. You don’t want to fall into one of the common mistakes people make with fitness, such as trying to out-train a bad diet, ignoring recovery, and overtraining. 

Having a clear goal and making your fitness functional – meaning it is designed to support your everyday life – should be the top two priorities with your fitness.[5]https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/functional-fitness-adults Understand that for fitness to be effective; your body needs nutrients from your food, oxygen-rich blood going to your muscles, and glucose for energy. 

I believe that whole body, functional fitness is the only way to optimal health. For example, if you’re lifting weights but not addressing cardio or stretching, you’re not supporting your heart or the health of your muscles. The problem is that your muscles need oxygen-rich blood from your heart to rebuild, and a strong heart makes the blood travel more efficiently to your muscles, which is why cardio is so important. 

Aiming to move your body 30 minutes every day is efficient for getting healthier, even if it’s just walking around your block for 30 minutes. You should focus on your whole body when you exercise, which cannot function properly without support from your lifestyle, which is the final tier in the Living Very Well™ Method. 

Tier 3: Lifestyle

Reliving your stress and getting enough sleep make up the lifestyle tier, as well as detoxification through sweating or eating antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries. 

Stress is at the root of many health problems such as high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose levels, loss of interest in sex, weight gain, mood swings, and brain fog. Being stressed isn’t just a feeling. It’s a chemical response that throws your hormones all out of whack. 

Cortisol, the stress hormone, stimulates body fat and carbohydrate metabolism to give your body the energy it needs to fight off a threat or stress. When stressed, you crave sugary foods because your body needs that quick shot of energy. If you are constantly under stress, your body will respond with a flood of cortisol, leading to weight gain. 

Sleep is essential because it gives our bodies a chance to recharge and refresh. Sleep boosts your metabolism, supports your mental health, makes your immune system and heart stronger, affects mood, reduces inflammation, and builds proteins. For most adults, six hours of sleep every night is enough to boost your health.

Your health doesn’t have to be a mystery. If you’re eating right and not seeing results or exercising and not reaching your goals, one of the angles of your health triangle is probably off. I’ve successfully used the Living Very Well™ Method on several clients! I also know this method works because I’ve personally seen results! If you’d like to learn more about The Living Very Well™ Method or how I can help you, schedule a free consultation, and let’s chat so you can start Living Very Well™. 

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Is Food Causing You Pain?

If you have constant inflammation and can’t figure out why you might want to look at your plate. Many health conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and autoimmune disease, are linked to inflammation.[1]https://medlineplus.gov/autoimmunediseases.html Yet, food is one of the root causes of inflammation in your body.[2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12551878 I suggest trying an anti-inflammatory diet for my clients with unexplained inflammation. 

I know all too well about the frustrations of having excruciating pain and being told there’s nothing wrong with me. The agonizing pain in my foot went on for nearly a decade, and modern medicine passed me from specialist to specialist for 10 years. I underwent invasive testing, including two glucose tolerance tests, and had enough blood drawn to fill a blood bank. We only figured out that I didn’t have diabetes or the markers to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.[3]https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353653

Frustrated with nowhere else to go, I found an article about how food affects our health and deeply delved into the world of functional nutrition. Once I changed my diet, my foot pain got better. As a certified nutritionist, I can tell you that food is at the root of many health problems. Once I eliminated inflammatory foods from my diet, my foot pain disappeared. 

I will tell you about how food causes inflammation in your body, the foods to eat and avoid, and the anti-inflammatory diet. Before we begin, let’s discuss why your body produces inflammation. 

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s defense against infection from outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses.[4]https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/about-inflammation When your body comes in contact with a foreign invader or suffers an injury, it alerts your immune system, which releases inflammatory cells and cytokines to the spot of the injury. These cells trap the bacteria and begin healing injured tissue. The result is pain, swelling, bruising, or redness. 

In most cases, inflammation is acute such as cutting your finger or hitting your knee on a table. Sometimes, inflammation can be chronic, and your immune system constantly sends inflammatory cells to healthy parts of the body. When your immune system is continuously in this state, it cannot tell the difference between healthy cells and bacteria. For example, in multiple sclerosis, inflammatory cells attack the protective covering on your nerves.[5]https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS?

Signs of inflammation

If you’ve been bitten by a mosquito or cut your finger, you may experience flushed skin at the site of injury, pain or tenderness, swelling, or heat. Chronic inflammation symptoms may be a little harder to recognize. 

Signs of chronic inflammation include:[6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/

  • Abdominal pain or regular bloating
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin rashes
  • Chronic pain

Many conditions are associated with chronic inflammation, including Alzheimer’s, asthma, heart disease, arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.[7]https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation

Chronic inflammation also affects those with autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, Chron’s disease, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Interestingly, the foods you eat can significantly increase the inflammation in your body. Yet, it’s not always the first place modern medicine will look at as the cause of your inflammation.

What Foods Cause Inflammation?

Our modern diet is full of processed foods full of additives, refined sugar, genetically modified organisms, and preservatives. Nothing good can come from any of those chemicals. Two of the most common foods that cause inflammation are gluten and dairy.[8]https://medium.com/thrive-global/the-shocking-truth-about-food-and-inflammation-3f4537e42efc

For most people, gluten doesn’t cause any issues; however, it’s the No. 1 food that causes inflammation in your body.  

It’s essential to remember that there is a difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity. Why am I bringing up food allergies? A common misconception is that unless you have an allergy to a food, it will not cause inflammation. This line of thought is not true. In fact, red meat is one of the most common foods that cause inflammation, yet you don’t hear about people having an allergy to red meat. Here are five foods that cause inflammation. 

1. Gluten 

Gluten is a protein found in grains, including wheat, barley, and rye, that gives bread its gooey-like texture. It’s common in foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, and cereal, and gluten has no nutritional value at all.

If you have celiac disease, you have an immune system reaction to gluten, which causes inflammation and damage to your gut when you eat gluten. Only 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease. 

 If you’ve not been diagnosed with celiac disease but still experience inflammation, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain after eating foods containing gluten, you likely have a sensitivity.  

2. Dairy

Gluten is the biggest offender in inflammation, and dairy is a close second, specifically cow’s dairy. This inflammation causes bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. The dairy problem can be traced back to two factors – sugar and the proteins whey and casein. 

As you age, your body stops producing digestive enzymes that help break down the foods you eat. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, a sugar found in cow’s dairy. People with lactose intolerance have lost the lactase enzyme. 

If you still have the lactase enzyme, but respond poorly to dairy products, then it’s likely a sensitivity or intolerance to the proteins in milk – whey and casein. Casein has a similar molecular structure to gluten, so if you notice that you’re having issues with gluten, you will likely have problems with dairy. 

3. Refined Sugar 

Carbohydrates come in two forms – simple and complex. In moderation, simple sugars are fine. However, the Standard American Diet (SAD) contains refined simple sugars and high-fructose corn syrup. Table sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose (a sugar your body needs) and 50% fructose. 

Your body needs glucose for energy, which is why not all carbohydrates are bad for you. Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruits. However, fruits and vegetables are complex carbohydrates that take longer to absorb. 

The added sugars such as artificial sweeteners and sucrose have no nutritional value and can cause inflammation, obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.[9]https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19534.htm

 Instead of table sugar and artificial sweeteners, try using honey or maple syrup as a sweetener; both are natural and contain complex carbohydrates. 

4. Trans Fats

There are two broad types of trans fats in foods: naturally occurring and artificial trans fats. Naturally-occurring trans fats from some animals and foods from these animals (e.g., milk and meat products) may contain small quantities of these fats. 

Artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) get made through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.

Trans fats are easy to use, inexpensive to produce, and long-lasting. Trans fats give foods a desirable taste and texture. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can often be used in commercial fryers. 

Trans fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and lower good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Both actions can increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

5. Omega-6 Fatty Acids

While technically not trans fats, omega-6 fatty acids are fats your body uses for energy but cannot produce on its own. There are some health benefits to omega-6 fatty acids, such as boosting your metabolism, and they also contribute to the good kind of inflammation in the body that helps heal you. 

Foods rich in omega-6s include corn, canola, safflower, peanut, and mayonnaise. However, you need to balance omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and too many omega-6s can cause consistent inflammation. 

6. Red and Processed Meats

Red meat causes uric acid levels to rise in people with gouty arthritis. Yet, you don’t need gout to get inflammation from red meat. Processed meats, including ground beef that is not grass-fed or organic, is slatted, cured, or full of preservatives and GMOs. Research shows both processed and red meat are high in saturated fat, which causes inflammation.[10]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26143683/

Red meat is any meat that comes from cows, pigs, sheep, and goats. Examples of processed meats include bacon, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, sausage, and some deli meats. 

If you’re going to eat red meat, I always suggest to clients that they buy grass-fed, organic beef. I noticed a big difference when I made the switch. In addition, some of you may find it beneficial to limit alcohol, nightshade vegetables, and citrus fruits. 

So, what can you eat? Let’s talk about foods to eat following an anti-inflammatory diet. 

Foods to Eat Following the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet doesn’t refer to a specific diet but an eating style. It should consist of nutrient-dense foods, antioxidants, and healthy fats. It should not include processed foods, such as sweets, snack foods, processed meats, soda, and fried foods. Even “healthy foods” like trail mix and baked chips are processed. 

Foods to eat while trying an anti-inflammatory diet include: 

  • Oily fish such as salmon and fresh tuna 
  • Fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cherries. Berries are rich in antioxidants
  • Lemons and Limes
  • Leafy green vegetables, including kale, spinach, and broccoli 
  • Legumes and beans
  • Olive and avocado oil. Coconut oil is an excellent substitute for cooking fats. 
  • Fiber
  • Spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger
  • Herbal teas
  • Avocados
  • Dark Chocolate and cocoa (at least 70% cocoa)

It’s essential to remember that results vary from person to person based on intolerance and the severity of your inflammation. The biggest hint is that the anti-inflammatory diet is working if you start to feel better. Schedule a free consultation with me if you’d like to learn more about food intolerances and determine if the anti-inflammatory diet is right for you.

Should I Take Pre-Workout Supplements?

Pre-workout supplements have been around for a long time but often get a bad reputation. You can’t look on fitness social media these days without someone talking about the pre-workout they use. But, should you take a pre-workout before your next gym session? Well, it depends. 

If you have gone to the gym or a fitness class and felt like you didn’t have enough energy or that you got optimal benefits from the exercises you were doing, then something is likely missing in your nutrition.  

I’ve been on both sides and never knew what to do. I turned to energy drinks, but they typically came with awful side effects such as a pulmonary episode or a high-heart rate. Energy drinks also have high amounts of caffeine and sugar in them. Pre-workouts work the same way to give you that extra boost to your workout, but they affect everyone differently. Also, not all pre-workout supplements are equal.  

I’m going to answer the question, “should I take a pre-workout,” and tell you what to look for when buying a pre-workout. First, let’s talk about what a pre-workout does for you.  

What Does Pre-workout Do?

You can’t expect to go into your workout feeling 100% all the time. If you have a poor diet or do not give your body the proper fuel to provide you with enough energy, you’ll get weaker and tired faster. 

Remember, your body needs carbohydrates for energy. When you eat a complex carbohydrate such as an apple or carrot, your body converts it into glucose, which it uses for energy. What your body does not use is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver. Typically, your body can get enough energy from carbohydrates to get you through light to moderate exercise. If you do intense workouts or training, your body might need a little extra boost, which is where pre-workout supplements come into play. 

Pre-workout supplements are multi-ingredient dietary formulas designed to boost your energy and athletic performance. They’re powdered substances that you mix into water and drink before exercise. While countless formulas exist, there’s little consistency with what ingredients are in pre-workout supplements. Some common ingredients include amino acids, beta-alanine, caffeine, creatine, and artificial sweeteners, but these quantities vary widely depending on the brand. Plus, some products may not be tested for quality or purity.

Most people that use pre-workouts take them 30 minutes before their workout. The extra carbohydrates and glucose in the pre-workout elevate blood sugar levels and supply additional training energy. 

What Should Be in Your Pre-Workout?

Knowing pre-workouts are designed to boost energy, it shouldn’t surprise you to find out that caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants are in most pre-workout powders. It’s essential to read the ingredients before taking a pre-workout. One of the most important factors to consider is whether or not the ingredients are natural. You should stay away from anything artificial, including sweeteners and caffeine. 

Caffeine is the key ingredient to look out for as the content can vary from mild to too much, and extreme in some cases. High caffeine levels can cause serious health issues like anxiety, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Your daily intake of caffeine should be no more than 400mg daily, including everything you drink or eat, such as coffee and soda. 

If you are taking a pre-workout, it should contain six key ingredients. Let’s talk about those ingredients. 

6 Key Ingredients to Look for in a Pre-Workout

Essentially, pre-workout ingredients will support energy, endurance, strength, pump, and focus for your workout. However, not all ingredients are necessary. With that in mind, your pre-workout is most effective when it includes these six ingredients. 

L-Citrulline (9 grams)

L-citrulline is considered a non-essential amino acid, which means your body can produce it when you don’t get it from your diet. Your kidneys turn L-Citrulline into another amino acid called L-arginine and nitric oxide. 

These two amino acids are essential for your heart and cardiovascular health. They boost nitric oxide production, which helps your arteries relax and work more effectively. Nitric oxide expands your veins and arteries, making it easier for blood to flow around your body, delivering nutrients quicker and more efficiently. Watermelon is a good food source of L-citrulline. 

Caffeine 

Most pre-workouts have a good amount of caffeine, as much as 300mg in one scoop. Caffeine can affect everyone differently, so use your best judgment when choosing a pre-workout. I suggest trying a smaller dose, such as a half-scoop or just one scoop if the recommended serving is two scoops, and see how you react.

You likely won’t find a pre-workout without caffeine, so the source is the most crucial factor to consider. It should be from natural sources. Keep an eye out for other energy stimulants. Theobromine and Rhodiola Rosa are popular ingredients but are mild stimulants compared to caffeine. 

Creatine

I used to not believe in creatine, but now I think it’s one of the essential supplements you can take if your activity level is moderate to high. Creatine is a natural substance in muscle cells that helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise. Your body stores about 95% of its creatine in the muscles, mainly in the form of phosphocreatine. The other 5% is in the brain and testicles in men.

When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, and it helps your body produce more of a high-energy molecule called ATP. ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body can perform better during exercise. Creatine also alters several cellular processes that lead to increased muscle mass, strength, and recovery

Beta-Alanine

These pre-workout ingredients lessen your perception of fatigue and increase your endurance and overall stamina. Beta-alanine is one of these anti-fatigue ingredients. Some people have issues with beta-alanine because it can often cause a tingling sensation on your skin. Beta-alanine is a must-have in your pre-workout if you can get over the tingles. 

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. Unlike other amino acids, your body combines beta-alanine with histidine to make carnosine. Carnosine is stored in your skeletal muscles and helps improve performance by reducing lactic acid accumulation

Electrolytes

You also lose electrolytes when you sweat. The average person loses 1 gram of sodium per one liter of sweat in an hour. In some cases, such as lengthy workouts, high-intensity training, or heated environments, sweat losses become much more significant and cause excessive electrolyte imbalances, which could create an issue.

Your pre-workout should have electrolytes to keep your body hydrated while you increase your performance. Check the label, and if it has 300mg of sodium, 100mg of magnesium, and 100mg of potassium, that should be enough. It’s still important to replenish your electrolytes after your workout as well. 

B-Vitamins

B vitamins are essential for any role in your body, supporting metabolism and producing energy. That’s why you should ensure your pre-workout contains optimal B vitamins. Vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6 all play essential roles in energy production and efficiency, while B12 supports blood production, and B3 boosts DNA repair and promotes healthier skin. B vitamins are water-soluble, so your body will remove what it doesn’t need through your urine. 

These six ingredients are essential if you’re looking to improve performance and get the most out of your workouts. Yet, pre-workout supplements aren’t for everyone.

Are Pre-Workout Supplements Safe?

Pre-workout supplements are generally safe to take regularly. It’s important to follow the instructions on the label. Your caffeine threshold is different than someone else’s, so it’s important to know what you can tolerate. Some brands go too far with a sensible limit of caffeine content, and that’s risky. The Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal cites research that suggests no more than 400mg of caffeine per day – that’s the amount in 3 cups of coffee. 

Be sure to check the per-serving caffeine amount in your pre-workout before you take it. If you’re new to pre-workout supplements or haven’t taken one before, take half of the recommended dosage to see how your body reacts. 

Should I Take a Pre-Workout Supplement?

Several months ago, I started taking a pre-workout supplement and noticed a big difference in my workouts. Keep in mind that everyone is different. It’s also important to consider two factors when deciding if you should take a pre-workout supplement: the intensity of your exercise and your goals. 

Pre-workout supplements don’t directly support muscle development as a protein powder might. However, it does give you the energy, endurance, and focus on boosting the performance of your workout. My suggestion is that a pre-workout might be right for you if you are doing high-intensity activities or need an extra boost in the gym or on your run. I love using pre-workout before Pilates or a Bootcamp. 

A pre-workout is unnecessary if you’re doing light exercise such as yoga or walking. Remember, the goal of a pre-workout supplement is to boost performance. 

While pre-workout supplements are an excellent boost for your workout, you must stick with your nutrition. You cannot out-train a bad diet, and giving your body the proper nutrients before exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better without depending on a pre-workout supplement. Supplements are just that – supplements to your diet and not intended to make up for a lousy diet.