Masquerading Food

This post is going to talk about my opinions on energy bars etc. I will go into a little detail on the pros/cons of each and let you make your own mind up.

The energy bar is going to make a great example for my purposes, because it is always marketed as being healthy. Specifically, I’ll be examining the Elevate Me! bars that seem to have gained in popularity lately.

There are multiple flavours of the bar. I will just use the nutritional information on their site for the strawberry apple pie because it’s the first on listed:
Calories: 250Kcal
Carbohydrates: 38g
Protein: 16g
Fat: 4.5g

As you know I’m not a low-carb advocate. I am however against the use of food masquerading itself as something healthy when it really isn’t. Out of the 38 grams of sugar contained in this bar 29 grams of this are from sugar! That’s a total of 6 teaspoons of sugar. To put that into perpective, a Caramilk bar has only 23 grams of sugar. A can of coke has 27 grams of sugar.

Now please, don’t assume that I believe everyone should cut out sugar from their lives completely! However, when you see foods such as the Elevate Me! bar, with a beautiful arrangement of “fresh fruits” on their packaging, it’s almost comical. It’s the factor of convenience that makes these bar appealing.

Now granted, the bars do contain real fruit in them, so I’m sure a fair amount of the sugar comes from fructose. However, even when you read the ingredients, all the bars contain some form of juice or cane sugar, as well as vegetable oil. You can do much better than this.

If you are running a marathon, then by all means, I would go to town on energy bars and energy drinks. If you’re sitting in your office 8 hours per day and walk to the vending machine to eat one or two of these bar per day as a “snack” there’s a problem. If you are trying to lose weight and you are eating 2 of these per day, you spending ~500 Kcals per day on something that really isn’t going to do much for satiety.

You may notice a trend in my view on food through my writing. If you are trying to lose weight, please learn to cook! I can’t stress this enough. If you eat out even once a day on a regular basis, and don’t know what’s going into your mouth, you could easily be sabotaging your goals. Which is why it’s good to find a few places you like to eat and find out, or estimate how many calories are in these foods.

I’m going to be completely honest with you here. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, taking the easiest, most convenient route will get you nowhere. There is work that needs to be done, sacrifices that need to be made. The beautiful part of it though, is if you are lean you have a lot more wiggle space to eat crappier foods. You can still remain lean at the same time. However, you are always looking for the easy way out, you will not sustain your weight loss.

Counting Calories Doesn’t Work… Really?

This is just a short rant on something I’ve seen a few times and it bugs me. To say that counting calories doesn’t work is akin to saying Charlie Sheen doesn’t use drugs. It’s just not true!

I’ve seen people say that counting calories is only a short-term solution. I have to say that I agree on this point, IF you are counting calories incorrectly. Let’s go over two examples, one example of someone counting calories incorrectly and one counting them correctly.

Let’s say Jane has a BF% of 30%. She ways 140 pounds. She’s pretty happy with the way she looks, but she’s going on vacation soon and she wants trim down to around 133. Why 133 do you ask? Well she used to way 133 a few years ago, and really liked the way she looked in a bikini.

She figures out her current metabolic rate is ~1820 calories per day. Having a reasonable grasp of maintenance energy balance she decides to cut 250 calories from this number to put her in a negative energy balance. So she is not consuming 1570 calories per day. She eats this way for a month and notices she has lost a couple pounds. She still hasn’t lost what she wanted though. 2 more months pass and she’s still at the same weight.

Let’s use Jane again. We’ll say she has the exact same stats as the example above. This time however, Jane realizes that her metabolism will change as a result of weight loss. The reason for this is that the presence of fat does burn calories, we just usually don’t want that presence of fat in the first place.

After a month Jane realizes that her scale just isn’t moving. It’s static. She waits two weeks to make sure that her weight is yet again static. It is. She doesn’t give up that easily though. She realizes that her metabolism has decreased, ergo she must decrease her caloric intake in order to keep losing weight. She shaves off a little more calories, and bam, her weightloss starts again.

The above examples are obviously incredibly simplified, but I wanted it to be easy to understand. Counting calories does work! If done properly! Most people don’t do it properly, or they set their caloric intake way too low, and end up burning lean tissue along with fat tissue.

If you want to do it right, you need to be careful on how you cut calories. You need to know what to cut out of your diet. You need to know when to cut a particular food out of your diet as well. Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to be this anal. If you are just trying to look a little better in jeans, you may not need this level of specialization. If you are looking for earth shattering, head turning changes, then this is probably going to be the way to go.

Water Preloads and Weightloss

I’m sure you’ve heard the health benefits of water. I most definitely don’t dispute that water is an absolute necessity in everyday life. I do seem to see a lot of fitness experts espouse water as an integral part of a weight loss plan. This little tid bit has always interested me. So I decided to dive into some research and show you what I found. Here we go!

I will begin by saying that I don’t personally think that water is as important as many make it out to be. Yes, we need it to live. Yes, you should be drinking it multiple times per day. However, saying it’s an absolute necessity while on a hypocaloric diet seems a little far fetched for me. I suppose the reasoning I have for this is when I was leaning out, I didn’t pay much attention to my water intake. I wasn’t being all anal, thinking that if I didn’t drink X amount of water every day my weight loss would stop. Even though I didn’t worry about my water consumption I still lost weight!

The research tends to be divided into several subgroups. Mainly children, adults, elderly, and obese individuals. I will specify the populations used in the studies I reference.

This 12 week study concluded a 500mL preload of water resulted in 44% more weight lost than no preload on middle aged and older adults. Keep in mind this study was done over a 12 week period, and the 44% represented ~2 kg. Another issue with this study was that the energy intake after 12 weeks did not differ as much as it did during baseline. This is definitely a downside of this study. Still, the results were there.

This study on obese older adults wanted to see if obese individuals would consume less food after a water preload. The researchers studies 24 overweight and obese adults (body mass index=34.3+/-1.2), who were ~60 years old. One group ate libitum after a 500mL preload, the other group ate ad libitum with no preload. Caloric intake was covertly measured after the meal. The preload group ate ~13% less food than the no pre load group. Nice results for sure, however ad libitum eating is obviously never a dieting strategy. It would be nice to see more research in this particular area while on an hypocaloric diet.

To muddy the waters even more, this study compared water preloads in healthy non-obese young (n = 29; age, 21 to 35 years) and older (n = 21; age, 60 to 80 years) populations. They used similar preloads to the study above. The young adults showed no significant reductions in energy intake after the preload. The older adults significantly reduced energy intake after the preload! Older adults also had lower hunger ratings and higher fullness ratings after the preload compared to the young adults.

All three of these studies show that water can indeed play an important role in your fat loss strategy. Especially in older, overweight, and obese adults. The first study tells me that preloading each meal with water may make dieting easier. The reason for this being that you would be equally satiated with fewer calories than if you didn’t drink water before a meal.

Keep on drinking! Water of course 😉

Dark Chocolate: What The Research Says

A new study published at the end of August by the British Medical Journal made news recently in the NYT. The study discussed the health benefits of chocolate consumption on the risk of development of cardiometabolic disorders. I’m sure you can guess this studies’ conclusion.

This study was a review of cohorts and a cross sectional study. Note the absence of randomized control trials! 5 of the 7 studies showed a beneficial association between higher levels of chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders. That’s ~70% association. That’s something, but it doesn’t exactly make you run to the nearest 7/11 to stock up on Jersey Milk now, does it?

I didn’t read the full study so I don’t know precisely what chocolate they were referring to that gave a health benefit. Was it dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, artificially sweetened chocolate, unsweetened, etc? How much chocolate was recommended in order to have a maximum effects? Since chocolate is so dense in calories, and low in nutrient density, there must be a certain level of chocolate that one should consume in order to manage their weight and still get the health benefits.

Then theres always the fact that phytochemicals are contained in a whole host of fruits and vegetables and not just chocolate. I suppose chocolate companies could find it helpful if the phytonutrients in the cocoa were actually useful as an antioxidant. This double blind, randomized control trial showed no effect of dark chocolate on cardiovascular related health.

This randomized trial showed dark chocolate had improved endothelial function and lowered blood pressure in obese individuals. However, the dark chocolate with the greatest effect was the one lowest in sugar.

So dark chocolate has minimal health benefits when the sugar is kept very low. Let’s be honest here, how many of you eat that boring dark chocolate with no sugar added? Come on, tell me! When the lay person catches wind of the NYT article above, they misinterpret the results. It’s unfortunate, but true. Then you have minions of people who think they’re actually being healthy by consuming copious amounts of chocolate.