diet

Fat Cells: Why Re-Gaining Weight Can Be So Easy

Fat Shack

Good news, bad news. Fat cells can be shrunk, but they rarely disappear. Once fat cells form, they might shrink during weight loss, but they do not disappear, a fact that has derailed many weigh.

Young mice fed a high-fat diet fail to produce fat cells within a day of starting a high-fat diet. “In studying what happens before these animals become obese, we found that this fat-producing response occurs unbelievably quickly,” said Matthew Rodeheffer, assistant professor of comparative medicine.

Weight gained is caused by the creation and expansion of white fat cells, or adipose tissue. Eating healthy and exercising can shrink fat cells but not eliminate them, which is why people can gain weight back so quickly.

So the next time you have a snow day and consider going on a 36-hr pizza and ice cream binge, definitely think twice. The body creates fat cells very fast and losing (or shrinking?) them can be a much more prolonged process.

Choline: It's What's For Breakfast

Breakfast Choline Eat

If you need another reason to have breakfast for dinner, look no further than everyone’s favorite vital nutrient that they’ve never heard of: Choline!

• Choline is a vital nutrient found in eggs, meat, and dairy products.

• But researchers find many people aren’t getting enough of the nutrient.

• Vegans and vegetarians have more risk for lower choline levels, but experts say people can take steps to supplement their diet.

Present in eggs, dairy, and meat, choline was recognized by the Institute of Medicine as an essential nutrient in 1998.

For the last 21 years, the institute has recommended daily choline intake of 550 milligrams (mg) per day for men and 425 mg per day for women, increasing to 450 mg during pregnancy and 550 mg for women who breastfeed.

That amount of choline intake doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult, considering that one hard-boiled egg has about 113 mg of choline.

But according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, 90 percent of children (but not infants), pregnant women, and adults aren’t getting enough.

The takeaway: If you’re routinely skipping breakfast, make sure you’re getting enough choline in your diet.

Why Athletes Reach for White Rice Over Brown Rice

White Rice Athlete

Whole grains are generally good for you and are a recommended food to improve overall health. However, athletes often follow different nutritional guidelines when considering what’s best for sports nutrition.

One of the biggest differences in the diet of elite athletes is the preference of white rice over brown rice. White rice can be a primary carbohydrate source that’s excellent for quick energy and glycogen replenishment. The goal of the athlete and lifter is supplying adequate amounts of macronutrients to fuel extreme training and replenish severely depleted glycogen stores. White rice plays a major part in this process and is considered excellent sports nutrition for these athletes.

One of the most popular meals for lifters is a large bowl of white rice combined with grilled chicken breast and endurance runners often carbo load with white rice before events. Because white rice ranks high on the glycemic index, informed athletes and lifters recognize the high glycemic value of white rice to provide quick fuel for hard workouts and facilitate muscle recovery.

According to USA Rice Information, rice contains more carbohydrates than potatoes for the same serving size. Parboiled, converted, and instant white rice is suggested for pre and post-workout meals. Consuming white rice ensures the body is properly fueled for the competitive athlete.

And for those training less than 4-days per week or suffering from a metabolic disease, brown rice is considered a better choice as brown rice is still a healthy nutrient dense food. Brown rice is absolutely recommended for the general populous and everyday fitness person who can tolerate whole grains, but for those going the extra mile sometimes white rice is the better choice.

5 Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Protein

Steak Protein

Here are some unexpected signs that you might have a protein deficiency: 
 
1. You feel weak
Muscle weakness and loss of existing muscle are signs that you may not be eating enough protein. When you don’t eat enough protein, your body will break down muscle to use as fuel and energy. Loss of muscle mass can slow down your metabolism, too. 
 
2. You often get sick
Protein is an essential part of a healthy immune system. When you do not eat enough protein, your body utilizes the T cells (germ fighters) in your body as fuel that would typically combat cold and flus. This may result in you getting sick more frequently. You may also take longer to recover from cuts, scrapes and infections.
 
3. You are always hungry
There are a variety of reasons why you might be hungry, including dehydration, but you might also be lacking adequate protein in your diet. If you find that you are always hungry, or that you need a snack or two between meals, this might be your body’s way of telling you that you need to eat more protein at each meal. Protein evens out blood sugar and keeps you feeling satisfied until your next meal.
 
4. You crave desserts
If you are not just hungry, but you also specifically crave sweets, you might need more protein. Because protein regulates blood sugar and glucose levels, lack of protein might lead you to reach for a sweet treat. If you eat protein at each meal, you are less likely to have highs and lows with your blood sugar and those associated cravings.
 
5. You are tired
If you don’t get enough sleep or if you overexert yourself at work, home or the gym, you probably feel tired quite often. However, if you are tired in the middle of the day, your blood sugar and protein levels might be to blame. Instead of taking a nap, which is not an option for most people, reach for a protein-rich snack and watch your energy levels improve.
 

How to Stay Healthy Post Halloween

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Some call it the “second most wonderful time of the year”. Post Halloween can become a pregame for Thanksgiving if you’re not careful. It is so easy to slip into that food coma early and stock up on treats the 7-year-old you babysit worked hard to earn. Here is how to indulge and avoid being on the next season of Biggest Loser.

Treat Yourself (the right way)

If you’re going to eat candy, you might as well eat the best out there. Opting for dark chocolate over milk is a simple switch. Or even better, eat some Rasinets (yes, they count as a serving of fruit)!

Pace Yourself

If you absolutely have to, eat the gunky stuff. Everyone has that ONE CANDY that they just HAVE TO EAT, so you have my full permission to indulge, sparingly. Portion control and self-control go hand and hand when it comes to sweets. Always make sure you go the “bite size” route instead of the “king size”.

Remind Yourself

You cannot get through the post Halloween season without a little motivation. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and you want to be able to enjoy it! You’ll thank yourself later for putting in the work now,

Water: How to Drink for Optimal Hydration - Part 2 of 2

Hydration Water Optimal Schedule

In our last installment on VarCity’s ideal way to hydrate, we give you a suggested daily water drinking schedule.  If you missed our earlier hydration related posts, make sure you read the Benefits of Drinking Water and Part 1 of Water: How to Drink for Optimal Hydration.    

Daily Water Target

• Wake up:  Immediately drink two warm glasses of water (this will help your body get rid of the previous day’s toxins)

• Breakfast:  Sip (don’t chug!) water with breakfast as needed

• Between breakfast and lunch:  Sip at least 1 glass of water

• 30-45 minutes before lunch:  Sip 1 glass of water over 15 minutes

• Lunch: Sip water with lunch as needed

• Between lunch and dinner:  Drink at least 1 glass of water

• 30-45 minutes before dinner:  Sip 1 glass of water over 15 minutes

• Dinner: Sip water with dinner as needed

• Between dinner and bedtime:  Drink the remaining water as needed to hit your daily goal.  Drinking faster than you otherwise would is ok (just note that you might wake up in the night to go to the bathroom).

• And note that closer to meals, it’s important to sit down when you drink water.  You eat sitting down to focus your body on digesting food.  Give your body the same peace when you sip water.

College Visit Road Trip Nutrition Tips

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It’s that time of year.  The pressure.  The anxiety.  The hours in the car with your parents.  You’ll get through this!   Everyone does.  And to help you make healthy decisions while you’re on the road, we’ve put together our top nutrition tips.  We know getting a good workout on the road is tough, but your nutrition shouldn’t also have to take a hit.  See below for VarCity’s top five nutritious roadside snacks.

1. Best Granola Bar:  Kind Nut Bar

Everyone loves a good granola bar and this one has tons of bang for your caloric buck: healthy fats, 6 g of protein, next to no sodium, and a reasonable dose of sweetness (just 5 g). It's also a great (and totally natural) source of selenium, magnesium, copper, and vitamin E—no fortified additives here.

2.  Best Potato Chip:  Kettle Real Sliced Potatoes Sea Salt

Baked chips!?  We know, we know...they’re usually the lame tag-along friend to your Subway sandwich.  But Kettle has worked some kind of crispy, salty, satisfying magic with this product line. These 3-ingredient baked chips taste just like they're fried—and you can eat 20 of them for just 120 calories and 3g of fat.

3.  Best Popcorn:  Indiana Fit Sea Salt Popcorn

Pause for a moment to appreciate the glory of popcorn: a carb-satisfying snack that's high in fiber and low in calories with a short ingredient list and absolutely zero sugar.  Indiana does it even better with no genetically modified corn or oil.

4.  Best Candy:  Pretzel M&Ms

While not ideal, we know sometimes you gotta go for that candy snack (e.g. when your parents have a mid-trip meltdown or when that student guide drops some seriously depressing admissions stats).  This sweet does way less damage than others in its category:  it's got 150 calories, 3 g of saturated fat, and 17 g of sugar per bag.  Compare that to regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms, loaded with 240 calories, 6 g saturated fat, and 30g of sugar.

5.  Best Nuts:  Wonderful Almonds Roasted & Salted

Toasty flavor, crispy skin, and absolutely no added oils—that's the beauty of dry-roasted almonds like these. Even better: these nuts are rich in fiber, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and more.  Nutrition never tasted so good.

Train for Your Body Type: Part 1 of 4

Train for Your Body Type

While a healthy approach to diet and exercise can dramatically change the way you look and feel, genetics still plays a large part in our body shape and what exercise and foods are best for us to see results.  American psychologist William Sheldon popularized three broad categories of body in the 1940s and those are still what we use today.  These are:

  1. Ectomorph:  Lean and long, with difficulty building muscle

  2. Endomorph:  Big, high body fat, often pear-shaped, with a high tendency to store body fat

  3. Mesomorph:  Muscular and well-built, with a high metabolism and responsive muscle cells

But what do these three terms mean in reality? In short, ectomorphs stay lean despite hours in the gym, endomorphs struggle to not pack on the pounds, and mesomorphs pack on muscle with ease.  Learning which body shape you were born with, and understanding what that means for your training and diet plans, will help you train smarter to maximize your potential and get closer to building the body that you’ve always wanted.

Falling Between Categories

Although there are three clear body types, it’s important to be aware that these aren’t set in stone.  The three body types exist but probably never in their pure form.  We all have some aspects of endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy,” says Professor Lars McNaughton from Edge Hill University.

Whatever your characteristics, you should know that regardless of your body type, anyone can get lean or put on considerable muscle mass – and, equally, gain weight if they’re not careful.  It might be harder for a skinny guy to pack on pounds of muscle, but if Justin Bieber can do it it’s not impossible!

In VarCity’s next posts you’ll find more information on how to identify your own body type – or mixture of types – and learn how to tailor your fitness tactics to it:  what you should be doing in the gym and the kitchen, where you might be going wrong, what to eat and what moves make the biggest difference.  And at the very least, you’ll gain a better understanding of why your body is the shape it is and know how to get the best out of your genetic make-up.

The Importance Of Sleep

Whatever your body type, to get the most out of your training you need to focus on your nutrition and recovery – with the key to the latter being getting enough sleep.

Most of us tend to associate testosterone and growth hormone with pure muscle growth. However, they are equally important in aiding fat loss and recovery from exercise.  Sleep has a massive say on your body’s production of said hormones.

A University of Chicago study found that if your levels of sleep fall below eight hours a night over the course of a week, testosterone can be lowered by 10% or more.  Your body’s levels of testosterone and growth hormone are also regulated by the amount of sleep you gain within a daily cycle known as a “circadian rhythm”.  You should aim to synchronize your circadian rhythm with daylight and night-time.

Your sleep can be negatively affected by unusual or additional light at night.  A great step you can take to alleviate any light interaction with sleep is to switch off lights and electronic devices at least one hour before you go to sleep.

To learn more about the importance of sleep click here.  

Tom Brady: How the Greatest Eats to Stay Great

Tom Brady Diet

Even though Tom Brady’s teen years are far behind him, VarCity is always looking to get health and fitness ideas from people out there doing it best.  And with 5 Super Bowl wins, 4 Super Bowl MVP awards, 12 Pro Bowl appearances and more division titles than any quarterback in NFL history (14), Tom Brady definitely qualifies.  Tom Brady's personal chef Allen Campbell recently sat down with Boston.com and let us know the quarterback's top food preferences.  Below are the interview highlights and please note that VarCity hasn’t verified any of the dietary claims made by Tom Brady’s personal chef.  Also, if you want to read the entire unedited interview click here.

1. You mentioned that your philosophy was a great match with what they were looking for in a chef. How would you describe your philosophy as a chef?

Campbell:  My philosophy is that a plant-based diet has the power to reverse and prevent disease.

2. How does that philosophy translate in terms of what you cook for Tom, Gisele, and the kids?

Campbell: So, 80 percent of what they eat is vegetables. [I buy] the freshest vegetables. If it’s not organic, I don’t use it. And whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans. The other 20 percent is lean meats: grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken. As for fish, I mostly cook wild salmon.

3. What ingredients don’t you use?

Campbell: No white sugar.  No white flour. No MSG.  I only cook with coconut oil.  Fats like canola oil turn into trans fats...I use Himalayan pink salt as the sodium.  I never use iodized salt.

4.  What else?

No coffee.  No caffeine.  No fungus.  No dairy.  The kids eat fruit.  Tom, not so much. He will eat bananas in a smoothie. But otherwise, he prefers not to eat fruits.

5. What are some recent meals you’ve cooked for the family?

Campbell: I’m all about serving meals in bowls.  I’ve just did this quinoa dish with wilted greens. I use kale or Swiss chard or beet greens.  I add garlic, toasted in coconut oil.  And then some toasted almonds, or this cashew sauce with lime curry, lemongrass, and a little bit of ginger.  That’s just comfort food for them.

6. How different are Tom’s meals before games compared to what he normally eats?

Campbell: It’s really not different.  The only real difference [in terms of the kinds of things I cook] is seasonal.  In the wintertime, it’s going to be more red meat and more soups and root vegetables.  And in the summer, they eat lighter, so I’ll make raw lasagna and more salads.