Ten Nutrition Tips That We (Almost) All Agree With: Part 5

When Is the Royal Wedding

Between the Pinterest boards full of protein diets, the endless weight loss tips we see online and the countless low-carb diet foods we see in the grocery store, it’s getting more difficult to determine what we should and shouldn’t be eating.  VarCity HQ did a little leg work for you and scoured the internet for the common themes we saw from nutritionists throughout the internet. 

Below is VarCity’s top 10 list of nutrition rules that almost all experts agree with: 

9. "Diets" Don't Work — a Lifestyle Change Is Necessary

"Diets" are ineffective. That is a fact.

They may provide short-term results, but as soon as the diet ends and you start eating junk food again, you will gain the weight back. And then some.  This is called yo-yo dieting and is extremely common.

Most people who lose a lot of weight on a diet end up gaining it back whenever they "stop" the diet.  For this reason, the only thing that can give you actual long-term results is to adopt a lifestyle change.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the only way to ensure long-term weight loss and a lifetime of improved health.

10. Unprocessed Food Is Healthiest

Processed food is generally not as healthy as whole food.

As the food system has become more industrialized, the health of the population has deteriorated.  During food processing, many of the beneficial nutrients in the food are removed.

Not only do food producers remove healthy nutrients like fiber, but they also add other potentially harmful ingredients like added sugar and trans fats.  Additionally, processed foods are loaded with all sorts of artificial chemicals, some of which have a questionable safety profile.

Basically, processed foods have less of the good stuff and a lot more of the bad stuff.  The most important thing you can do to ensure optimal health is to eat real food. If it looks like it was made in a factory, don't eat it!

Ten Nutrition Tips That We (Almost) All Agree With: Part 4

When is the royal wedding

Between the Pinterest boards full of protein diets, the endless weight loss tips we see online and the countless low-carb diet foods we see in the grocery store, it’s getting more difficult to determine what we should and shouldn’t be eating.  VarCity HQ did a little leg work for you and scoured the internet for the common themes we saw from nutritionists throughout the internet. 

Below is VarCity’s Part 4 of our top 10 list of nutrition rules that almost all experts agree with: 

7. Refined Carbohydrates Are Bad for You

There are a lot of differing opinions about carbs and fat.  Some think fat is the root of all evil, while others believe carbs are the key players in obesity and other chronic diseases.

But what pretty much everyone agrees on is that refined carbohydrates are not as healthy as unrefined carbohydrates.

Unrefined carbs are basically whole foods that are rich in carbs. These include whole-grain cereals, beans, vegetables and fruits. Refined carbs, on the other hand, are sugar and refined flour.

Whole foods contain numerous beneficial nutrients and antioxidants.  However, when high-carb foods such as grains are processed, the most nutritious parts are stripped off. What is left are massive amounts of easily digestible starch.

Those who base their diets on refined carbs may be lacking in fiber and many other healthy nutrients. As a result, they are at an increased risk of chronic disease.  Eating refined carbs will also cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. While high blood sugar levels are unhealthy for all people, they are a much greater concern in people with diabetes.

It is clear that whole grains and unrefined carbohydrates are a lot healthier than their refined, processed counterparts.

Refined carbohydrates like processed grains are unhealthy. They are lacking in nutrients and eating them may lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin, which can cause all sorts of problems down the line.

8. Supplements Can Never Fully Replace Real Foods

"Nutritionism" is the idea that foods are nothing more than the sum of their individual nutrients.  But it’s also a trap that many nutrition enthusiasts tend to fall into.

Nuts, for example, aren't just shells loaded with polyunsaturated fat. In the same way, fruits aren't just watery bags of sugar.  These are real foods with a massive variety of trace nutrients.

The vitamins and minerals, the ones you can also get from a cheap multivitamin, are just a small part of the total amount of nutrients in foods.  Therefore, supplements cannot match the variety of nutrients you get from real foods.

However, many supplements can be beneficial, especially those that contain nutrients that are generally lacking in the diet, like vitamin D.  But no amount of supplements will ever make up for a bad diet. Not a chance.

It is much more important to eat real, nutritious foods than to count on supplements to provide the nutrients you need.

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.

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 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.



Pizza: Think Twice Before that After-School Slice

Pizza After School

So school’s out and you’re starving?  We’ve all been there.  You think to yourself — “I’ll just stop by the $1 pizza place around the corner, grab a quick bite and get home to get started on my AP reading.”  

Well stop and think before you get in that pizza line — a new study shows that a diet packed with greasy stuff like sausage, pepperoni and cheese can have a negative effect on your body for the rest of the day.  

In a small study at Loughborough University in the U.K., researchers fed 15 healthy, young adults—nonsmokers, physically active, and free of cardiovascular disease or diabetes—a diet packed with greasy stuff like pizza, burgers and cheesecake for one day. They then gave the participants a sugary drink followed by a blood sugar tolerance test.  

The finding???  After eating fatty foods, the young adults' bodies were substantially worse at handling sugar, which is linked to a reduction in insulin sensitivity.  That’s bad.

If insulin sensitivity becomes poor, we have trouble digesting carbs and absorbing nutrients, and we gain weight.  If it’s really bad for a long time, the pancreas needs to make more and more insulin because we’re so insensitive to it.   

So if we want to burn fat and avoid a host of other health issues, we want to be insulin sensitive—so think twice in that pizza line!