A Story about 100% Caffeine Free Living

This is a Guest Post from Patrick: An active triathlete with multiple Ironman and marathon finishes on his resume, Patrick writes weekly on the power of integrating life and sport into a sustainable lifestyle of fitness. Learn more at http://www.patrickjohnmccrann.com.

For many of us, coffee is an integral part of daily life. From artesian roasts to grand goodness to just your plain old cup of joe, odds are you are one of the 112 million Americans who drink a cup of coffee a day.  But it’s not all flowers and gumdrops — a significant portion of coffee drinkers use caffeine to power through their days on minimal sleep. As an appetite suppressant, caffeine masks hunger. And as a diuretic, coffee can make us dehydrated as well.

In the digital age of the 24/7, more-is-always-better lifestyle, caffeine is an alluring (and legal) way to push our bodies beyond their natural limits. But what goes up must come down; eventually that coffee-fueled high becomes harder to obtain. We become irritable without enough sleep, and erratic eating combined with poor hydration is a recipe for physical misery.

After a season-ending bicycle crash broke my hip, I began to re-evaluate how I was managing my diet and overall nutrition. I resolved to quit caffeine and even went on a 30-day cleanse (that’s another story).The biggest outcome is now I now am leading a very simple daily life free of caffeine. The transition wasn’t easy, but it helped me to achieve new levels of balance in my day, overall wellness and improved productivity. Here’s how it all went down.

My Caffeine-Fueled Decline

As an Ironman athlete and online entrepreneur, I spent the better part of the last five years chasing excellence on a steady diet of minimal sleep and ever-increasing amounts of caffeine. What started as a cup a day became three, became five or more.

It quickly became an integral part of my existence, allowing me to plow through any obstacle (real or imagined). Of course, I didn’t have any super-powers…I just felt that way. Here are some of the tell-tale troubling signals that I ignored…

The Training Effect… I sought out other forms of caffeine in my day. In classic addict fashion, I wouldn’t count it as caffeine as it wasn’t another cup of coffee…but I was deceiving myself. My classic midday Ironman workouts was a 4,000 yd pool swim with a 2-liter bottle of coke in my locker for fuel pre- and post-workout. On bad days I put it in my water bottle on the pool deck!

The Work Effect… I began to associate coffee with work. Every time I was going to start a new big task, I’d make more coffee. Making the pot of coffee became a work-related ritual. It certainly didn’t help things when I launched my own company and started workout out of various coffee shops.

The Physical Effect… My breath smelled awful. My bag and laptop smelled of coffee. I was habitually dehydrated. There was almost no way for me to keep up given the constant flow of coffee. Drinking all that water just seemed like a lot of work!

The Nutritional Effect… Outside of dinner I practically had no regular eating schedule.  I wouldn’t be hungry in the morning (thanks to coffee) and I could get by with a quick meal (plus some coffee) after a good workout. Dinner was with the family, but late at night the hunger would catch up to me, leading to some seriously bad food choices made staring at the fridge in my PJs.

The Nature of the Addiction

Unlike many of the other things that we have come to rely upon, like our cell phones and computers, coffee contains the addictive substance of caffeine. Even though there’s just about 200mgs of caffeine in a typical cup of coffee, it’s enough to alter how our brains and bodies act on a fundamental level.

In retrospect I was after something more powerful. Sure the coffee tasted good, but it wasn’t the jolt of coffee that drove me.

…It as much Behavioral as it is Chemical!

In my case the caffeine enabled me to do more for short (and increasingly shorter) periods of time. I’d say that my true addiction was to feeling super-powered. I could get up at 4am and work for a few hours before the kids got up. I could stay up late…as late as I wanted, because I could use caffeine to control when I was actually tired.

I wondered aloud if I could get by on just 4 hours of sleep a night. Less sleep meant more time to do stuff, and my next big idea was always only a cup of coffee away. I was a few steps removed from feeling invincible.

My (Sudden) Wake Up Call

I crashed my bike in mid-May of 2010, fracturing my hip and collar bone. In an instant, I knew my life was going to be different. This was confirmed mere hours later after repeated painful Xrays and MRIs of my pelvis. In a split second I went from climbing up mountains on my bicycle to being in a wheelchair for 3-4 weeks with my biggest workout goal simply being to try and walk.

Without exercise to offset my coffee habits, I quickly had tons of extra energy with nowhere to burn it off. I saw that:

Coffee actually made me agitated and jumpy.
Coffee disrupted quality eating.  I could almost go a full day without feeling a need to eat b/c of coffee, only to binge later. My weight ballooned and I was relying on loose-fitting sweatpants and shorts.
I used coffee to chase fatigue away, but I couldn’t eliminate that fatigue entirely.  This just led to a vicious cycle of blood sugar highs and lows, a self-perpetuating roller coaster of euphoria/energy followed by disabling fatigue.
Taking the No-Caffeine Pledge

I was clearly becoming a liability and knew something had to change. I am not one to pick the easy road — it’s not sexy enough to work hard for — and the best path seemed simple: no more coffee for 30 days. Go.
It wasn’t easy, but I was able to do it. The first two days were the worst. I was irritable and grumpy. I had a headache to die for. If you told me pushing that baby deer off a cliff would have stopped my headache…well, let’s just say it wasn’t good. I hear that most folks experience a headache, become irritable and find it hard to concentrate. That said your symptoms will depend on just how much caffeine you consume on a regular basis, and could become more severe. Some people report depression, nausea, vomiting or muscle pain.

Typically, symptoms began 12 to 24 hours after stopping caffeine, with peak intensity lasting one to two days. But researchers have found that withdrawal can last up to nine days in some cases.

I had two powerful change agents helping me out during my 30-day journey. First, I signed on to do an overall cleanse with my wife. This meant I was not alone in making sacrifices and looking to improve how I was treating my body. Caving to coffee would have meant going back on what she and I were doing together. Second, I drew a very black-and-white line: no coffee for thirty days is pretty clear. No half way steps of half-caff drinks from Starbucks. I had to go thirty days (a time line helps), and I could drink no caffeine. Coke was bad, but I could drink non-caffeinated teas, for example.

The most important thing was that even though I felt like junk, even early on I could see positive signs of change.

Right away I had the best damn night of sleep in over a year. I literally slept for nine straight hours, the first time I had done that without being sick since I was about 17 years old. It was as if I was getting over a time-change from a big trip…and in some way I totally was. This continued for about six weeks; only recently have I been able to get by on a more reasonable six hours sleep with no ergogenic aids.

I actually began eating breakfast again, and I don’t mean Chocolate Frosted Kibble Bits. A real breakfast meant my workouts were better (I had energy!), it meant I could skip my morning snack and head right into lunchtime looking for another substantial meal. A huge step for me.

My writing and other creative work exploded. Turns out that all the coffee I was drinking kept me working more, but not any better. By unplugging from my 24/7 energy source, I had time offline to process ideas and engange new concepts. My writing became more enriched, my concepts were more complete right from round one. This was the biggest “gotcha” from the no caffeine move.

I was better able to manage my time. I began single tasking (a topic I explore in my forthcoming new book), as I could focus really well for a short period of time. Gone were the coffee-power, twenty simultaneous tabs open in Firefox, ricochet-like work sessions where I would skip to the next task because waiting for a page to load was often too long.

That I saw a performance improvement in my training almost came as no surprise. Sure folks talk about caffeine as an ergogenic aid, but in my case it prevented me from doing the daily things required to be able to train at a higher level. Now that I was getting real sleep and eating on a proper rhythm, my workouts took off. I was able to consistently workout at higher intensities. I needed less recovery time and performed better in group workouts. Most importantly, the real effects of a hard training session were immediately apparent to no-coffee me; I could now address them with improved protein-focused intake, better hydration and sometimes even a quick nap.

Within six weeks of my crash I was riding my bicycle again, and running at ten weeks. In just three months after I hit the pavement I was riding at the same level of fitness as I had before the crash and my running was almost there. It’s now been four months, the time where my doctors told me I should be ready to begin working out again, and my bike and run are entirely “back” where they were before the crash. My endurance fitness has taken a hit, but I can ride 22mph on the bike and run sub-7:00/miles multiple times a week.

Building a Caffeine-Free Routine

I am 100% confident that this would not have been possible without my new caffeine choice. On zero coffee, I had to find a way to focus or redirect myself when I came to the places or situations I normally associated with coffee.  Here’s the actual daily steps I took (and continue to take) to keep the need for coffee out of my life.

1. No morning coffee meant implementing a morning yoga / flexibility / core strength routine.  I would routinely wake up at 4am, coffee waiting for me, and work for four straight hours before the kids got up. Without coffee, I could no longer jump in at full speed. Instead, I needed a way to warm up mentally and physically for my day. My solution was a small circuit that included light stretches, a few key yoga poses with deep breaths and some crunches and push ups. I let my mind wander during this consistent routine and am amazingly awake and refreshed by the time I am done. Side one: I have been notoriously bad at self-care considering all the exercising I do; it’s amazing what 5-6 days a week of 15 minutes of work can do for your body. Total Time = 15 minutes.

2. No midday coffee meant a new work flow to combat the early afternoon slump. When times got tough after lunch and I started typing “k” for ten straight pages as I dozed off, I would usually turn to coffee. Now I use this downtime as an opportunity to complete tasks that require movement and/or interaction with others. I have a short list of manual tasks such as chores or errands; a simple change of environment is very effective and getting my blood flowing helps eliminate fatigue. Another option is to pick some interactive to-do items–such as phone calls–as this will stimulate your brain as well.

3. No afternoon coffee meant that when I was really truly tired, I had to do something about it. If my change in work flow doesn’t do the trick, then it’s time for a 15 to 20-minute power nap. Given that my fatigue is real, dozing off in a comfortable chair (or even in my car) isn’t hard at all. Just don’t forget to set an alarm to wake up!

A (Powerful) Sample of One

I know the results I give above are unique to me; but the depth to which the no-coffee choice has improved my life across the board is so stunning that I simply can’t not share it with my readers as part of how I recommend you reach your personal and physical endurance best. My work has improved; my workouts have improved. I am in bed at a reasonable hour and wake up refreshed. No more late night work sessions means I have rediscovered the joy of reading and even spend more time with the family.

I can’t guarantee you’ll experience the same benefits as I have outlined above, but I can assure you that your life will certainly change for the better with no (or at least less!) coffee. Have you considered quitting coffee? Have you successfully done so? Please share your story–and advice for making the change stick–in the comments below. Good luck!

Purifying The Body Naturally.

Herbs and Spices can be extremely powerful, and serve to purify and cleanse the body. Killing off bacteria and foreign matter that maybe lurking inside the body.

The truth is we have evolved as a species to eat a wide variety of herbs, spices and foods which have natural anti-viral properties. Sadly due to modern processed food and delicate tastes many of these have now been forgotten…..

In years gone by we cooked with these substances not only to add flavor but for their health benefits, things like Garlic, Fennel, Ginger, Cinnamon, Pepper and many others have a potent effect on our well being.

I am going to go into some detail about how some of these substances can have a profound effect on your body and hopefully encourage you to use a wide variety of them while cooking and eating at home. These are some of my favorite and ones which can be easily implemented into your everyday cooking.

Thyme – In previous articles we have looked over thyme as it is an extremely useful herb. It contains Thymol which is an extremely potent anti-bacterial, so potent that it is used in many mouthwashes as a main component. The article linked has loads more information on Thyme and its uses when cooking, recently I have been using fresh thyme to make a herbal tea by simply steeping a few branches on Thyme and sweetening with honey.

Garlic – Well known for its anti-bacterial properties Garlic can slow and kill more than 60 types of fungi and bacteria, including some of the most potent known to man (Salmonella, and Staphylococcus to name a few). It is no wonder it is known to be “nature’s anti-biotic”, Garlic is also filled with anti-oxidants. It can be added to pretty much anything when it comes to cooking and works especially well with red meat and poultry. I often make a chicken marinade with Olive Oil, Crushed Garlic, Lemon Juice and Sea Salt/Pepper, leave it to soak overnight and cook the next day.

Ginger – Which contains a substance called Gingerol which works to kill parasites and bacteria. Ginger can be steeped as a tea or used in a wide variety of asian dishes like curries and stir-frys. For a simple Ginger tea try the following:

§ Cut the Ginger into thin slices

§ Add to a saucepan filled with water and bring to the boil

§ Reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes

§ Strain the tea and add Lemon juice and Honey to taste

Although the lemon honey and ginger tea is associated with cold weather, it can be drunk year round and works to cool and cleanse in the summer or warm and uplift in winter.

Cayenne – Capsicum which is a component in all peppers is another potent anti-parasitic. It seems that Cayenne pepper maybe the most concentrated of the family plus it is easy to get hold of and a great spice to add to all kinds of dishes that need a little kick.

Cloves – Sometimes forgotten as they are associated with the festive season, so are rarely used outside of this period. Cloves contain two anti-microbrials Eugenol and Caryophyllene which work to kill off parasites in the body, they actually travel through the bloodstream to the offenders. Although cloves are usually used in sweet dishes they can also be added to Chilli or other more savory stew like dishes. I love adding a few cloves to homemade applesauce, which adds a very pleasant and warming flavor.

There are many many other herbs and spices which can help to cleanse the body, I have just gone over some of the standouts. It is important when cooking at home to try and emphasize the use of these foods as they can have hugely beneficial properties and realistically be the difference between good and great health.

Especially when we take into account that supposedly 90% of Americans have some sort of parasites which do a great job of remaining undetected in the body. The least we can do is use a variety of natures cleaners on a regular basis to help purify the body….

Article from Zen to Fitness


Butter: Good Fat or Bad Fat?

Butter: Good Fat or Bad Fat?

<!–butter–>People are often shocked when they see how much butter I use and eat in one day.  But I know the real truth; Butter is a good fat and can actually help you lose weight.

Unfortunately, people thinking butter is unhealthy is a very common misconception. People still think that butter and saturated fats are the reason heart disease is one of the top killers in this country (and now in many other countries as well). The truth is that it’s not the natural fats that are causing this epidemic, its the sugar, processed and packaged foods and overconsumption of refined oils that are causing so much disease (and you can add Diabetes, High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure to this list as well).

1. Did you know that during the 60 year period from 1910-1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%?

2. During this same time butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person each year to 4 pounds per person each year.

3. During the past 80 years, the consumption of dietary cholesterol intake has increased only one percent.

So where is the problem? Why all the heart disease?

1. During the same period, the average intake of dietary vegetable oils (margarine, shortening, and refined oils) increased by about 400%.

2. During the same period, the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased by about 60%

Those are the facts, but there’s never better proof than the results I see with my clients and my readers. When people finally stop eating margarine, refined oils, “fake” butters, sugar and processed foods, their health sky rockets! (and by sky rockets I mean, gets better, greatly improves, elevates to whole new levels). Not to mention all the body fat they lose off their body (now isn’t that just an awful side effect?)

It’s important to mention that the butter I use is organic and grass fed. It has this beautiful deep yellow color and is not white like most conventional butters. It has gone through minimal processing and has no added growth hormones and antibiotics. I get all my butter from www.grasslandmeats.com

Now that I told you butter is ok to eat, here is a delicious chicken recipe you can enjoy:

(Please remember that the mad scientist in me sometimes forgets to document the exact amounts so you may need to play around with this a bit.)

Chicken with “I’m not afraid of butter” dressing

Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb of chicken)
6 Tbsp of melted butter
lemon juice from 1/2 large lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Directions:

Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large pan. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook chicken breasts in butter covered on very low heat. Do not let the butter get brown. Pour lemon juice in a seperate bowl. Slowly stir in the remaining melted butter as you stir mixture. Then slowly add the olive oil as you stir mixture. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Once the chicken is cooked through, served on a plate and pour the “dressing mixture” over your cooked chicken breasts.

Don’t be surprised if you are tempted to pour this dressing on your veggies and just about every other food item you can think of. It’s delicious!

Article and recipe by Isabel De Los Rios from The Diet Solution

Improving Thyroid Function Naturally….

Improving Thyroid Function Naturally….

The topic of Thyroid is hugely interesting and it seems to be cropping up everywhere now. The thyroid is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body and lies in the front of your neck, around the “adam’s apple” that being said it is a tiny gland, but holds huge importance to the bodies function.

The thyroid produces its own thyroid hormones T3, T4 and Calcitonin which help regulate the Metabolism which is so important not only in terms of weight regulation, but also things like Digestion, Skin health and Energy Regulation as well as Calcium absorption.

I wrote this post not for people looking to cure a severe thyroid problems (for this see a doctor or naturopath) but rather as a guide on how to keep your thyroid healthy and functioning well, in other words on regulating your thyroid function. At the end of the day we could all do with a more optimised endocrine system.

1- Keep your adrenals healthy. This is because the adrenals have a direct link to the function of your thyroid glands. When adrenals are burnt out they cannot produce enough of their own hormones and this in turn impairs the thyroids function. The fascinating thing is that all of the endocrine system is linked, leading to a knock on effect. To keep adrenals in good shape, consider –

  • Avoiding excess exercise – Especially too much High Intensity work which can be extremely stressful on the body, use it smartly once or twice a week. Also avoid doing too much morning fasted exercise – this seems to have a even harsher effect on the endocrine system than exercise with a bit of fuel in the tank.
  • Don’t cut Calories – When we cut calories too low, the body reacts with a stress response. This sends the adrenals firing hormones around the body to deal with what it deems as a threatening situation. Anyone who has been on a low calorie diet will know about the ups and downs you can feel due to the excess adrenaline being pumped around the body. Even having the occasional binge and ramping up the calories can have a thyroid boosting effect.
  • Reduce Stress – In this modern day and age many of us spend the majority of our time with a sympathetic nervous system firing, basically in a stress response. This again taxes the bodies endocrine system and promotes the need for some down time everyday. Things like Napping, deep breathing, and just relaxing get the parasympathetic nervous system going and reduce stress levels.
  • Supplements – Firstly use sea salt liberally in your cooking, the adrenals thrive on salt and need it to function well. Also consider starting the day with 1tsp of sea salt in warm water. The adrenals also have a very high content of Absorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and therefore taking a good dose can help support the adrenals. I like to take a few grams when feeling run down or after a stressful situation. It is a cheap supplement and something to be kept on hand at all times.
  • Limit Caffeine – Caffeine can be a good thing even boosting thyroid function, so if it treats you well don’t ditch your daily brew just yet. Saying that, many of us overdo it in the caffeine department — relying on cup after cup to get through the day. Too much caffeine is certainly not a good thing and again puts excess stress on the body. Try and cut down to 1-2 cups per day.

2 – Cook with the right Oils. One of the main things that can regulate your thyroid function is what fats you use. This is because some fats have been shown to impair the Thyroid’s function whereas others have been shown to give it a significant boost. Firstly you want to avoid excess Omega 6 fatty acids which easily turn rancid and toxic to the human body, this includes all vegetable oils (corn, canola, sunflower, rapeseed, flaxseed etc) that you may be cooking with or using in your food.

The treatment? Dump the vegetable oil, wheat, soy, sugar and processed food in favor of the things the human body is equipped to handle: animal fats, root vegetables, vegetables, fruit, meats, organs, seafood, eggs, nuts and soaked or fermented non-gluten grains and legumes. Throw in some bugs if you’re feeling adventurous. -Stephan Guyenet

In place start using Coconut Oil which is a proven thyroid stimulator. Coconut oil is stable at very high heat as it is a tropical oil, therefore it is great for cooking and frying at high heat.

In the l940s, farmers attempted to use cheap coconut oil for fattening their animals, but they found that it made them lean, active and hungry. – Ray Peat

The benefits of coconut can be attributed to its rich content of  Lauric acid, Capric acid and Caprylic acid which are very unique and work as anti-bacterials, Antifungals and Antimicrobals. As well as this it contains Medium Chain Fatty Acids which are processed by the liver and used directly as energy, these fatty acids serve to nourish and regulate the thyroid.

Plus food cooked with coconut just tastes better. If you don’t want the coconut flavour to come through in your food then purchase a refined coconut oil which retains the benefits but is taste and scentless.

These Simple Things can help you keep your thyroid and endocrine system in good working order. If you are lucky enough to have good thyroid and adrenal health then make sure you stick to these points to keep your body running well. If you suspect a thyroid problem these tips can certainly help out a great deal as most thyroid issues can be delt with using natural methods.

Written by Chris, at Zen Fitness and the author of A Simple Guide to Eating Well and writes about staying fit while living life.

6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines

Fresh sardines are showing up on menus in restaurants from San Francisco to New York. So what are sardines, exactly? The term means slightly different things in different countries, but in the US it denotes any of several species of small, oily, silvery fish related to herring.

What all types of sardine have in common is that we should be eating a lot more of them.

6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines

1. They’re good for you.

Sardines pack an awesome nutritional punch. A single serving has around 23 grams of protein and is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and potassium, and only 200 calories. And even with canned sardines, all this goodness comes with only around 400 mg of sodium, which is relatively little for a canned product. Plus, they’re often packed in olive oil, itself an important component of a healthy diet.

2. They aren’t bad for you.

Sardines are low on the oceanic food chain, and therefore contain low amounts of mercury, PCBs and the other toxins that accumulate in longer-living marine predators such as salmon and tuna. This makes them a particularly good choice for children and pregnant women.

3. They’re sustainably fished.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SeafoodWATCH rates sardines as a “Best Choice”. Sardine stocks are, once again, abundant, healthy and are now well-managed.

4. They’re affordable.

Prices per oz. of canned sardines are on a par with canned tuna, poultry, ground beef and other supermarket protein sources. Prices of fresh sardines vary with availability, but they are usually among the less expensive fresh fish on display.

5. They taste like fish.

In a supermarket landscape dominated by bland, artificially dyed salmon fillets, pale tuna steaks, frozen fish sticks, artificial crab meat and other attempts to sell seafood as generic chicken-like protein slabs to people who aren’t sure if they actually like it, sardines stand out. You simply can’t ignore the fact that they are, well, fish. They look like fish, being too small to fillet or grind up. They smell like fish. They are oily. They have heads and tails, scales and bones. And they taste fishy.

This is, as most people who genuinely enjoy food know, a good thing.

6. They’re delicious.

This is ultimately the most important point in favor of consuming more sardines: they are a pleasure to eat. Simple, easy to prepare and downright delicious.

If you get your hands on some fresh sardines, they feature in fabulous recipes originating from all over the Mediterranean basin. But sardines are so simple and basic, you really don’t need a recipe to get the best out of them. Just scale and gut them, brush them lightly with olive oil and coarse sea salt, or whatever marinade you make up, grill them for around 5 minutes per side, until the skin is crispy, and serve them up with a drizzle of lemon juice and your favorite fresh herbs.

And if you can’t be fussed to cook, there are few pleasures greater than mashing canned sardines, bones and all, onto buttered toast, or perhaps over a slice of camembert.

The sardine is dead. Long live the sardine!

What are your favorite sardine recipes?

By Darya Pino at Summer Tomato

15 New Superfoods

15 New Superfoods

1. Nuts

Nuts are New American Diet smart bombs. They’re packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, those good-for-you fats that lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes and, according to new research, help you control your appetite.

Researchers from Georgia Southern University found that eating a high-protein, high-fat snack, such as almonds, increases your calorie burn for up to 3 and a half hours. And just one ounce of almonds boosts vitamin-E levels, increasing memory and cognitive performance, according to researchers at New York Presbyterian Hospital. In another study, people who ate pistachios for 3 months lost 10 to 12 pounds on average.

2. Eggs

In a new study in the International Journal of Obesity, overweight participants ate a 340-calorie breakfast of either two eggs or a single bagel 5 days a week for 8 weeks. Those who ate eggs (including the yolk, which contains nearly half the protein and all the nutrient choline) reported higher energy levels and lost 65 percent more weight than bagel-eaters—and with no effect on their cholesterol or triglyceride levels!

Plus, a recent review of more than 25 published studies on protein that concluded that egg protein helps boost muscle strength and development more than other proteins do because of its high concentrations of the amino acid leucine. And egg protein is also better at keeping you from getting hungry over a sustained period.

3. Whole Grains

It’s not a magic disappearing act, but it’s close: When Harvard University researchers analyzed the diets of more than 27,000 people over 8 years, they discovered that those ate whole grains daily weighed 2.5 pounds less than those who ate only refined-grain foods.

Another study from Penn State University found that whole-grain eaters lost 2.4 times more belly fat than those who ate refined grains. Whole grains more favorably affect blood-glucose levels, which means they don’t cause wild swings in blood sugar and ratchet up cravings after you eat them. Plus, the antioxidants in whole grains help control inflammation and insulin (a hormone that tells your body to store belly fat).

4. Avocado and Other Healthy Fats

Just because a food has plenty of fat and calories in it doesn’t mean it’s “fattening.” See, certain foods cause you to gain weight because they provoke hormonal changes that trigger cravings, or “rebound hunger.” One hunger-control hormone, leptin, becomes blunted by starchy, sweet, fatty, and refined-carbohydrate foods. That’s why a bagel is fattening: It’s a high-caloric load of refined carbohydrates that double-crosses your natural satisfaction response.

Avocados on the other hand aren’t fattening, because they’re loaded with healthy fat and fiber and don’t cause wild swings in insulin levels. So enjoy the fat in avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Research shows that diets containing upward of 50 percent fat are just as effective for weight loss as those that are low in fat.

5. Meat (Pasture-Raised and Free-Range)

Grass-fed beef, chicken, and pork is leaner and healthier than conventional livestock—and will help trim away pounds. A 3.5-ounce serving of grass-fed beef has only 2.4 grams of fat, compared with 16.3 grams for conventionally raised beef. In fact, grass-fed beef is so much more nutritious than commodity beef that it’s almost a different food.

Grass-fed beef contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to reduce abdominal fat while building lean muscle. It also has more omega-3s and less omega-6s than corn-fed beef. It’s the same with chickens. According to a recent study in the journal Poultry Science, free-range chickens have significantly more omega-3s than grain-fed chickens, less harmful fat, and fewer calories than grain-fed varieties. This is important because omega-3s improve your mood, boost your metabolism, sharpen your brain, and help you lose weight.

6. Environmentally Sustainable Fish

Choosing seafood these days isn’t easy. Some species (swordfish, farmed salmon) contain obesity-promoting pollutants (dioxins, PCBs). Others are fattened with soy, which lowers their levels of healthy omega-3s. In fact, the American Heart Association recently urged people who are concerned about heart disease to avoid eating tilapia for just that reason. Wow. That goes against conventional wisdom, doesn’t it?

So what kind of fish should you eat, and how can the New American Diet help? Generally, small, oily ocean fish (herring, mackerel, sardines) are low in toxins and score highest in omega-3s. Wild Alaskan salmon, Pacific Halibut, Rainbow Trout, and Yellowfin tuna are generally low in toxins and high in nutrients. And then there are fish that we should avoid at all times: farmed (or “Atlantic”) salmon, farmed tilapia, Atlantic cod, Chilean Sea Bass, and farmed shrimp.

7. Raspberries and Other Berries

A recent study by researchers at Yale University School of Medicine discovered that after eating a high-carb, high-sugar meal, free radicals (rogue molecules produced when your body breaks down food) attack the neurons that tell us when we’re full. The result: It’s hard to judge when hunger is satisfied. Escape the cycle of overindulgence by eating foods that are rich in antioxidants. And berries top the charts.

The berries that give you the most antioxidant bang per bite, in order: cranberries, black currents, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates.  

8. Instant Oats

Fiber is the secret to losing weight without hunger. One U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that those who increased their daily fiber intake from 12 grams to 24 absorbed 90 fewer calories per day than those who ate the same amount of food but less fiber. Do nothing to your diet other than add more of the rough stuff, and you will lose nine pounds in a year, effortlessly.

Instant oats are one of the easiest ways to get more real fiber into your diet. Plus, new research indicates that oats can also cut your risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and even reduce your risk of weight gain. Oats also have 10 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving, so they deliver steady muscle-building energy. Choose oatmeal that contains whole oats and low sodium, like Uncle Sam Instant Oatmeal, which also has whole-grain wheat flakes and flaxseed.

9. Cruciferous Vegetables and Other Leafy Greens

Cruciferous vegetables—like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, and bok choy—are all rich in folate, and the more folate you have in your diet, the lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, and depression. A recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those with the highest folate levels lose 8.5 times more weight when dieting. Another stunner: New research shows that folate helps protect against damage from estrogenic chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA), which have been linked to obesity.

These veggies also rich in potassium. Researchers at the Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University, found that foods rich in potassium help preserve lean muscle mass.

10. Apples and Other Fruit

What makes the apple so potent? In part, it’s because most of us eat the peel: It’s a great way to add more fiber and nutrients into your diet. But there’s a downside: The peel is where fruit tends to absorb and retain most of the pesticides they are exposed to, apples and peaches being the worst offenders. That’s why, for maximum weight-loss potential, we strongly recommend you buy organic versions of apples, pears, peaches, and other eat-the-peel fruits.

You’ll experience a terrific payoff if you do: In a UCLA study, normal-weight people reported eating, on average, two servings of fruit and 12 grams (g) of fiber a day; those who were overweight had just one serving and 9 g. Credit that extra 3 g fiber—the amount in one single apple or orange—as the difference maker.

11. Navy Beans and Other Legumes

Study after study reveals that bean eaters live longer and weigh less. One study showed that people who eat 3/4 cup of beans daily weigh 6.6 pounds less than those who don’t eat beans. Another study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that people who eat one and a half servings of beans a day (3/4 cup) have lower blood pressure and smaller waist sizes than those who skip beans in favor of other proteins. Imagine each bean you eat is a perfect little weight-loss pill. Gobble ‘em up!

12. Dark Chocolate

A new study from Denmark found that those who eat dark chocolate consume 15 percent fewer calories at their next meal and are less interested in fatty, salty, and sugary foods. And research shows that dark chocolate can improve heart health, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, decrease the risk of blood clots, and increase blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, which is associated with improved mood and greater concentration; it’s rich in B vitamins and magnesium, which are noted cognitive boosters; it contains small amounts of caffeine, which helps with short-term concentration; and it contains theobromine, a stimulant that delivers a different kind of buzz, sans the jitters.

13. Ice Cream and Other Healthy Desserts

Calcium-rich desserts like ice cream bind to fatty acids in the digestive tract, blocking their absorption. In one study, participants who ate 1,735 mg of calcium from low-fat dairy products (about as much as in five 8-ounce glasses of milk) blocked the equivalent of 85 calories a day. Plus, half a cup of vanilla ice cream gives you 19 milligrams of choline, which translates to protection from cancer, heart attack, stroke, and dementia. We’re not suggesting you have a bowlful of ice cream every night. But a scoop (the size of a tennis ball) every few days isn’t the diet-saboteur it’s made out to be.

Caveat: Tricked-out designer ice creams are packed with added sugar and preservatives. Pick a single flavor ice cream—vanilla, chocolate, coffee, whatever.

14. Enzymes and Probiotics (Yogurt)

Probiotics and enzymes, those friendly bacteria found in yogurt, may be the key to losing those last stubborn inches around your waist. They not only help the digestive system work properly, but also have a profound effect on the metabolism, according to a new study in Molecular Systems Biology. The bacteria Lactobacillus paracasei and Lactobacillus rhamnosus can change how much fat is available for the body to absorb by influencing stomach acids during digestion.

But not all yogurts are probiotic, so make sure the label says “live and active cultures.” Other foods containing probiotics include kefir, acidophilus milk, miso soup, soft cheeses, pickles, and sauerkraut.

15. Tea and Other Healthy Beverages

Nearly 25 percent of our calories—about 450 calories a day—come from sodas, sweetened teas, and the like. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, if you swap just one of those sodas a day for water or unsweetened tea or coffee, you’ll lose 2.5 pounds each month.

In fact, cutting down on liquid calories has a bigger impact than cutting down on calories from foods, according researchers from Johns Hopkins. Instead of sugary beverages, try green tea, which is high in the plant compound called ECGC, which promotes fat burning. In one study, people who consumed the equivalent of three to five cups a day for 12 weeks decreased their body weight by 4.6 percent.

By: Stephen Perrine with Heather Hurlock at Men’s Health

 

 

 

 

Food Fixes

Food Fixes

When You’re Stressed

Eat This
1 Cup of Yogurt or 2 Tbsp of Mixed Nuts
Scientists in Slovakia gave people 3 grams each of two amino acids—lysine and arginine—or a placebo and asked them to deliver a speech. Blood measurements of stress hormones revealed that the amino acid–fortified guys were half as anxious during and after the speech as those who took the placebo. Yogurt is one of the best food sources of lysine; nuts pack tons of arginine. 

Not That
Can of Soda
A study from the American Journal of Public Health found that people who drink 21?2 cans of soda daily are three times more likely to be depressed and anxious, compared with those who drink fewer.

When You’re Sad

Eat This
Arugula or Spinach Salad
Leafy greens—arugula, chard, spinach—are rich sources of B vitamins, which are part of the assembly line that manufactures feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, a lack of B6 can cause nervousness, irritability, and even depression. 

Not That
White Chocolate
White chocolate isn’t technically chocolate, since it contains no cocoa solids. That means it also lacks the ability to stimulate the euphoria-inducing chemicals that real chocolate does, especially serotonin. If you’re going to grab some chocolate, darker is better; more cacao means more happy chemicals and less sugar, which will eventually pull you down.

When You’re Feeling Fat

Eat This
Grilled Chicken Breast
The protein in lean meat and poultry fills you up and speeds metabolism, which cuts your cravings while easing off the pounds. High-protein diets also help to build muscle and attack extra belly fat. 

Not That
Canned Soup and Salty Snacks
Sodium binges can lead to water retention, which makes your stomach feel like a beach ball. Avoid inflation by skipping salty foods like salted nuts and potato chips, and resist your cravings for Chinese takeout and Mexican food, two of the most salt-laden cuisines.

When You’re Low on Energy

Eat This
A Handful of Trail Mix
Raisins provide potassium, which your body uses to convert sugar into energy. Nuts stock your body with magnesium, which is important in metabolism, nerve function, and muscle function. (When magnesium levels are low, your body produces more lactic acid–the same a fatigue-inducing substance that you feel at the end of a long workout.) 

Not That
Espresso-based Drinks
Sure, the caffeine will perk you up, but with anywhere from 16 grams (latte) to 59 grams (white chocolate mocha) of sugar in your Starbucks drink of choice, the spike in blood sugar will ultimately send you crashing. Stick to brewed coffee.

When You Need a Brain Boost

Eat This
Blueberries
Antioxidants in blueberries help protect the brain from free-radical damage, which could decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and improve cognitive processing. Wild blueberries, if you can find them, have even more brain-boosting antioxidants than the cultivated variety. 

Not That
Ice Cream
Sugary foods incite sudden surges of glucose that, in the long term, cause sugar highs and lows, leading to a lack of concentration. And foods high in saturated fat can clog blood vessels and prevent the flow of nutrients and blood to the brain.

When You Want to Increase Metabolism

Eat This
Green Tea
Catechins, the powerful antioxidants found in green tea, are known to increase metabolism. A study by Japanese researchers found that participants who consumed 690 milligrams of catechins from green tea daily had significantly lower body mass indexes and smaller waist measurements than those in a control group. 

Who doesn’t want a little help from this natural fat-burning engine? These foods will get the pistons pumping.

When You Need to Get Some Sleep

Eat This
 Popcorn
Pop a bag half an hour before bedtime: The carbs will induce your body to create serotonin, a neurochemical that makes you feel relaxed. Skip the butter—fat will slow the process of boosting serotonin levels. 

Not That
A Glass of Warm Milk
Forget what your mom told you: This popular remedy for sleeplessness could be making matters worse. The protein in milk boosts alertness. Plus, unless it’s skim, the fat in milk slows down digestion and makes sleep more fitful.

When You Need to Wake Up and Go

Eat This
Eggs and Whole Wheat Toast
Eggs are a great source of protein, and having them for breakfast sets you up for a perfect day of eating. Saint Louis University researchers found that people who eat eggs for breakfast consume 264 fewer calories the rest of the day than those who eat bagels and cream cheese.

Not That
Bagel and Cream Cheese
At 500 calories and 20 grams of fat, this classic is one of the worst ways to start your day. 60 grams of fast-burning carbohydrates will cause a dip in energy and a spike in hunger, long before lunchtime.

When You’re Hung Over

Eat This
Orange Juice
For last call, order a double virgin screwdriver. Fructose, one of the sugars in orange juice, can speed the metabolism of alcohol by as much as 25 percent. Vitamin C also helps combat binge-related cell damage. 

Not That
Whiskey and Diet Coke
Skip this classic and you may sidestep the hangover entirely. An Australian study found that mixing liquor with a diet drink nearly doubles your blood alcohol content. And darker-colored alcohols like whiskey, brandies, and red wine are more likely to cause a hangover than lighter-colored alcohols, like gin and vodka. This is because darker liquors contain more congeners—impurities that are the by-products of fermentation and aging—for your body to process.

When You’re Under the Weather

Eat This
Ginseng Tea, Hot or Iced
In a Canadian study, people who took 400 milligrams of ginseng a day had 25 percent fewer colds than those popping a placebo. Ginseng helps kill invading viruses by increasing the body’s production of key immune cells. 

Not That
Caffeinated Beverages and Energy Drinks
Excessive caffeine screws with your sleep schedule and suppresses functions of key immune agents. And insufficient sleep opens the door to colds, upper respiratory infections, and other ills. What’s more, caffeine can dehydrate you, and hydration is vital during illness: Fluids not only transport nutrients to the illness site, but also dispose of toxins.

When You Want to Get ”In the Mood”

Eat This
Dark Chocolate
The cocoa in chocolate contains methylxanthines, stimulants that increase your body’s sensitivity. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a chemical that can give you a slight natural high. And Italian researchers found that women who often eat chocolate have a higher sex drive than those who don’t. Make sure your chocolate has at least 60 percent cacao. 

Not That
A Bottle of Wine
While a drink or two can increase arousal signals between your brain and your genitals, more than a few drinks will actually depress your nervous system, making it harder for men to maintain an erection. Split a bottle with your partner, but stop there.

When You Want to Look and Feel Younger

Eat This
Sunflower Seeds
These tiny wonders have the highest natural vitamin E content of any food around, and no antioxidant is better at fighting off the aging effects of free radicals. Other great sources of vitamin E include Swiss chard, Total Cereal and Propel Fitness Water.

When You Want the Most from Your Workout

Eat This
PB&J or Pasta
The perfect post-weight training repast has about 400 calories, with 20 to 30 grams of protein (to build new muscle) and 50 to 65 grams of carbohydrates (to repair old muscle). Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a small bowl of pasta with meat sauce fit that formula.

 by Men’s Health