Q&A – The Most Important Questions Answered

Can sport drinks boost my morning workout?

            Sports drinks may taste better than water yet don’t do a thing for your morning workouts.  Taste aside; there is some benefit to downing a sports drink before hitting the gym in the morning. A sports drink can replenish some of the fluids you lose while asleep, and its carbohydrate will lift your energy level. A better choice is a banana with a glass of water or a bowl of cereal. Skip the high-fiber cereals first thing in the morning, too much fiber before a workout can cause cramping or worse – gas.

Can energy drinks like Red Bull enhance my performance and help me burn more calories?

            Yes, to some degree and in very small amounts. Energy drinks are usually laced with caffeine. Consuming more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day (one can of Red Bull has approximately 80 milligrams) can cause health issues i.e. insomnia, elevated blood pressure, and stomach irritation. In fact, energy drinks can contain the equivalent of six cups of coffee; several studies have linked the overloading of caffeine in emerging energy drinks to heart palpitations and seizures. This is just another newer more contemporary form of Dexatrim, a pill, containing 50 mg of caffeine per serving and can be purchased in the drug store or ordered on line. These types of energy (diet) aids can become very addictive. Limit your intake to a single can in the morning or one pill – caffeine has a long shelf life. Remember these products have calories so check the nutritional fact panel for ingredients, caloric content and choose a low-calorie version. Finally, pay attention to how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically when you ingest these types of products.

Is sprouted-grain bread any healthier than the regular whole-grain variety?

The sprouted-grain option may have a bit more value, but minimal at best. Unlike breads made with flour, sprouted breads come from soaked wheat berries, barley, and other grains in water until they germinate and then they grind the sprouts into dough before baking. The outcome is bread with a lower glycemic index (which means it digests and absorbs at a slower rate than regular bread) and it may have more protein, thiamin, and riboflavin than whole-grains.

Yet both types of bread are nutritious and a better choice than its cousin white bread.

When exercising, how long should I wait to consume alcohol?

You should probably wait 24 hours before or after an athletic event, training session, exercise programming or cardiovascular training.  Technically this is the answer, yet in today’s cocktail hour society, alcohol is part of business dinners, end of day work-related events, and relationship building (dating and friends). Alcohol is a narcotic, depressant, and diuretic.  And for each liter of water you lose, your heart rate elevates eight beats per minute, causing the heart to work harder while being less efficient. Alcohol also increases the body’s level of cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle. As if that is not enough damage, remember to drink on a full stomach, especially complex carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread will help absorb alcohol and keep you hydrated because carbs are big time hydrators.

I have substituted fat-free half and half in place of my half and half, what is the difference and is it OK to use?

            The National Dairy Council and other experts seem to agree that fat-free half and half is a healthy alternative to half and half. Regular half and half is just a mix of milk and cream, which contains 40 calories and three grams of fat per two-tablespoon serving. Its fat-free cousin has half the calories; the fat is replaced with fillers like carrageenan, a derivative of seaweed that’s found in many foods. The calories come from nonfat milk and a small amount of corn syrup. Yet an even healthier alternative is nonfat milk. You get superior nutrient, plus more protein and calcium, including vitamin D which isn’t added to fat-free half and half.

Which are nutritionally better fresh or frozen berries? The only difference I seem to notice is calories and fiber count.

Nutritional analysis is not an exact science. The FDA allows for a whopping 20% margin of error on labels.  How the fruit is collected, who did the analysis, and whether the stems were cut off at weigh-in can alter the calorie or fiber count of a food. But to answer your question, the difference is marginal and not worth the time and calories to worry about.

I’ve heard caffeine is bad for your skin.  I love my daily fix from Starbucks, is there any truth to this claim?

No you do not have to give up coffee.  Drinking it can dehydrate you, which can make your skin appear dull, yet this is temporary. Used topically, the substance may deliver benefits. In studies on mice, caffeine applied to the skin was found to prevent and even repair sun damage. Also, “caffeine quickly constricts blood vessels”, which helps combat rosacea. No wonder so many caffeine-containing products crowd store shelves now. 

My iron is low; can I increase it with real food instead of supplements?

Red meat is a top source of heme iron, the kind that is easiest for the body to use, yet you can also get heme iron from other protein sources like poultry and fish. Your body can more readily absorb the nonheme iron in found in spinach, beans, nuts, seeds and fortified cereals such as Total when paired with citrus fruits, strawberries or bell peppers. Aim for about 18 milligrams of iron per day. Try consuming a snack like pumpkin seeds, or chile with a lot of kidney beans or a spinach salad with Mandarin orange segments.

What kinds of foods make tasty salty snacks?

A light savory snack seems harder to come by, but here are some choices which will satisfy that salty need without damaging your waistline.  A snack should be 150 calories or fewer and tasty. 

.  Terra Chips – 1 ounce = 150 calories

.  Glenny’s Low-fat Soy Crisps – 1.3 ounces = 140 calories

.  Boursin Light Cheese with ½ cup of bell pepper strips and ½ cup of baby carrots (use half a 4.4 ounce container = 120 calories

.  Crispy Delites veggie chips – 1.07 ounces = 105 to 122 calories

.  Lightly salted almonds – 15 = 115 calories

.  Two pieces of The Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges on

Wasa Crips’n Light crackers = 100 calories

.  Nabisco 100 calorie Packs Ritz Snack Mix or Cheese Nips Thin Crisps

.  Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop mini-bag = 100 calories

.  Primai Strips Vegan Jerky – 1 piece = 74 to 108 calories

.  Two tablespoons hummus on large rice cake = 85 calories

I’ve been working out five days a week, and I’m gaining not losing weight! It just isn’t working, what is going on?

 Many times, individuals tend to overcompensate for the work-out by eating more calories than they actually burn. I am sure you have heard from trainers and read that muscle needs more calories to maintain and recover than fat (between 50 and 100 per pound) which is a myth at best. Recently the International Journal of Obesity published a study showing that 50 percent of people up their consumption too much when they work out, undoing any weight-loss effect.  Here are some sobering strategies. Keep a food diary. Fill up on veggies and protein and minimize fruit, fat, and sweets. Forget the concept that muscle weighs more than fat. The average woman will not gain more than a pound of muscle from exercise. And if you have been brain washed by physical trainers regarding cranking up your metabolism, here is an example to think about. If you accept the fact that a vigorous 40-minute workout burns up approximately 400 calories (cycling, kick box, muscular endurance or heavy lifting), doesn’t each pound of lean muscle mass require additional calories to maintain it. Yes, but it is really minimal.  For example, a 130-pound female who puts on five pounds of muscle will burn only 30 extra calories for all that hard work. This represents the amount which is undone by a simple Hershey’s Kiss. 

What can I eat to make it through the workouts?

A working body needs carbohydrates as fuel, and as it runs low, the level of physical activity suffers. The body can store almost two hours of energy yet a diet that chronically provides low to too little in the way of carbohydrates can deplete muscle of their vital glycogen use for recovery and this makes the workout seem more difficult. So, if your cycle class becomes a chore, take a hard look at your overall diet. Are you eating regularly? Do the foods you eat provide an abundance of high-quality carbohydrates to fill up your glycogen stores so you can last through a work out?  Don’t try to work out if you didn’t eat, tend to skip a meal or fail to consume a meal full of complex carbohydrates. Your brain as well as your neurological function requires carbohydrates, (in other words sugar and preferably high-quality complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest and absorb). This will help buffer physical and mental fatigue. 

To get the most from your work out, eat about two hours prior to the activity.  Try to eat a small snack which is approximately 150 to 300 calories of foods rich in complex carbohydrates, and drink some extra fluids (water is fine for a 60 minute work out). The snack will provide your body with a continuous stream of energy and will help spare glycogen stored in your muscle and vital organs. For example, eat half of a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread and a glass of skim milk. If you can tolerate caffeine, have a mild drink which will elevate your mood, level of alertness and acts as an ergogenic aid to exercise. And during the exercise process, be sure to drink enough water to replace lost fluids. As I mentioned sport drinks are not necessary for ordinary exercise lasting 60 minutes or less. 

When reducing my caloric consumption, I opt for foods made with artificial sweeteners, how do you feel about my decision on cutting calories?

Well let’s start with the science on artificial sweeteners. Scientists at Purdue University recently discovered that choosing saccharin-sweetened foods and drinks may cause greater weight gain than plain old sugar. Yet this research came out of a study of lab rats which is not the same as humans. 

Artificial sweeteners came under many names such as aspartame (Equal), Sucralose (Splenda), and Stevia which is not an artificial sweetener, but rather a natural product.

All these products have been approved by the FDA and are used widely as an ingredient in everything from diet sodas, processed foods (such as sugarless yogurt, popsicles and lemonade).

What we do know about artificial sweeteners is that as soon as they are approved they create controversy. These sweetening substitutes could stall any weight-loss program and are thought to increase beta-endorphin production which in turn triggers the craving for sweets just like any refined carbohydrate. Yet they know that the product Splenda is 600 times sweeter than table sugar and doesn’t raise blood sugar and insulin levels. And lastly Stevia is an herb from South America that is considered safe and without side effects. It is still 300 times sweeter than sugar and 1gram of carbohydrate. 

The bottom line to sweeteners and sweets, when you consume sweet foods or drinks – your body gets ready to take in a lot of calories. And if the body has set its expectations on receiving a lot of calories then fail to get them, the body will tend to sabotage your metabolic system making it harder to burn off calories, not to mention making you hungry. So, I’d encourage you to treat your sweet tooth to healthier foods like fresh berries, sorbets, ice milk, or a square of dark chocolate.

I have been told by all my trainers I need to consume a lot of protein or protein supplements in order to create and sustain more lean muscle? 

Wow, professionally speaking for a trainer to give you such a limited explanation is not only shocking but incorrect. There is no evidence that excess protein will lead to more or stronger muscles. But they do know that excess protein is stored by the body as fat. And to maintain the nitrogen balance that protein offers your muscle, you must take in sufficient carbohydrates otherwise you will turn your protein into a cheap form of sugar so your body will have enough energy to run your brain and nervous system.

I was told that eating natural honey, sugar, soft drinks, or any sweets just before a competition will provide me with a burst of energy.  Is that the best way to fuel the body?

Sugary foods eaten right before a competition fail to improve speed or strength because it takes the body one to four hours (or 5% per hour) to digest and absorb these foods and use them as performance fuel. So, if you have eaten a food prior to an event, it sits in your stomach when you are competing or engaged in an activity. If you want to have sufficient energy for an event then you must be feeding your body days prior to the competition so the muscle has the fuel necessary to perform.

I use to work out a lot and stopped a year ago and all my hard earned muscle turned to fat. My friend told me that I just need to diet and get on the treadmill every day. What can I do?

First of all, muscle is muscle and fat is fat. Different tissues work together so your lean muscle tissue can grow with exercise or shrink due to lack of exercise. And your fat tissue can grow due to too many calories and lack of exercise. Think of it like this, when you exercise muscle tissue gets bigger and fat tissue gets smaller. Conversely when you don’t work out the muscle minimizes and the fat tissue maximizes. The most important factor is amount of calories you consume. The scale may indicate you haven’t gained any weight yet your body will still go from firm to flabby. The recipe for a healthy weight body is daily activity consisting of cardio 3-5 times a week, weights 2 times a week, 7 hours of sleep, and a diet rich in veggies, fruit, lean protein and minimized starches.

I feel tired a lot and my trainer wants me to take supplements, so can vitamins or supplements give me more energy?

Vitamins qualify as a micro nutrient and organic compound, essential in small amounts for control of metabolic processes, that cannot be synthesized by the body’s tissue cells from simple metabolites. Many act as coenzymes or as parts of enzymes responsible for promoting essential chemical reactions. The term vitamin was coined in 1912 by Casimir Funk to designate the accessory food factors necessary to life. None of the 14 known vitamins supplies energy. Some vitamins help the body use energy. Megadoses of vitamins won’t give you more energy or improve your endurance. Vitamins come in two forms; fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Each of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K has a distinct and separate physiologic role. Because our body can store these vitamins, they can reach toxic levels when taken in excess.  Vitamins on to themselves carry no energy for the body but rather serve as essential points of connection and regulators in metabolic reactions that release the energy from food (carbs, protein, fat, and fiber). Vitamins essentially activate chemical processes within the body without becoming part of the reaction’s byproduct. 

For the most part they are absorbed with other lipids, and efficient absorption requires the presence of bile and pancreatic juice. They are transported to the liver via the lymph as a part of lipoproteins and stored in various body tissues, although not all in the same tissues or to the same extent. They are not normally excreted in the urine.

Most of the water-soluble vitamins are vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (piroxidine), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), niacin (nicotinamide), pantothenic acid, folic acid (folate, folacin), biotin, and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). These vitamins are not stored in large amounts by the body and must be consumed through food frequently.

Many are involved in the reactions supporting energy metabolism.  These vitamins are not normally stored in the body in appreciable amounts and are normally excreted in small quantities in the urine; thus, a daily supply is desirable to avoid depletion and interruption of normal physiological functions. 

I enjoy exercise, but I don’t really like to feel sore. And when I am with a trainer, I get super sore. Either way I don’t work out till the soreness and strain goes away. What does this mean and how can I ever hope to get that toned body I desperately want?

Muscle soreness is pretty common following exercise.  If you don’t really exercise regularly, you will always be sore.  Even elite athletes who change out their normal workout routine get sore. Of course, there are different levels of muscle soreness ranging from acceptable to counterproductive. Sounds like you just plainly overdid it.  Your soreness is caused by an accumulation of hydrogen ions from lactic acid (metabolic byproduct of exercise) within your muscle.  Low levels of soreness are normal, but extreme levels are unacceptable.  Of course, individuals have different pain thresholds and experience soreness differently.  The rule of thumb is muscle soreness felt 24 to 48 hours after a workout is considered normal and lasts about a day.  Then there are those times that a workout may leave the individual sore for a week, limiting range of motion, level of activity, and difficulty performing simple daily tasks. This level of soreness makes the thought of exercise painful and may discourage an individual from future exercise as it has with you in the past. You do not have to be intense to get the body you want. You can ease into your exercise program by using moderate weight which will minimize soreness. Muscles will adapt at a slower pace resulting in less muscle damage and an easier recovery.  Remember a workout is not just about the load (weights); you should be performing cardiovascular exercises (for the heart) 3 to 5 times a week for a minimum of 20-45 minutes.  Muscular endurance and/or strength 2 times a week and you need to consume a healthy diet of fruits, veggies, lean protein, and low fat to maintain your muscle. Think moderate and consistent…more on than off with your exercise and diet. 

I like to exercise but I only need to lose weight around my mid section, hip and thigh area any suggestions?

            Bottom line, there is no such animal as spot reducing. Doing hundreds of crunches and leg lifts will not make those areas thinner.  In fact, when you focus on exercising a specific body part, you probably will become a little more muscular which means you will create density and therefore make it look larger and this can create muscle imbalance. Lean muscle tissue and body fat are separate entities. Your body’s response to exercise is really a matter of the right genetics, exercise and a low-calorie diet rich in fruits, veggies, lean protein and low fat. If you are seeking a sleek effect, simply be consistent about a healthy low calorie diet, tone your muscles 2 to 3 times a week, and get your cardio 3 to 5 times a week. And lastly, accept the body you were born with.

I catch myself yawning through an intense group fitness class, what’s up?

            Ya, I teach group fitness and watch my members yawn frequently.  Studies tell us that this is actually part of the cooling down process. If it is an intense workout, your body temperature should rise and you will heat your blood system and brain.  So the act of yawning helps process outside air, which helps regulate your body’s thermostat.

Many times halfway through my strength training workout with my trainer, I become nauseated, and feel like I could throw-up. I eat breakfast, I warm-up and get plenty of recovery.  What is going on? 

Your feeling of nausea during your training session is a message to your body that you are pushing too hard or possibly not breathing during the workout. Whether the nausea hits you from training for a marathon or lifting extraordinary weight, if you don’t give yourself enough TLC (recovery time) between bouts of training you are going to feel ill. And if you fail to pay attention to your breathing patterns, hold your breath or hyperventilate you will become nauseated and even dizzy.                             ……

Of course, diet plays an important role in training. I know you said you eat breakfast, yet it is important to eat a well-ll -ll -llkbalanced breakfast made up of carbohydrates, protein, and low fat. In addition to the right breakfast,you need sufficient calories during the day. Nausea can be an indicator of low blood-glucose. I have seen this happen with new exercisers who want results too fast and are trying to lose weight.                    

Look at it as your body’s way of trying to stop you from hurting yourself.

I have been looking at the nutritional fact panel of the foods I buy, and I have started to notice some of the food labels list an ingredient called inulin. What is it?

            Inulin (known as chicory root) is classified as a soluble fiber. It acts as a probiotic, which are believed to alter the native bacterial colonies in the body in ways that may reduce disease.  For example, the food yogurt is called a functional food because it contains living Lactobacillus that ferments the milk in yogurt. So, in the case of yogurt Lactobacillus would be considered a probiotic microorganism.

Since inulin is a type of fiber that adds bulk to food without increasing the caloric content.  Manufacturers are now using it in place of sugar and fat in products like yogurt, snack foods, and cereals. Its probiotic capabilities make it a functional food because it allows increasing amounts of calcium, magnesium, and iron to be absorbed by the body and it makes the health claim it may help lower cholesterol levels, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. And remember the consumption of fiber should be consumed in moderate amounts due to its ability to promote mild abdominal discomfort.

The new daily recommendations for fiber in 2002 are:

                                                            Men                Women

Adults under 50                                  38 grams         25 grams

Adults over 50                                    30 grams         21 grams

I get up every morning and work-out, but after my work-out I am so tired and my muscles feel sore and worn out. I have heard that eating breakfast is important but I just can’t seem to eat that early. What can I do?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You wake up with most all your carbohydrates (sugar) used up during sleep, which is your body’s recovery process. So, you’re like a car on empty trying to start up. If you want to get a good work-out whether it is cardiovascular or muscular endurance or strength you should drink an 8-ounce glass of water or have some coffee (caffeine is a great ergogenic aid) then have a little breakfast 100 – 250 calories about 30 minutes to an hour prior to your work-out. Eat something that can be easily digested and absorbed to prevent gastric problems like a flax seed waffle with a teaspoon of nut butter or some fresh fruit (banana, berries, or melon).  

Right before my period, I get so hungry. I watch what I eat and really try not to overindulge in food or alcohol, yet, I still gain those 5 to 10 extra pounds. Help!

Your OBGYN will tell you that high levels of estrogen and progesterone right before your period puts a lot of stress on a woman’s body which translates into PMS induced fatigue. This exhaustion forces your body to seek out foods that will provide your body and brain a boost, like chocolate or sugary treats. This type of simple carbohydrates makes you even more hungry, which puts you on this continuous emotional roller coaster of highs and lows.

My suggestion is to consume snacks with some protein, complex carbs, fat and fiber, like a homemade trail mixture of dried berries, apricots, cashews, walnuts, chocolate bits, and sunflower seeds or maybe a piece of beef jerky with a medium banana. You want to consume a diet that stabilizes your blood sugar and that raises the feel-good hormones to the brain called serotonin which will make you feel a sense of calm. 

High Serotonin Concentration Avocado,Black Olives,Broccoli,Cantaloupe,Cauliflower, Dates

Moderate Serotonin Concentration Avocado, Black Olives, Broccoli, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Dates, Eggplant, Figs, Grapefruit, Honeydew melon, Spinach

Other Foods that recruit Serotonin

Turkey, Eggs, Almonds, Chicken, Soybeans, Milk Products

I don’t formally exercise but I am very active around the house. Can these types of activities take the place of a planned exercise program?

Gardening, washing your car, doing house work and other types of daily activities burn more calories than being a couch potato but they do not provide the body the positive stress and benefits needed for a strong mind and body. Activities like jogging and muscular endurance or strength conditioning strengthen muscles, improve the heart functions, range of motion, and boost your mood. The ACSM guidelines suggest 20 minutes of activity daily (3 to 6 bouts of cardiovascular conditioning and 2 to 3 times a week of muscular conditioning).

I have been diligently weight training every other day for the last six months and have simply gained weight and look as if I am getting bigger not smaller. I don’t want to get any bigger what can I do?

I usually hear this message delivered by most of my female clients. This typically has to do with caloric intake. Many of my clients feel as if they are entitled to consume more calories since they’re training. At least that is what they have read or have been told by former trainers. Guess what, you will never see the hard earned muscle you have created if you do not cut your calories.

What are triglycerides? I guess I have high triglycerides, my internist asked me to watch my diet?

Triglycerides represent the chief form of fat in foods (95 percent). When your doctor talks to you about fat, he is usually referring to triglycerides. Studies have shown that saturated fats can elevate not only your cholesterol called LDL or your “bad cholesterol”, but has been shown to elevate triglyceride levels which are another form of bad fat found in the blood. This type of fat increases the stickiness of blood platelets which are a precursor to all heart attacks and most strokes. You probably should make some dietary changes and lower your intake of saturated fat primarily found in animal products like red meat, the skin of all poultry, whole fat dairy products, palm and coconut oil. Instead pick foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Good examples of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. These types of fats provide impressive cardiovascular benefits, lower your “bad cholesterol”, and aid in reducing the stickiness of your blood platelets. Polyunsaturated fats can be consumed by eating fish and vegetables. Vegetables that contain polyunsaturated oil can be derived from corn, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed. Other foods which provide the body with heart healthy benefits come from fish, nuts, soybeans, flax seed, eggs, and dark leafy vegetables. Regardless of this information regarding “good fat”, lower your overall caloric consumption of fat to 20 to 30 percent and make no more than 7 percent of those calories from saturated food sources and try to avoid any food produce that has trans-fat as a ingredient (partial hydrogenated or hydrogenated fat).

Lastly, alcohol alters the metabolism of amino acids being processed by your liver cells.  Synthesis of blood lipids (fat) increases the concentration of triglycerides and high-density lipoproteins. Alcohol derived from alcoholic beverages slows down the body’s use of fat for fuel by as much as a third, causing more fat to be stored. The storage of fat is primarily visceral fat tissue which tends to be around the middle, thighs, legs, or whereever a persons preferred fat sites may be. But does the consumption of alcohol make you fat, the answer is no but alcohol consumption on top of a person’s normal caloric consumption of food, is fattening both through the calories (7 calories per gram) and through its effect on fat metabolism.

Yet, when all is said and done, the digestive tract absorbs triglycerides from a meal with up to 98 percent efficiency and with little excreted by a healthy body. Most adults actually need no more than 15 percent of their daily energy in the form of fat. Yet the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) guidelines suggest 20 to 35 percent.

I find it impossible to lose weight because I cannot seem to get dinner till 8 or 9 PM every evening. Will eating that late really pack on the pounds?

Contrary to what you have read, eating late dinners won’t necessarily be stored as fat. What affects weight gain are your daily total calories, not when you eat them. A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the less food people ate for breakfast and lunch, the more they consumed when dinner rolled around and the higher the overall total calories for the day.  John de Castro, PH.D., researcher and professor of psychology at Sam Houston State University say that our brain’s satiation mechanism that tells the body we’re ready to stop eating tends to become weaker as the day progresses. What this means is you will probably eat more in the evening in order to feel full. His research suggests a larger breakfast, and a moderate-size lunch, and a smaller dinner can help you keep your daily caloric intake in line.

I was told that eating carbs, protein, and fat in isolation helps the weight loss process?

This concept points to the myth referred to as food combining. The theory is different food types require their different digestive enzymes in order to be better metabolized. But there are no proven benefits associated with mixing proteins, fats, carbohydrates or fiber at specific times of day. Researchers suggest individuals should stick to a balanced diet for weight loss.

I absolutely love pizza and I am not willing to give it up. How can I eat my favorite food and not gain weight?

The answer to this question lies in the type of pizza pie you want to eat. To improve the nutritional value of your pie, try not indulging in meat toppings like pepperoni, sausage, or bacon. If you must add meat try a chicken with veggies and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese. Then try ordering thin crust instead of deep dish.

Does exercising on an empty stomach burn more fat calories or am I better off eating breakfast?

If you are not one to eat breakfast in the morning you won’t be able to really work out that hard.  You see, you wake up at your lowest glucose level and you actually need glucose for you brain and muscles to work. Yet researchers at the University of Ottawa in Canada found that individuals who skipped breakfast burned 58 percent more fat calories than those who had eaten breakfast. Yet, failing to eat breakfast prior to a morning run or work-out won’t necessarily translate into automatic weight loss. Nancy Clark, R.D., nutritionist in West Newton Massachusetts, author, and contributor to American Fitness Magazine says what affects weight loss most is how many calories you use during your workout and if you’ve sustained a deficit in total calories at the end of the day. So back to your initial question about eating prior to your morning workout, having a 150 to 200 calorie breakfast at least 30 minutes prior to your workout will help you get slimmer in the long run. 

Some of my friends have tried to talk me into liquid Detox diet using grapefruit or cabbage soup. What is the benefit of these types of diet systems?

There is no science proving that any particular food can burn more energy (calories) or assist in weight loss faster. Weight loss usually comes about by cutting calories and lowering fat intake. The only benefit I can see is the reduction of daily calories. More concerning is the inadequate amount of macro nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.  How can you expect to run your body efficiently with no gas in the tank?

What can I do for a pinched nerve in my back?

Try bromelain, boswellia and turmeric. These ancient botanical medicines have a strong anti-inflammatory activity. Bromelain is an enzyme derived from pineapple. Boswellia comes from a tree resin similar to frankincense. And turmeric is the yellow spice in curry powder and yellow mustard. Investigate for yourself on www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Are foods best digested and absorbed in particular combinations?

The digestive system can adjust to whatever mixture of food you throw at it. The truth is all foods combined or eaten separately are broken down by enzymes into the basic molecules that make them up. A healthy digestive system is capable of adjusting to almost any diet and can handle any combination of food with ease.

Since I have been on this weight-loss diet, I started to wonder whether I should eat at specific times.

Timing of a meal is important to feel well, and depending on your metabolism you could do well eating three meals a day or you could do better with four to six mini meals a day. The rule of thumb is to eat something every three or four hours. Of course, your daily caloric intake should not be more than you need in any given day. Just space out your food intake to maintain a balance in sugar level, avoiding spikes, while keeping your metabolism fired up. 

I can’t give up my glass or two of wine with dinner.  What does this mean diet wise?

Alcohol can increase then lower blood sugar levels, depending on the type of drink and an individual’s sugar tolerance. Alcohol is a food, containing 7kcals per 1gram (28g = 1oz of alcohol). Your body uses alcohol (ethanol) before it gets around to digesting your food or using fat stores. For the diet minded individual, this means that enjoying a glass of wine with dinner will stall your fat-burning process.  In addition, alcohol can stimulate the production of the stress hormone cortisol. And high levels of cortisol are known to promote weight gain especially around the mid-section. Of course, the effects of alcohol vary due to age, sex, genetics, amount ingested and tolerance. Another consideration prior to taking a drink is that alcohol can take away your ability to make good decisions and with some individuals alcohol is an appetite stimulant.

Many diets ask you to give up alcohol and specific carbohydrates the first two weeks of your diet to “Jump Start”, the weight loss process.  Of course, you will lose weight if you cut those calories yet I ask myself is it realistic. I believe you should learn how to drink responsibly and eat a health-conscious diet. There is no real research that says drinking makes you gain weight, in fact, they show studies comparing individuals who drank verses those who didn’t and guess what, those who drank moderately weighted less than those who didn’t drink. So who really knows? Of course the guidelines surrounding alcohol recommend no more than two drinks a day for the average-sized man and not more than one drink a day for the average-size, healthy woman. These amounts are supposed to be sufficient to elevate the mood without imposing long term harm to health. 

My girlfriends and I are always debating about “good” carbs, “bad carbs”, how many carbs verses no carbs. What is a carbohydrate and how many carbs should I be consuming? 

Regardless the type of carbohydrates consumed the end product is sugar. What makes a carbohydrate different is its rate of digestion and absorption. Carbohydrates are extremely important for the function of your brain and nervous system.  The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) varies depending on an individual’s lifestyle and daily needs are between 45% and 65%.

When consuming carbohydrates, you want them to take a long time to digest and absorb.  Combining your carbohydrate intake with other macro nutrients like protein, limited fat and fiber will slow down gastric emptying which means fewer spikes in your sugar level, mood, hunger level and a higher absorption of vitamins and minerals from the meal you ate. Other factors that affect the absorption and digestion of your carbohydrates are:

  • ¬ Degree of processing
  • ¬ How gelatinized the starch
  • ¬ Level of fiber
  • ¬ Amount of fat

Everyone reacts to sugar (glucose) differently, so observe what happens after eating refined or complex carbohydrates. How do you feel? Does it tinker with your moods, bodyweight, sleep, and overall health?  This is what really matters.

I read a lot of diet books and they always recommend chewing my food longer as a weight loss strategy. How does that work?

Bottom line, once a food has been processed, baked, mashed, steamed, or whatever the process, longer chewing time provides no diet advantage to the weight-loss process or digestion. 

I’ve got some back fat around my bra area and mid section that really is becoming disturbing to look at.  How can I get rid of it?

You can refrain from looking in the mirror…just kidding. It comes down to diet and exercises that target your upper body. Spot reducing doesn’t work and leads to muscular imbalance. Some exercises that may assist and minimizing this problem area are the rowing machine, back exercises like compound row, chin and dip machines, lat pull downs, and push ups. Taking group fitness classes like kick box are yet another way to get at the entire body while focusing on your upper body. 

Is frozen yogurt a friend or a foe?

Matching ounce for ounce, yogurt from places like TCBY, Red Mango, and Pinkberry contain fewer calories plus you get between 10 to 15 percent of your daily calcium needs. Remember it is all about the serving size (a small frozen yogurt may have up to 240 calories) and what else you decide to put on it – which means avoid extras like sprinkles of any type, syrups, crushed nuts and anything else they have imagined for your pleasure. Recently the term “probiotic” has been popping up in these manufacturers advertising. Probiotic refer to consumable products which may contain live microorganisms in sufficient numbers to alter the bacterial colonies of the body in ways believed to benefit health. You may get this term confused with “probiotic” which is a substance that may not be digestible by the body, such as insoluble fiber, yet this type of fiber serves as a food for probiotic bacteria and thus promotes their growth. I

wouldn’t count on frozen yogurt to provide you sufficient probiotic bacteria, a much more reliable source of probiotics would be traditional yogurt. It is known to have as much as 10 times more than the frozen kind. 

What kinds of foods can help prevent memory loss?

Fruits and veggies high in antioxidants will help shield against memory loss. Antioxidants represent a compound that protects other compounds from damaging reactions involving oxygen by itself reacting with oxygen. Antioxidants prevent rancidity of fats in foods and other damage to food caused by oxygen. Antioxidants are categorized by a family of associated compounds and listed with some of their most common food sources, carotenoids, flavonoids, selenium, sulfides, vitamin C, and vitamin E/tocopherols. Please don’t pick a few magic nutrients to take as supplements. Instead, consume a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in generous quantities every day. 


.  Beta-carotene           Orange/yellow fruits and vegetables

                                    Dark leafy greens

.  Lycopene                 Red-fleshy fruits and vegetables

.  Lutein/Zeaxanthin

Dark leafy greens, citrus, corn, egg yolk


.  Anthocyanidins

                                    Berries, grapes, wine

.  Catechins                 Tea, cocoa

.  Flavonols                 Tea, cocoa, coffee, berries, grapes, apples, wine

.  Flavonones               Citrus fruits

.  Isoflavones/Phytoestrogens (daidzein, equol, enterolactone, genistein)

                                    Soybeans, whole wheat, flaxseed

.  Quercetin                 Apples, tea, capers, citrus fruits


                                    Cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower


                                    Brazil nuts, red meats, tuna


                                    Onions, garlic, leeks, chives

Vitamin C

                                    Citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, kiwifruit

Vitamin E/Tocopherols

                                    Wheat germ, monounsaturated oil (olive oil, sunflower and safflower oil),

                                    Tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts)

                                    Peanuts (which is not a nut but rather legume)

When I look at the height and weight charts I believe or want to believe I fall into the big boned category, is there such a thing?

The notion of having big bones carries real weight.  If you are actually large in stature (frame) you should add about 10 percent to the standard formula used to calculate ideal weight. Or you could calculate 100 pounds plus five pounds per inch of height about five feet – for a five foot-five women, that’s 125 pounds. Here is an easy test to see if you qualify. Encircle your wrist with your thumb and forefinger. If you have a large frame, your fingers won’t be able to touch. 

I have one of those new scales that measures body-water percentage. What does that mean?

Water makes up 55-60 percent of your total weight.  That figure fluctuates as you sweat, drink, take bathroom breaks, or suffer from bloating due to PMS, sodium/salt intake, carbohydrate intake, kidney disease, and medications.  Measuring water weight can help you tell the difference between actual progress and a temporary gain or loss from water weight. But the more important number to look for is body fat percentage, which shows whether you are losing actual body fat even if your overall weight goes up as a result of gaining lean muscle which is probably not more than 1 to 2 pounds. 

I dread going on vacation…any strategies for warding off weight gain while in paradise?

Weight gain comes down to energy in and energy out. To balance out those extra margarita and fried oyster calories, for every day of vacation, spend two days before and two days after cutting calories by about 25 percent of your daily overall caloric intake. Stay active by walking or renting a bike for a day or take a scenic hike. It comes down to good food choices and modest portion sizes. Be picky about your indulgences, eat light, and try not to pig-out at meals.

I heard that your stomach is the size of your two hands cupped. I have gained and lost weight for years, can I eventually shrink my stomach so I won’t eat as much?

The only permanent way to reduce the size of your stomach is through Bariatric surgery, which is generally reserved for the very obese. But you can trick your tummy into feeling full. Your stomach gets used to the same weight of food every day (volume) to feel satisfied; the key is to maintain the volume with low calorie, high volume food choices. To do this, eats lots of lots of hearty low sodium soups, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

How should I approach my strength training for maximum benefits?

Interesting question, technically you should start with your largest muscles groups (quads, hamstrings, glut, and back) demonstrated by squats and lunges. Yet a study from Elon University in North Carolina found exercisers who tackled small muscle groups first (single join actions, biceps, triceps, and calves) demonstrated by bicep curls, tricep kick-back, calf raises, and lat pull-down; were able to perform more reps and felt less beat up during and after their work-out. The researchers noted that the exercisers built up less body fatiguing lactic acid. They also pointed out that when starting with your larger muscle groups, the smaller assisting muscles grow tired, so by the time you get to your single joint actions you may feel weak, start to sacrifice form, and be subject to injury.

Does consuming food products made with fat make you fat?

There is nothing special about the macro nutrient fat and it is not necessarily true that fat packs on the pounds. But it is true that fat is dense in calorie uptake, 9 calories for each 1 gram. And when you eat more calories than you burn-off you gain weight, whether those calories are from protein, carbs, or fat food products, natural, whole, or organic. Getting enough fat in the diet isn’t really hard but getting the right fat is. The institute of Medicine recommended guideline suggests fat make up 20-35 percent of your total daily calories. That being said, the type of fat you ingest is an important matter. The human body receives the most benefits from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat, which aids in lowering cholesterol and inflammation of body tissue. Modify or limit the use of saturated fat found in animal products and avoid trans fats found in most all bake goods and snack foods.