Muscle & Performance - - Pro Corner -

When you bite into your lunch sand­wich you aren’t the only one feast­ing on it. Our guts are teem­ing with tril­lions of bac­te­ria that also rely on this nour­ish­ment. And emerg­ing re­search sug­gests var­i­ous types of bac­te­ria in your di­ges­tive tract help your body ab­sorb calo­ries from food. That means if there is a ro­bust pop­u­la­tion of the type of bac­te­ria that breaks down food into en­ergy, you may be soak­ing up more calo­ries from the food you eat. So the makeup of your mi­cro­biome could play a vi­tal role in the over­all calo­rie cost of your diet and, in turn, weight man­age­ment by mak­ing you more or less prone to ab­sorb­ing and stor­ing ex­tra calo­ries.

Take Ac­tion: Con­sider splurg­ing for or­ganic meats and dairy more of­ten. It looks like the mil­lions of pounds of an­tibi­otics used in con­ven­tional live­stock pro­duc­tion each year can skew the pop­u­la­tion of bugs in your gut, nur­tur­ing those that are more ef­fi­cient at pulling calo­ries from food and trans­port­ing them into your sys­tem. Be­yond eat­ing an­tibi­otic-free steak and milk and not tak­ing an­tibi­otics for ev­ery cough you have, load up on high-fiber veg­eta­bles, fruits and whole grains since fiber can help fos­ter a pop­u­la­tion of mi­crobes that are less ef­fi­cient at ex­tract­ing en­ergy from food. And in terms of your waist­line, that is a good thing. Academy of Sci­ences showed that cook­ing ac­tu­ally in­creases the amount of calo­ries our bod­ies ab­sorb from food. The study au­thors be­lieve that cook­ing per­forms some of the di­ges­tive process for us such as de­na­tur­ing pro­teins and gela­tiniz­ing starches, mean­ing that our bod­ies don’t ex­pend as much en­ergy deal­ing with di­ges­tion and thereby al­low­ing more calo­ries to be avail­able. Fur­ther, larger quan­ti­ties of raw food re­quire more la­bo­ri­ous chew­ing, which ex­pends ad­di­tional en­ergy and also en­cour­ages sati­ety. So the to­tal amount of calo­ries we glean from raw car­rots or raw fish (yum, sushi!) could very well be less than from the same por­tion of roasted car­rots or fish sticks. And a medium-rare steak could very well de­liver less en­ergy to the body than a well-done piece of beef since its mus­cle fibers might be more tightly wound as a re­sult of a shorter cook­ing time and, in turn, re­quir­ing ex­tra work for your di­ges­tive sys­tem to un­tan­gle.

Take Ac­tion: Back in the day, putting meat to fire al­lowed our an­ces­tors to ob­tain more en­ergy to de­velop big­ger brains, but now eat­ing too many cooked pro­cessed foods are giv­ing mod­ern hu­mans big­ger guts. Af­ter all, punch­ing com­puter keys all day re­quires less en­ergy than that re­quired to take down woolly mam­moths. So tap into the fat-fry­ing power of raw foods by work­ing them into your daily menu. This can be ac­com­plished by toss­ing a hand­ful of raw sun­flower seeds or nuts into break­fast oat­meal, snack­ing on raw baby car­rots or raw fruits like pears, serv­ing a raw salad at ev­ery din­ner meal and even ex­per­i­ment­ing with recipes for ce­viche, a raw seafood dish. Cook­ing root veg­eta­bles in­creases their lev­els of ab­sorbable car­bo­hy­drates from the in­testines, so why not try work­ing shred­ded raw beets or turnips into sal­ads in­stead of send­ing them to the fire. And if you eat pasta, en­joy it al dente to give your di­ges­tive tract more of a work­out.

Take Ac­tion: While your postworkout pro­tein shake won’t de­rail your diet, be care­ful not to be­come too chummy with your blen­der. Over­all, you want most of your daily calo­ries to come in the form of solid food. (Bev­er­age in­take ac­counts for up to 20 per­cent of calo­ries in the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can diet.) That means bid­ding adieu to or­ange juice in fa­vor of a whole or­ange, opt­ing for a kale salad in­stead of green juice and say­ing say­onara to sweet­ened drinks like soda for calo­rie-free op­tions like water or tea. And when you do whip up smooth­ies, make them so they stick to a spoon. A Dutch study dis­cov­ered that a thick milk­shake lead to greater feel­ings of full­ness than a thin­ner ver­sion de­spite con­tain­ing only one-fifth of the calo­ries. For this rea­son, a bowl of yo­gurt is likely to quell your hunger more than a glass of milk. When you con­sume your calo­ries might mat­ter as much as how many you take in. When Ital­ian re­searchers looked at the eat­ing habits of more than 1,200 adults they dis­cov­ered that the risk of be­ing obese was greatly in­creased for study par­tic­i­pants who con­sumed half or more of their daily calo­ries at din­ner. Along the same lines, a study in the jour­nal Obe­sity dis­cov­ered that vol­un­teers who con­sumed more calo­ries at break­fast at the ex­pense of calo­ries later in the day (700 calo­ries at break­fast, 500 at lunch, 200 at din­ner) ex­pe­ri­enced greater fat loss around their waist­lines than those who took in sub­stan­tially more calo­ries at din­ner than break­fast (200 calo­ries at break­fast, 500 at lunch, 700 at din­ner). And Span­ish sci­en­tists showed that when peo­ple ate lunch af­ter 4:30 p.m., they burned fewer calo­ries while rest­ing and di­gest­ing their food than they did when they took in their meal at 1 p.m. — even though the calo­ries eaten and level of ac­tiv­ity was the same.

It could be that we burn more calo­ries ear­lier in the day when our me­tab­o­lisms are higher, while later noshes are more likely to go into fat stor­age. In­sulin sen­si­tiv­ity may also fall as the day progress, so there is a greater chance that the car­bo­hy­drates con­sumed will get stocked away in fat stores. What all this means is that when it comes to fend­ing off the flab mon­ster a calo­rie con­sumed at day­break may not be the same as a calo­rie eaten af­ter sun­set. Late-night calo­ries are more prone to be stored as body fat.

Take Ac­tion: This re­search shows it might be a good idea to fol­low this sage ad­vice: “Eat break­fast like a king, lunch like a prince and din­ner like a pau­per.” If you are strug­gling to keep your beach body, con­sider mak­ing your morn­ing repast more sub­stan­tial and then ta­per­ing down calo­rie in­take as the day pro­gresses. Be­sides, a sub­stan­tial break­fast can also work to pro­mote sati­ety early in the day and lessen the risk for mind­less snack­ing later in the day. 

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