inbodyde – InBody Deutschland
All Posts By

inbodyde

Wie deine Körperzusammensetzung zu einem starken Immunsystem beiträgt

By | Muscle, Nutrition

Die Bedeutung eines starken Immunsystems wird in Anbetracht der derzeitigen Gesundheitssituation offensichtlicher denn je. Eine ausgewogene, vitamin- und proteinreiche Ernährung, regelmäßige Bewegung und ausreichend Erholung spielen in diesem Zusammenhang eine wesentliche Rolle.

Doch wie stelle ich nun fest, ob die zahlreichen Maßnahmen und Bemühungen, die ich unternehme, um mein Immunsystem zu stärken, auch Früchte tragen? Und in welcher Verbindung steht meine Körperzusammensetzung mit dem Immunsystem?

Auf diese Fragen werden wir im Folgenden genauer eingehen.

 

Das Immunsystem stellt das Abwehrsystem unseres Körpers dar.

Es schützt uns vor Krankheitserregern und hilft darüber hinaus bei der Regeneration von Infektionen. Da unser Körper täglich den Einflüssen von Viren und Bakterien ausgesetzt ist, ist unser Immunsystem ständig damit beschäftigt, uns vor diesen zu schützen. Ist das Immunsystem stark genug, werden die Erreger abgeschwächt und unsere Gesundheit kann gewährleistet werden.

Um sicher zu gehen, dass wir alle auf dem gleichen Stand sind, müssen wir vorab noch zwei Fragen klären:

Kann ich mein Immunsystem überhaupt gezielt beeinflussen?

Unser Immunsystem besteht aus einem angeborenen und einem erworbenen Immunsystem. Während das angeborene Immunsystem für die Bekämpfung von allgemeinen, körperfremden Erregern da ist und nicht beeinflusst werden kann, dient das erworbene Immunsystem der Abwehr von spezifischen, körperfremden Erregern und ist durch den individuellen Lebensstil beeinflussbar!

Was bedeutet „Körperzusammensetzung“? 

Aus der Anthropologie sind unterschiedliche Modelle bekannt, um den menschlichen Körper in seiner Struktur aufzuteilen. Dabei hilft das Modell der Körperkompartimente. Diese Körperkompartimente stehen für die verschiedenen Gewebe und Flüssigkeiten im menschlichen Körper. Das Ein-Kompartiment-Modell kennen wir von unserer Badezimmer-Waage, denn es betrachtet unseren Körper als Ganzes und befasst sich somit lediglich mit dem Gesamtkörpergewicht. Eine qualitative Aussage über das Immunsystem und mögliche Gesundheitsrisiken ist über das Ein-Kompartiment-Modell nicht möglich, da nicht erkannt werden kann, woraus unsere gesamte Körpermasse besteht.

In der modernen Therapie und Forschung setzt man daher auf das Vier-Kompartiment-Modell, welches unseren Körper in Wasser, Fett, Proteine und Mineralien unterteilt:

Ein genauer Einblick in diese einzelnen Kompartimente deines Körpers ermöglicht es dir, durch individuell angepasste Maßnahmen, dein Immunsystem zu stärken.

Im weiteren Verlauf erfährst du Genaueres darüber, wie deine Körperkompartimente mit dem Immunsystem in Verbindung stehen und wie du somit gezielt an der Stärkung deines Immunsystems arbeiten kannst.

Muskulatur

Unsere Skelettmuskulatur steht in direkter Verbindung mit unserem Immunsystem. In einer Studie wurde festgestellt, dass bei Personen mit einer höheren Skelettmuskelmasse auch eine höhere Anzahl an Immunzellen im Blut vorliegt*1. Umgekehrt belegen zahlreiche Studien die negativen Auswirkungen einer geringen Skelettmuskelmasse, wie ein erhöhtes Risiko für Diabetes Typ 2, Osteoporose und Herz-Kreislauf-Erkrankungen*2 – unsere Todesursache Nr.1.

Die positiven Effekte unserer Muskulatur auf das Immunsystem kommen insbesondere bei körperlicher Aktivität zum Vorschein, denn eine erhöhte Muskelaktivität führt zu einer verstärkten Ausschüttung von Myokinen. Die Myokine sind hormonähnliche, körpereigene Botenstoffe mit unterschiedlichen, positiven Einflüssen auf den gesamten Organismus. Grob zusammengefasst: Sie fungieren als Entzündungshemmer, verbessern den Stoffwechsel und tragen zum viszeralen Fettabbau bei (der Quelle für Entzündungsreaktionen und zahlreiche Folgeerkrankungen).

Das ist wirklich nur eine Zusammenfassung der zahlreichen Effekte von Myokinen. Wenn du mehr über die vielfältigen Aufgaben der einzelnen Myokine erfahren möchtest, findest du diese in der folgenden Infobox.

Myokine sind biochemisch gesehen Interleukine. Interleukine spielen eine wichtige Rolle bei der Regulation von Entzündungsprozessen im Körper. Da entdeckt wurde, dass sie teilweise nicht von den Immunzellen, sondern von den Muskelzellen hergestellt werden, wurden sie „Myokine“ (für „Muskel“ und „Bewegung“) genannt. Es sind bislang einige Interleukine bekannt, die bei körperlicher Aktivität durch die Aktivierung von Muskelzellen ausgeschüttet werden. Besonders gut erforscht sind in dieser Hinsicht die Interleukine IL-6, IL-8 und IL-15.

Neben den positiven Effekten der Myokine wurde bei regelmäßigem Training eine starke Zunahme an T-Zellen – den Immunzellen unseres erworbenen Immunsystems – festgestellt. Die Anzahl an erschöpften T-Zellen sank dagegen*3. Auch das ist wieder nur ein kleiner Ausschnitt des aktuellen Forschungsstandes, doch auch die anderen Effekte deuten darauf hin, dass ein regelmäßiges moderates Training dazu beiträgt, die Stärke unseres Immunsystems zu verbessern oder aufrechtzuerhalten.

FAZIT:

Eine höhere Muskelmasse und eine Aktivierung der Muskulatur hat also – im Gegensatz zu einer geringeren Muskelmasse – zahlreiche positive Effekte, welche zu einer Stärkung des Immunsystems beitragen! Damit einhergehend wird das Risiko für zahlreiche Folgeerkrankungen verringert.

 

Fett

Im vorherigen Abschnitt wurde es schon einmal erwähnt, das viszerale Fett.

Unser Körperfett wird nämlich in subkutanes und viszerales Fett unterteilt. Während sich das subkutane Fett unter der Haut befindet und als „Hüftgold“, „Speckröllchen“, … – wie auch immer man es nennt -, zum Vorschein kommt, ist das viszerale Fett mit bloßem Auge kaum sichtbar.

Das viszerale Fett befindet sich nämlich in der Bauchhöhle und dient dem Schutz der inneren Organe sowie als Energiereserve. Gerade in früheren Zeiten nahm es während längeren Hungerperioden eine wichtige Rolle ein. Heutzutage ist allerdings aufgrund von Nahrungsüberschuss und Bewegungsmangel eher das Gegenteil der Fall. Wir essen zu viel bzw. „das Falsche“ und lagern überschüssige Energie als viszerales Fett ein. Im Gegenzug bewegen wir uns zu wenig und unser Körper hat nicht die Möglichkeit, das viszerale Fett wieder loszuwerden. Zusätzlich spielt der Stress noch eine wesentliche Rolle dabei. Der viszerale Fettanteil wird also immer mehr, ohne dass wir es wirklich merken. Dagegen beschäftigen wir uns eher mit unseren „Speckröllchen“, also dem subkutanen Fett. Und das ist meist frustrierend, „denn man kann ja nicht gezielt Fett verlieren“.

Worauf wollen wir nun hinaus?

Gerade eine zu hohe Einlagerung von viszeralem Fett bringt gesundheitliche Risiken mit sich.

Der aktuelle Forschungsstand zeigt, dass insbesondere das viszerale Fett im Gegensatz zum subkutanen Fett mehr Entzündungsbotenstoffe aussendet und damit die Funktionen des Immunsystems beeinträchtigt*4. Weitere Untersuchungen belegen, dass ein zu hoher viszeraler Fettanteil darüber hinaus ein erhöhtes Risiko für zahlreiche Folgeerkrankungen wie Diabetes Typ 2, Bluthochdruck, Herz-Kreislauf-Erkrankungen, usw. mit sich bringt*5.

Ein normaler viszeraler Fettanteil erfüllt dagegen gesundheitsförderliche Aufgaben für den Körper. Er enthält Immunzellen des angeborenen und erworbenen Immunsystems und dient als Energielieferant für unser Immunsystem. Darüber hinaus produziert es Adipokine und weitere Stoffe, welche bei der Bekämpfung von Infektionen hilfreich sind. Erst ein zu hoher viszeraler Fettanteil bringt dieses Gleichgewicht ins Schwanken und die Adipokine nehmen eine gesundheitsschädliche Funktion ein.

Auch wenn der viszerale Fettanteil über einen ungesunden Lebensstil zwar schnell zunimmt, kann dieser über einen gesunden Lebensstil (ausreichend Bewegung, gesunde Ernährung und Erholung) aber auch schnell wieder reduziert werden.

Das viszerale Fett weist nämlich eine höhere Stoffwechselaktivität auf als das subkutane Fett – insbesondere als das Fettgewebe an Hüften und Gesäß (weshalb sich der Fettabbau besonders bei Frauen dort häufig schwieriger gestaltet). Hinzu kommt, dass zunächst die Größe der Fettzellen abnimmt, während deren Anzahl dagegen stabiler ist. Da die Fettzellen des viszeralen Fettgewebes mit am größten sind, kann dieser Fettanteil schneller verringert werden. Es ist also nicht ganz richtig, wenn man sagt „man kann nicht gezielt Fett verlieren“, denn auf den viszeralen Fettanteil haben wir einen Einfluss.

FAZIT:

Ein zu hoher viszeraler Fettanteil schwächt unser Immunsystems und führt zu einem erhöhten Risiko für zahlreiche Folgeerkrankungen! Ein gesunder viszeraler Fettanteil dient dagegen als Energielieferant für unser Immunsystem und hilft bei der Bekämpfung von Infektionen.

 

Und auch der Zusammenhang dieser beiden Kompartimente konnte wissenschaftlich belegt werden. So geht ein hoher viszeraler Fettanteil in Verbindung mit einer geringen Skelettmuskelmasse ebenso mit einem erhöhten Risiko für zahlreiche Folgeerkrankungen wie Diabetes Typ 2, Fettstoffwechselstörungen, einer Fettleber und Bluthochdruck einher*6.

Körperwasser

Die Ausgeglichenheit unseres Körperwassers spielt eine wesentliche Rolle für unser Immunsystem. Das Körperwasser ist unter anderem für den Transport zahlreicher Substanzen verantwortlich. Und wie aus den vorherigen Abschnitten deutlich wurde, müssen für ein starkes Immunsystem nun mal zahlreiche Substanzen (Immunzellen, Botenstoffe, …) durch unseren Körper transportiert werden.

Auch Untersuchungen belegen, dass ein ausgeglichenes Körperwasser für die Bekämpfung von Infektionen von besonderer Bedeutung ist. Daher heißt es auch immer „ausreichend trinken!“, denn bei einem ausgeglichen Körperwasser können unsere Zellen mit wichtigen Nährstoffen versorgt und Abfallstoffe dagegen entsorgt werden. Umgekehrt wurde gezeigt, dass eine Dehydration, aber auch Wassereinlagerungen (Ödeme) sehr ernst zu nehmende Ursachen für die Entstehung und Entwicklung von Krankheiten darstellen*7.

Ist unser Körperwasser unausgeglichen, können unsere Zellen nicht optimal versorgt werden und unser Stoffwechsel wird beeinträchtigt. Daraus resultiert, dass unseren Muskelzellen die Proteine fehlen und der Muskelaufbau eingeschränkt ist. Andererseits können die Überreste verbrannter Fettzellen nicht abtransportiert werden. Werden also eine höhere Skelettmuskelmasse und ein geringeres viszerales Fett angestrebt, ist ein ausgeglichenes Körperwasser dafür von Vorteil.

Unser Körperwasserhaushalt kann über eine ausgewogene Ernährung und die Devise „ausreichend trinken!“ verbessert werden. Aber auch ein aktiver Lebensstil und die Kräftigung der Muskulatur sowie bereits bestehende Erkrankungen haben einen Einfluss auf unser Körperwasser.

FAZIT:

Die Ausgeglichenheit unseres Körperwassers spielt eine wesentliche Rolle für ein starkes Immunsystem! Ein unausgeglichenes Körperwasser, durch eine Dehydration oder Ödeme, beeinträchtigt dagegen unseren Stoffwechsel und folglich unsere Gesundheit.

 

Aus den vorherigen Abschnitten geht hervor, dass an einem starken Immunsystem also eine Vielzahl an Stoffen beteiligt ist. Hinzu kommen zahlreiche Vitamine, Mineralien und Spurenelemente, die unser Körper für ein gutes Immunsystem benötigt. Doch nicht allein das Vorhandensein dieser Nährstoffe ist für unser Immunsystem essenziell, denn sie müssen in unserem Körper auch verstoffwechselt werden – und zwar in unseren Zellen.

Damit unser Immunsystem effektiv arbeiten kann, ist ein intakter Stoffwechsel von besonderer Bedeutung. Unser Körperwasser sorgt zunächst dafür, dass alle wichtigen Stoffe zu unseren Zellen transportiert werden, wo sie dann im letzten Schritt verstoffwechselt werden. Es ist also auch eine intakte Zellmembran erforderlich, damit die zahlreichen Nährstoffe in unsere Zellen hinein- und Abfallstoffe hinausgelangen können.

An dieser Stelle fragst du dich vielleicht, wie wir über den Zustand dieses so kleinen Bestandteils unseres Körpers mehr erfahren können?

Dazu gibt es einen sehr bedeutsamen Parameter.

 

Phasenwinkel

In der Medizin und Forschung wird er bereits vielseitig eingesetzt, für die meisten ist er allerdings noch unbekannt: der Phasenwinkel.

Der Phasenwinkel kann mittels bioelektrischer Impedanzanalyse, einer Körperanalysemethode, ermittelt werden und gibt Auskunft über den Gesundheitszustand unserer Zellen. Je größer der Phasenwinkel ist, desto gesünder und intakter sind die Zellmembranen. Ein niedriger Phasenwinkel ist hingegen ein Zeichen für geschädigte Zellmembranen und geht mit zahlreichen Erkrankungen einher*8.

Durch eine ausgewogene Ernährung und einen aktiven Lebensstil kann der Phasenwinkel und somit der Gesundheitszustand unserer Zellen verbessert werden.

FAZIT:

Für ein starkes Immunsystem werden intakte Zellmembranen benötigt. Darüber gibt der Phasenwinkel Auskunft. Ein niedriger Phasenwinkel steht für ein schwaches Immunsystem und geht mit einem erhöhten Risiko für zahlreiche Erkrankungen einher. Ein hoher Phasenwinkel steht dagegen für eine gesunde Zelle und somit ein starkes Immunsystem!

So und nun noch einmal ganz zurück zum Anfang:

„Wie stelle ich nun fest, ob die zahlreichen Maßnahmen und Bemühungen, die ich unternehme, um mein Immunsystem zu stärken, auch Früchte tragen? Und in welcher Verbindung steht meine Körperzusammensetzung mit dem Immunsystem?“

Diese Fragen konnten mit diesem Beitrag hoffentlich für dich beantwortet werden. Hier noch einmal eine kurze Zusammenfassung für dich:

Unsere Muskulatur, unser viszerales Fett, unser Körperwasser und der Zustand unserer Zellen haben einen starken Einfluss auf unser Immunsystem.

 

Damit du also ganz gezielt an der Stärkung deines Immunsystems arbeiten kannst, solltest du zunächst über deine eigene Körperzusammensetzung Bescheid wissen. Mit einer professionellen Körperzusammensetzungsanalyse kannst du deine Skelettmuskelmasse, deinen viszeralen Fettanteil, dein Körperwasserverhältnis sowie den Gesundheitszustand deiner Zellen bestimmen lassen. Anhand einer Verlaufskontrolle kannst du dann natürlich auch ganz leicht feststellen, ob die Maßnahmen, die du unternimmst, auch Früchte tragen.

Hier findest du detaillierte Informationen welche der oben genannten Parameter bei einer InBody Messung erhoben werden.

 

Sie sind Betreiber einer Gesundheitseinrichtung und interessieren sich für die Thematik?

Wie Sie Ihre Patienten und Kunden zeitgemäß aufklären und welche Bedeutung haben die Gesundheitsparameter, die bei einer InBody Messung erhoben werden, haben wir für Sie aufgearbeitet und zusammengefasst.

Studienüberblick und Anwendung in Form des digitalen Applikationspapiers zum Thema „Einfluss der Körperzusammensetzung auf das Immunsystem“ kostenlos anfordern:

Applikationspapier Immunsystem

Literaturverweise

*1
Mariani, E., Ravadlia, G., Fort, P. et al. (1999). Vitamin D, thyroid hormones and muscle mass influence natural killer (NK) innate immunity in healthy nonagenarians and centenarians. Clin Exp Immunol 116, 19–27.

*2
Hara, N., Iwasa, M., Sugimoto, R. et al. (2016). Sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity are prognostic factors for overall survival in patients with cirrhosis. Internal Medicine, 55, 863-870.

Lim, S., Joung, H., Shin, C. S. et al. (2004). Body composition changes with age have gender-specific impacts on bone mineral density. Bone 35 (3), 792-798.

Sampaio, R. A. C., Sampaio, P. Y. S., Yamada, M. et al. (2014). Arterial stiffness is associated with low skeletal muscle mass in Japanese community‐dwelling older adults. Geriatrics & Gerontolgy 14 (1), 109-114.

Tajiri, Y., Kato, T., Nakayama, H. et al. (2010). Reduction of skeletal muscle, especially in lower limbs, in Japanese type 2 diabetic patients with insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders 8 (2), 137-142.

Yamada, M., Nishiguchi, S., Fukutani, N. et al. (2013). Prevalence of sarcopenia in community-dwelling Japanese older adults. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 14 (12), 911-915.

*3
Simpson, R. J., Kunz, H., Agha, N. & Graff, R. (2015). Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science 135, 355-380.

*4
de Heredia, F. P., Gómez-Martínez, S. & and Marcos, A. (2012). Chronic and degenerative diseases. Obesity, inflammation and the immunesystem. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 71, 332–338.

*5
Barroso, T. A., Marins, L. B., Alves, R. et al. (2017). Association of Central Obesity with The Incidence of Cardiovascular Diseases and Risk Factors. International Journal of Cardiovascular Sciences 30 (5), 416-424.

Gruzdeva, O., Borodkina, D., Uchasova, E., Dyleva, Y. & Barbarash, O. (2018). Localization of fat depots and cardiovascular risk. Lipids in Health and Disease 17, 218.

Janochovaa, K., Haluzika, M. & Buzgab, M. (2019). Visceral fat and insulin resistance – what we know? Biomed P ap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 163 (1), 19-27.

Mancuso, P. (2016). The role of adipokines in chronic inflammation. ImmunoTargets and therapy 5, 47–56.

Shafqat, M. N. & Haider, M. (2018). Subcutaneous to visceral fat ratio: a possible risk factor for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy 11, 129–130.

*6
Shida T., Akiyama, K., Oh, S. & Sawai, A. (2018). Skeletal muscle mass to visceral fat area ratio is an important determinant affecting hepatic conditions of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Journal of Gastroenterology 53, 535–547.

*7
Calder, P. C., Carr, A. C., Gombart, A. F. & Eggersdorfer, M. (2020). Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System is an Important Factor to Protect Against Viral Infections. Preprints, 2020030199. 

Köhnke, K. (2011). Der Wasserhaushalt und die ernährungsphysiologische Bedeutung von Wasser und Getränken. Ernährungsumschau 1, 88-95.

Leach, R. M., Brotherton, A., Stroud, M., Richard Thompso, R. (2013). Nutrition and fluid balance must be taken seriously. BMJ 346.

Pober, J. S., & Sessa, W. C. (2014). Inflammation and the blood microvascular system. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology, 7 (1).

Schrier, R. W. (2007). Decreased Effective Blood Volume in Edematous Disorders: What Does This Mean? J Am Soc Nephrol 18, 2028–2031.

*8
Buter, H., Veenstra, J. A., Koopmans, M. & Boerma, C. E. (2018). Phase angle is related to outcome after ICU admission; an observational study. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 1-6.

Lee, Y-H. et al. (2017). Bioelectrical impedance analysis values as markers to predict severtiy in critically ill patients. Journal of Critical Care 40, 103-107.

Mullie, L. et al. (2018). Phase Angle as a Biomarker for Frailty and Postoperative Mortality: The BICS Study. Journal of the American Heart Association (7) 17.

Rimsevicius, L., Gincaite, A., Vicka, V. et al. (2016). Malnutrition Assessment in Hemodialysis Patients: Role of Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis Phase Angle. Journal of Renal Nutrition 26 (6), 391-395.

Sarmento-Dias, M., Santos-Araújo, C., Poínhos, R. et al. (2017). Phase angle predicts arterial stiffness and vascular calcification in peritoneal dialysis. Perit Dial Int 37, 451-457.

Shin, J., Kim, C. R., Park, K. H. et al. (2017). Predicting clinical outcomes using phase angle as assessed by bioelectrical impedance analysis in maintenance hemodialysis patients. Nutrition 41, 7-13.



Your Body and You: A Guide to Body Water

By | Body Composition

When it comes to your health, most of the focus is on body fat and muscle mass, which is important. But not to be overlooked is your body water. Water is a major part of your body: they make up 79% of your muscles , 73% of your brain, and even 31% of your bones. Overall your body weight can be 45-65% water.

Your body water percentage is influenced by your age, gender, and fitness level. Even though you are made up of mostly of water, how much do you really know about the effect this major element has on your body?

Body Water, Defined

Like discussed above, your body water can be found inside not only in your blood, but in your muscle tissue, your body fat, your organs, and inside every cell in your body.  To account for all this, your total body water (TBW) can be divided into two basic groups.

  • Extracellular Water (ECW)

Extracellular water is the water located outside your cells.  The water in your blood falls into this category. Roughly 1/3 of your fluid is attributed to ECW, and this water is found in your interstitial fluid, transcellular fluid, and blood plasma.

Extracellular water is important because it helps control the movement of electrolytes, allows oxygen delivery to the cells, and clears waste from metabolic processes.

  • Intracellular Water (ICW)

Intracellular water is the water located inside your cells.  It comprises 70% of the cytosol, which is a mix of water and other dissolved elements.  In healthy people, it makes up the other 2/3 of the water inside your body.

The intracellular water is the location of important cellular processes, and although it has many functions, a very important one is that it allows molecules to be transported to the different organelles inside the cell.  Essentially, the Intracellular water picks up where the Extracellular water left off by continuing the pathway for fuel to be transported to the cells.

Balance is the Key

When it comes to your body water and you, the most important thing to strive for is balance. Your Intracellular fluid:Extracellular fluid must remain at the same levels with respect to each other.

A healthy fluid distribution has been estimated at a 3:2 ratio of ICW:ECW. If your body water falls out of balance, this can signal changes in your health and body composition. Whether these changes are positive or negative depend on which type of water becomes unbalanced.

Increased  ICW

Having slightly more ICW than normal isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can signal positive changes in your body composition. 

Increased muscle mass is due to the enlargement of the number and size of muscle cells.  When the muscle cells become enlarged, they are able to take in (and require) more ICW in order to power their cellular functions.  Research has shown that resistance exercise can lead to increased intracellular water in humans. Increased ICW as a result of exercise is a sign of increased Lean Body Mass, which is a very good thing and has positive health benefits, including:

  • Increased Energy Use

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories you burn at rest.  It is the baseline for the calories you need every day in order for your body to operate and maintain daily functions.  With increased Lean Body Mass, your energy needs will increase as a result of a higher BMR. If you don’t increase your daily calorie intake, but increase your Lean Body Mass/BMR, you will create a calorie deficit – which can lead to body fat loss.

  • Increased Strength

Your Lean Body Mass is sometimes described as your fat free mass.  Your Lean Body Mass accounts for all your weight due to water, muscle mass, bone, and protein.  One of the easiest ways to influence the amount of Lean Body Mass you have is to increase your muscle mass.  Generally, increased muscle mass leads to increased strength.

  • Increased Immune System

Increased Lean Body Mass through exercise has been associated with increased immune system functionality.  This will help your body fight off illnesses more easily.

Excess ECW

If your ECW increases in relation to your ICW, this is something you should take special note of.  Unlike ICW, you do not want to see your ECW increasing beyond normal levels. Excess ECW can indicate health risks, including:

  • Inflammation

During inflammation, the body sends additional blood flow to the damaged area.  This causes an increase of extracellular water in a particular area. Inflammation occurs when part of the body gets damaged or bruised and is a normal bodily response to injury.  This is called acute inflammation, and is a temporary increase in ECW.

Chronic inflammation, however, is something more serious that isn’t always readily detected. It is marked by long-term swelling/ECW increases caused by cellular stress and dysfunction. Chronic inflammation can lead to serious diseases if allowed to persist over time, including renal failure, cancer, and heart disease. including renal failure, cancer, and heart disease.

  • Renal Disease (Kidney Failure)

One of the kidneys’ major functions is to filter your blood and remove toxins produce in the body.  One important substance that the kidneys filter out is sodium, an element that is found in salt.

When your diet includes more sodium than your kidneys can filter out, which occurs in people who have failing kidneys, your extracellular water levels will increase.  In some cases, this increased extracellular water shows in visible swelling throughout the body and is a condition known as edema. Edema can cause additional strain on the body by contributing to weight gain, blood pressure, and other complications.

  • Unhealthy Fat Mass Levels (Obesity)

Obese individuals are characterized by having too much body fat, which among other things, leads to body water disruption due to excess ECW.  This is because excess visceral fat can trigger production hormones that can lead to the disruption of a bodily system called RAAS.  This excess ECW causes stress in the body due to its effects on the internal organs, which can exacerbate obesity and cause a dangerous cyclic effect.

Determining Balance

Since it’s so important to keep an eye on your fluid balance, you’ll need to know how you can determine yours. There are two major methods to measure and determine your fluid levels.  These are the dilution method and the BIA method.

The dilution method involves drinking a known dose of heavy water (deuterium oxide) and allowing it to distribute around the body.  Once the water has had time to settle, the amount of heavy water is compared with the amount of normal water. The proportion will reflect the amount of total body water.  To determine ECW, sodium bromide is used instead of heavy water.

The dilution method is recognized as a gold standard for measuring total body water; however, these tests would need to be done at a hospital under the guidance of a trained physician.  This test takes several hours to complete during which any fluid of any type going in or out of the body has to be carefully recorded.

For these reasons, you’re unlikely to have this test performed unless your doctor needs to know your total body water with absolute certainty because of a serious health complication.

The second, more accessible method to determine body water content is bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).  For most people who do not have serious medical issues, this method is much more practical than the dilution method.

A small electrical current is applied to the body, and the opposition that current experiences (impedance), is measured.  From that impedance result, a BIA device can report your body water percentage. Advanced BIA devices are able to reflect the difference in Intracellular and Extracellular water as well, which can reveal the ICW:ECW balance.

Bringing Yourself Back Into Balance

Maintaining a balanced ratio of approximately 3:2 is ideal for optimal health.  If you find that this ratio is beginning to fall out of balance, there are some things you can do.  Fortunately, these tips aren’t anything you already haven’t heard before: maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated by drinking enough water, and exercising regularly.

Avoiding excess ECW is ideal.  From a dietary standpoint, one simple change that can work to reduce excess ECW is reducing the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet. Sodium is located primarily in your ECW, and when excess sodium is introduced into the body, the body’s natural response is to draw water out of your cells at the expense of your ICW.  Reducing your sodium intake has a number of positive health benefits, so this tip can be considered simply a best practice for optimal health in addition to being a tactic for reducing high ECW.

On the flip side, increasing your ICW can be achieved by increasing your Lean Body Mass/increasing muscle mass through exercising.  As the muscle cells increase in size, they will require more water to maintain their function. Exercise has the additional benefit of combating obesity, and as fat mass is reduced, ECW increases due to obesity will decline over time.

As you can see, body water can be an important indicator of your overall health.  Without a healthy ICW:ECW ratio your body will begin to have problems.

The best thing you can do for proper body water balance is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you can achieve a healthy lifestyle, your body water will fall into balance naturally.  The first step would be to find out where your body water levels are today, so you can start planning for a healthier life now.

 

What You Can Do About Malnutrition?

By | Nutrition

When it comes to malnutrition, most the focus—and rightly so—is on severe malnutrition in developing countries where lack of access to food has tragic consequences.

This condition can have debilitating effects on body composition, quality of life, and independent living. But malnutrition among older adults in developed countries is more widespread than most people realize.  How can malnutrition coexist in countries that have an obesity epidemic?

Technically, malnutrition is an umbrella term including overnutrition (i.e. obesity) and undernutrition. Just as important as fighting increasing obesity, it’s important to understand how various aspects of aging can make it difficult to consume all the essential nutrients the body needs.

The good news is that malnutrition is easily diagnosed, managed and even reversed. As we continue we will be discussing treatment and prevention, but first let’s raise awareness about the issue itself.

The What, Who, and Why of Malnutrition and Aging

With so many different people experiencing different effects and severities of malnutrition, it can be complicated to break down. Since there are several primary types of malnutrition, we’ll focus on how malnutrition impacts body composition and why this is so important for your long-term health.

WHAT IS MALNUTRITION?

The World Health Organization defines malnutrition as “deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients”. Protein-energy deficiency is one of the most common forms of malnutrition and this health condition has an immediate and negative impact on body composition. This deficiency wreaks havoc on skeletal muscle mass in particular, as the body eventually goes into starvation mode and breaks down its own protein (stored in muscle) for fuel.

Micronutrient deficiency is a lack of nutrients, like minerals and vitamins, that support important bodily processes like cells regeneration, your immune system, and even eyesight. Some common examples are iron or calcium deficiencies. Micronutrient deficiency has the greatest impact on normal physiological functions/processes and can actually occur in conjunction with protein-energy deficiency since most micronutrients are obtained from food.

Although nutritional deficiencies of certain micronutrients can impact processes such as building and repairing muscle, protein-energy deficiency has a more pronounced effect on body composition due to the fact that lowered protein intake can lead to more drastic losses in muscle mass. The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) defines several features of malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies in adults:

  • Insufficient energy intake
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Diminished physical function (including hand grip strength, and physical performance testing)
  • Serious medical conditions (such as edema resulting from fluid accumulation)

WHO IS AFFECTED, AND WHY?

You would assume that adults spending time in rehabilitation centers or hospitals should be well nourished since they have a range of staff taking care of them, right?

In theory, yes. But in reality, things are more complicated.

According to a study of over 4,000 individuals, approximately 40-50% of patients in rehabilitation centers and hospitals are malnourished, compared to 14% in nursing homes and just 6% in independently dwelling adults. These are staggering differences, but the numbers should be put in context.

There are two overarching reasons malnutrition strikes older adults.

  • Insufficient food intake. This often results from factors inherent to aging, including loss of taste or smell, dentition (poor muscle function or loss of teeth), or cognitive decline.
  • Disease-related malnutrition. Decreased food intake or absorption due to a wide range of diseases from cancer to inflammatory bowel disease or from cases such as hospitalization including surgery or emergency medical interventions (stroke, trauma, etc.)

Since individuals suffering from disease-related malnutrition are more likely to require hospitalization (to treat their disease), this could contribute to the high rates of malnutrition in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. But a host of other factors in hospitals make it no wonder that longer hospital stays are related to rates of malnutrition.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE, EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT DIRECTLY AFFECTED

Malnutrition really is an important issue in that it takes a high toll on people afflicted; on top of that is the associated economic cost that extends the burden beyond the malnourished individual. Massive medical bills strain individuals and their families and consume significant amounts of healthcare resources.

In a study of almost 2000 older adults, health care costs for malnourished adults were more than double those for non-malnourished adults. More visits to general practitioners and hospitals equals higher cost.

However it is worth noting that although treatment for malnutrition can add up in cost, the sooner the treatment, the better. Intervening with treatment called oral nutritional supplementation (ONS) does add to healthcare costs, but according to an economic model analysis, the cost of ONS treatment is more than offset by the long-term reduction in hospital admissions as a result of treatment.

In other words, treating this condition sooner not only makes sense for health reasons, it makes sense economically.

How Body Composition Changes During Malnutrition

Now that we have covered the “What”, “Who”, and “Why”, let’s discuss the “How” malnutrition affects body composition.

Most adults experience a natural shift in body composition as they age, partly thanks to a decrease in physical activity. What might accelerate and worsen that shift?

That’s right: malnutrition.

While Fat Free Mass starts to decline in the middle of adulthood, it drops at a concerning rate by the time adults reach their 80’s. Coupled with a decrease in functional health, it’s clear that unfavorable changes are happening.

Adding protein-energy deficiency into that mix makes the situation even more concerning. Researchers comparing elderly and middle-aged malnourished adults found that the elderly group was more prone to losing Fat Free Mass than fat mass and this may come down to not taking in enough nutrients to support and maintain muscles and their function.

In other words, undernutrition exacerbates the issue of muscle loss and those that are malnourished are more likely to tap into their muscle protein for fuel rather than those pesky fat stores (which are designed to be our energy-stores).

That matters because malnourished older adults are already at an increased risk of mortality. On top of that, losing muscle makes it difficult to perform those normal activities of daily living. As you burn through muscle protein, functional capacity declines, and loss of independence and malnutrition ensues

Recognize and Take Action

In light of the fact that malnutrition is more prevalent than most would think,what are the warning signs you should you look out for? It’s a tough problem to assess, and catching it before significant changes in body composition or muscle mass occur is best. However, watching out for these risk factors can be helpful in determining your likelihood of malnutrition or the severity of muscle loss.

ADDRESSING THE RISKS

Just because malnutrition can be difficult to spot early on, doesn’t mean all is lost. There are a variety of risk factors and health problems to be aware of and recognize. Here is a list of a few.

The first step to addressing the undernutrition problem is to make people aware of the problem. Research shows that among cancer patients (a nutritionally at-risk group) at home, nearly 25% do not receive nutritional support or counseling despite receiving other health care.

If you don’t recognize a problem, you can’t do anything about it.

Before getting into actual treatment, here are a couple strategies to address malnutrition risk factors head on.

  • Spice up your food. A few dashes of flavored powders like beef bouillon or lemon butter help increased body weight and prevent a decline in energy intake by making foods more appealing.
  • Take care of your teeth. Missing a substantial number of teeth is associated with lower energy and protein intake. Wearing dentures can lower your risk of malnutrition by about 20%, but only if you wear them consistently.
  • Make meals something to look forward to. Rather than eat each meal alone, have meals with other people in your community or schedule regular dinners with family and friends.
  • Get your body composition tested. Regularly get your body composition tested either bi-monthly or monthly to make sure that your muscle and fat levels are where you want them to be.

FOOD-FORWARD SOLUTIONS

If you do find yourself, or a patient, facing malnutrition, oral nutritional supplementation (ONS) is one of the most promising treatments you can use.

Most nutritional supplements you are familiar with probably come in pill form, like Vitamin A or Vitamin D, but ONS is in liquid form. Boost and Ensure (though not necessarily brands we are recommending- please do your research on fitting the ingredients to your specific needs) are some common brand names, and there are dozens of more options out there in a variety of flavors and formulas.

The science behind ONS is substantial. It counteracts malnutrition and related comorbidities in adults ranging from hospitalized hip fracture patients to frail community-dwelling elderly adults.

An analysis of 36 studies on high-protein ONS found that it increases calorie intake by more than 300 calories per day and protein by over 20g per day, slightly increases body weight, and improves muscle size and strength. That’s all from drinking just a daily 8 oz. shake.

Of course, getting your nutritional needs in by consuming real food is better than relying on supplements. However, when it comes to malnutrition it’s critical to get enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and calories, making supplements often necessary to round out the diet.

Getting enough real food is tough if it’s difficult to swallow or your sense of taste and smell start to go (or down). That’s why researchers experiment with ‘densification’ of real foods.

 

Densification involves adding calorie and protein content without changing the types and quantities of food. The idea is to get patients to consume more nutrients without feeling overburdened by large meals, and it works.

Elderly adults who prefer smaller meals consume more calories across breakfast and lunch when foods are ‘densified’. This strategy can even be implemented at home. To add calories and protein to the foods, researchers simply replace water in recipes with extra fats and dairy.

Whether ONS, food densification, or just adding more food to the diet, increasing calories and the range of vitamins and minerals will certainly offset malnutrition and its associated effects.

WHERE DOES EXERCISE FIT INTO ALL THIS?

In some ways, ONS to a malnourished older adult is like protein powder to a bodybuilder. It’s not the only way to build muscle and work towards body composition goals, but it sure does help.

Malnourished older adults and bodybuilders also have this in common: their bodies require a nutritional and exercise jumpstart in order to build muscle.

Researchers recently gave older adults with sarcopenia, or a significant loss of muscle mass, a whey protein shake along with a progressive strength training program. By the end of the study, almost 70% of the participants reversed many of their symptoms.

Part of their success was probably thanks to a dedicated team of researchers keeping them on track with the study. Social support is important for frail older adults who want to use nutrition and exercise therapy to regain a healthy body composition. It can be as simple as asking a family member or friend to come by a couple times per week to help keep you on track..

So while bodybuilders may be more intrinsically motivated to increase their diet and exercise to improve the muscle mass and physique, older adults may need some social support to improve their diet and exercise in order to offset or prevent these symptoms from occurring in the first place.

Wrap-Up: Your Next Steps

By the time someone becomes clinically malnourished or frail, their eating and exercise habits have likely been insufficient for a long time. With some exceptions in disease-related malnutrition, this is not something that happens overnight.

So what can we do to increase awareness, maintain our well-being, and prevent these conditions associated with malnutrition? Keeping a healthy, well-rounded, and calorically full diet with regular exercise is the best method of prevention.

Ignoring nutrition will gradually work against your body composition, just as your smell and taste can eventually decline and various other factors we’ve discussed set in to increase the risk for malnutrition. But forming a few key dietary habits before the effects of aging truly appear can help you prevent poor outcomes later in life.

  • Establish a strength training routine. Although some muscle mass loss can be stopped later in life with exercise, it’s better to start out with muscle mass than try to play catch-up.
  • Eat sufficient protein throughout the day. It is often best to space out your protein across meals rather than consuming it all at once to ensure you’re getting a good amount on a daily basis.
  • Monitor your body composition regularly. You should make sure you minimize muscle mass loss and fat mass gain as you age.

By avoiding or treating malnutrition and maintaining your body composition, you can continue on to age gracefully… who wouldn’t want that?

**

Max Gaitán,MEd is an exercise physiologist and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. When he’s not coaching, studying, or writing, Max spends most of his time outdoors training for triathlons.

How to Stop Overeating Once and For All

By | Body Composition, Diet, Nutrition

At dinner last night, one slice of chocolate cake somehow turned into half a cake…

Today, you stuffed yourself with five buttery rolls at the office potluck. That wouldn’t have been so bad if you didn’t eat three plates of food.

We’ve all been there, and we all know how those post-binge episodes go — from guilt to frustration to promising yourself that it’s going to be the last time you stuff yourself with unhealthy food! (Not to mention the dreaded food coma…)

You thought you’ve overcome overeating for good, yet it turns out that you’re back to square one when it comes to getting your cravings under control.

Why is it so hard to break out of this cycle?

Is there a way to kick this ceaseless habit for good?

Does it have to do with self-control and having an endless supply of willpower?

Or is there some otherworldly, mystical force that you need to tap on in order to break free from binge-eating episodes?

To help us figure out if it’s sorcery or science, this article is divided into two parts.

First, you’ll learn about the possible reasons why it’s so tempting to finish a large box of pizza all by yourself. Second, you’ll discover how to put an end to compulsive overeating and finally take your body composition goals seriously.

With obesity affecting more than one-third of the U.S. adult population, getting out of the binge-diet cycle remains a puzzle to many.

To have a greater understanding as to how overeating happens, it makes sense to initially get a grasp of how our appetite, or the desire to eat, works.

Understanding Overeating

How Appetite Works

It’s worth noting that appetite is a tad different from hunger. Think of hunger as a need to eat while appetite is more like a desire to snack mindlessly even after you had lunch.

At a fundamental level, hunger and appetite are both influenced by a network of pathways involving the neuroendocrine system. Appetite regulation, satiety, and energy balance involve the following:

The smart folks over at ASAPscience simplified the science of hunger and cravings in a two-minute video below. It talks about the body’s hunger-regulation system and why we’re tempted to go for second helpings.

In essence, high-calorie foods rich in fat and sugar were extremely desirable to our hunter-gatherer ancestors for survival because they were scarce. However, this instinct for fatty and sugary meals still remain even though these types of food are now available 24/7.

Eventually, the continual intake of high-calorie fat and sugar-laden food overrides the human body’s natural hunger regulation system, leading to habitual overeating.

In a nutshell, the more you gorge on food laced with too much fat and sugar, the more likely that you’re going to get addicted to it.

On Homeostatic and Hedonic Hunger

portion control

Another way of understanding appetite is to look at it from the perspective of eating for two main reasons— as a response to hunger (homeostatic) and for pleasure (hedonic).

In a review of studies differentiating the two, the researchers described that homeostatic hunger is the result of the prolonged absence of energy intake or the food itself, while hedonic hunger is strongly influenced by the availability and palatability of food in your environment. Furthermore, a 2016 study found out that intense feelings of pleasure derived from palatable foods (hedonic hunger) predicts the likelihood of losing control when eating among female college freshmen.

 

Why You Really Overeat and Binge

indulgence in ice cream

At first thought, it seems like putting an end to overeating is simply a matter of telling your brain to stop consuming food. Yet we all know that it’s not that easy, right?

Your brain may be the main driving force behind your cravings, but it’s not acting alone.

The frequency and the amount of food you finish is also influenced by a complex interaction of the following factors:

1. Genetic Influences

Your gut, hormones, and brain may be working together to control appetite, but your genetic makeup also has a say as if you’re the type to overindulge.

For instance, a London study on children revealed that genetic influences on weight and abdominal fat accumulation are high in children who are born since the onset of the childhood obesity epidemic. Furthermore, there is evidence indicating that specific genes can possibly impact your likelihood of frequent LOC (loss of control) eating episodes.

2. Environmental Influences

Environmental factors also contribute to the rise of food cravings. These factors include the atmosphere of the room and the presence/absence of distractions during meals. This also applies to social and cultural cues. Remember a time when you overindulged because everyone seems to be in the mood for feasting?

Finally, child feeding practices by parents during the first years of childhood tend to impact one’s eating behavior later in life. A review of studies on the parental influence on eating behavior revealed the following interesting findings:

  • Restrictive feeding practices by caregivers are associated with overeating and poorer self-regulation of food intake among preschool-age children.
  • Restricting access to palatable snacks and desserts like cookies in children may be counterproductive because it will eventually promote their intake.
  • Higher levels of parental control and pressure to eat healthily were associated with lower fruit and vegetable intakes and higher intake of dietary fat among young girls.

3. Psychological Influences

Did you know that not sleeping enough or getting stressed over finals week could lead to you reaching out for the cookie jar 5x a day when we’re not actually hungry?

It turns out that your appetite and hunger regulation is also influenced by these behavioral factors.

In fact, evidence from longitudinal studies suggests that chronic life stress may be linked to weight gain, with a greater effect seen in men.  Furthermore, your work schedule can also impact how much you eat. A study revealed that shift workers may be particularly vulnerable to the tendency to eat the largest meals in the evening as they remain awake longer during the times when you naturally feel hungry for high calorie sweet, salty, and starchy foods.

 

Your Action Plan to Curb Overeating (Without Depriving Yourself)

Whether it’s stress or social pressure that’s driving you to overeat, we all know how frustrating it is to realize that you gave in to your cravings (again!). The good news is you can do something the next time you’re about to open your third bag of chips.

For a start, consider the following easy yet sustainable solutions to put an end to overeating, minus the horrible feeling of self-deprivation.

1. Learn to recognize the difference between homeostatic and hedonistic hunger.

As mentioned earlier, you can eat because you’re hungry but you can also eat for pleasure.

It can be a struggle to figure out the difference between the two because it requires you to be more mindful and listen to your body. As a result, misinterpreting these signals can lead to overeating.

While these cues will differ from one person to another (as well as depend on the time of day), you can learn to recognize your motivation for eating and adjust your eating habits by asking the following question:

Am I eating as a response to a physical cue (e.g. growling stomach, headache) or am I eating because I am feeling stressed, anxious, or overjoyed?

Whether you’re stressed about deadlines or bummed about your annual employee performance review, talking to a friend or journaling may be more helpful than emotional eating.

2. Be mindful of your “food environment”.

food environment

Your “food environment” may be divided into two parts:

  1. Your social interaction and the overall atmosphere of your environment
  2. How your food is served

To help promote a positive food environment, consider the following best practices:

  • Keep an eye on your portions.

Before eating two bagels in one sitting, savor one piece instead. Furthermore, you might also want to use smaller plates and bowls to avoid taking in too much when you’re in a buffet. Research reveals that larger plates can make a serving of food appear smaller, and smaller plates can lead people to misjudge the same serving size of food as being significantly larger.

  • Press pause (whether on your TV or phone) until you’re done with lunch or dinner.

When you’re distracted, you tend to eat mindlessly. As a result, you’ll be less sensitive to satiety cues because your brain is paying more attention to other things.

  • Be like the Okinawans in Japan by only eating until your 80 percent full.

Known for having one of the longest life expectancies in the world,  Okinawans call this practice as “Hara Hachi Bu”, and this can be a useful guideline to help stop overeating.

  • Eat slowly.

A Greek study found that eating at a slower pace tended to increased fullness and reduce hungry feelings in overweight and obese participants.

Surround yourself with people who are taking steps to eat more mindfully.

Whether it’s your co-worker who’s into calorie counting or your brother who’s a geek when it comes to meal planning, being around others who eat mindfully will help reinforce your own good habits and perhaps teach you some new tips and tricks as well.

3. Make tiny adjustments to your daily habits that may impact your eating behavior.

Curbing overeating is not about making massive changes in your life but rather making tiny adjustments to your daily habits.

Going on a “healthy” detox diet or juice cleanse right after binging may help your weight loss temporarily, but it’s not sustainable in the long run. Instead, you’ll likely end up going through the same cycle of overeating, feeling guilty, restricting yourself, and giving in again to cravings. That’s why making smaller healthy changes is more effective for changing your lifestyle permanently.

These are three examples of tiny adjustments you can make to your daily habits.

  • Stop skimping on sleep, pronto.

As mentioned earlier, lack of sleep can lead to eating more and sabotage your weight loss efforts. Are you struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Establishing a consistent bedtime routine may be a good start. An irregular bedtime schedule is linked to poor sleep quality.

  • Eat breakfast when you can.

There may be some exceptions (like when you’re doing intermittent fasting), but skipping your morning meal usually leads to overeating because you end up feeling famished throughout the day. On the other hand, a healthy high protein breakfast has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels, increased satiety, and reduced hunger cues.

  • Do whole food swaps instead of cutting out certain foods entirely or adopting crazy diets.

Remember how high-calorie food that’s loaded with salt and sugar tends to encourage overeating? That why food choices are important. By opting for whole food alternatives, you will eventually reduce your cravings for unhealthy sweets and salty treats.

Don’t just adopt the latest trending diet and toss all the junk food residing in your fridge right away. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 80 percent of your daily meals from whole food sources and devote the rest to the not-so-healthy food items. And when the craving hits reach for a healthy snack like fruit or nuts. By doing so, you won’t feel deprived, which in turn can lead to another binging episode.

Special Note on Food Addiction

A lot of people can relate to overeating (because it happens to the best of us too!) but food addiction is a different story. If you feel that your binging episodes has turned into more than just a bad habit that you can change, seek professional help.

The Takeaway: Mindful Eating Can Go a Long Way for Your Body Composition

mindfulness with food

If you’ve noticed, the majority of the points discussed in the action plan has something to do with mindfulness.

Recognizing if you’re truly hungry or simply eating as a response to stress or other environmental factors requires constant practice and a heightened sense of self-awareness.

The idea of mindfulness may sound like a meditation fad or just another self-help woo-woo. However, mindfulness-based interventions in addressing compulsive overeating and other obesity-related eating behaviors have gained popularity recently. In fact, a systematic review of related studies on the topic supports its efficacy.

Overall, beating overeating and taking your body composition seriously begins with this single step—uncover the reason behind your binging habit. Keep in mind that you need to know the “why” first before diving into the “how” of putting an end to your tendency to overeat. Once you figure out your “why” the benefits are tremendous: a healthier relationship with food, weight loss, and a better sense of control. Good luck and here’s to a happier more mindful life.

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Is Your Dad Bod In-Style or Unhealthy?

By | Fat mass, Health

Men have been working out to increase muscle mass for decades. Every generation comes up with new phrases that refer to this phenomenon, such as getting “ripped” or “swole” or “yoked,” as a result of men searching for the optimal physique that has been influenced by athletes, movie stars and other public figures.  In recent years, a new opposing trend has emerged in pop culture known as the Dad Bod. Instead of marveling at the muscular look, celebrities and every-men alike have embraced a rough-around-the-edges approach to the male aesthetic.

The term Dad Bod has been used to classify men who are slightly overweight and don’t possess a sculpted frame. The positive attention this new trend has received could be seen as an effort to promote a positive self-image in men who otherwise may have had some insecurities about the way they look. Society embracing an archetype that is more attainable by a higher percentage of the male population is an uplifting occurrence and allows men to realize that you don’t have to have the perfect body to be considered healthy and attractive. The human body does need a certain level of fat to survive, as fat serves as an insulator for your core body temperature and aids with hormone production. However, with obesity rates higher than ever, it’s important to emphasize weight management and metabolic health, so recognizing body types that are close to the optimal body fat range is a good start to improving general health.

The focus on Dad Bods have provided a positive shift in visual standards and self-image, which is very beneficial for the male population, but they can also promote dangerous habits as well. Here is how you can tell if your Dad Bod is a good look or evidence of an unhealthy lifestyle:

Avoid These Behaviors

Dad Bods are thought by many to be caused by typical “dad” activities: eating a lot, drinking a lot, and exercising very little. You have probably seen on multiple occasions the “TV Dad”, sitting in his arm chair with a big plate of food and a beer, glued to his big screen. Making these activities an everyday routine can be a recipe for disaster on your health. While having the chiseled muscle tone of a bodybuilder seems like a far cry for TV Dad and other regular joes, moderation is almost always the way to go, and achieving your Dad Bod look shouldn’t exclude you from living a healthy lifestyle.

Overeating 

Overeating is a common problem in the present day, as taking in more calories than you need leads to the body storing the excess as fat. Too much body fat leads to a myriad of health issues, such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Overeating over extended periods of time can also lead to the development of visceral fat, which is a dense collection of fat tissue that sits in the trunk and surrounds the organs. Visceral fat is harder to get rid of, and often forms as a result of weight gain during adulthood. Its presence in the abdominal region causes the risk of hypertension to increase significantly, especially in younger men. It’s never too early to take control of your diet, as the habits you pick up during your college years can have long-term consequences and build an unhealthy base for your Dad Bod. Limit your caloric intake, and add more variety to your diet to avoid developing visceral fat around your waist.

Lack of Exercise

One way to offset the extra calories and combat the metabolic conditions that can be caused by a poor diet is regular exercise. However, even if you don’t think you carry a bunch of extra weight, a regular exercise regimen is important to ensure that you aren’t skinny fat. You don’t need to possess the muscle tone of a bodybuilder, but skeletal muscle tissue plays a large role in breaking down carbohydrates and promoting other regular body functions. The only way to develop muscle tissue is through exercise, so it can’t be ruled out even if you believe you have reached an acceptable weight.

An easy way to determine if you have solid metabolic health, no matter what body type you have, is to examine your lean muscle mass compared to your body fat. Those with Dad Bods should consider adding an exercise program to their daily routine, especially resistance training, as the benefits are too vital to pass up.

Excess Alcohol Consumption

Plenty of men have enjoyed an ice-cold beer, or two, or three… you get the point. The “beer belly,’ which is often considered the flag for dad bods, is also a common sign of years of excessive alcohol consumption. Alcoholic beverages aren’t inherently unhealthy, as moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink per day for women and 2 for men) can actually have positive health effects. The line between alcohol benefiting your health and hurting your health is an extremely fine one, as that second or third drink pushes you into excess alcohol consumption, which brings similar health problems as overeating or a lack of exercise.

The “beer belly” also refers to the collection of visceral fat, which emphasizes the need for moderation, as the collection of fat around the organs is difficult to get rid of, and carries an elevated risk of metabolic syndrome. While a perfectly trim waist does not need to be the goal for every man, avoiding adding mass through too many drinks is crucial to preventing metabolic syndrome and creating a healthy body.

Find a Happy Medium

The magic of the Dad Bod is that imperfections are appreciated instead of judged. Perfection is a goal that can’t be reached, but a healthier lifestyle is easily attainable. In order to have a Dad Bod that is also healthy, you must find a happy medium between positive body image and healthy body composition.

Applying the Dad Bod mindset to your daily choices is a great way to improve your health. Instead of tackling an intense diet, emphasize making a few healthy choices. Pick a smaller portion at your next meal or add some color to your plate with different produce options. With the obesity epidemic affecting populations all over the world, simple methods to improve nutrition can make all of the difference.

The formation of the Dad Bod trend has addressed a troubling side effect of social media, in which individuals work to develop the appearance of a successful life, instead of actually doing the work to create that success. Embracing your Dad Bod means separating the stigma of working out, which is now viewed as obsessive and self-involved. Exercise should be viewed as a therapeutic activity which is used to improve emotional and physical health. Working out doesn’t have to completely transform your appearance. It can just transform your quality of life.

Maintain Your Healthy Dad Bod

You have a Dad Bod, which wasn’t a big deal 10 years ago, but now is the desired look. That’s a great position to be in, but don’t let the trend negatively affect your health. Remember that having a Dad Bod doesn’t preclude you from making healthy choices. Moderation in eating and drinking is key, and exercise is a valuable addition to your daily life. Instead of seeking perfection in your appearance and lifestyle, just appreciate how you look and strive to improve your unhealthy practices little by little.

The Dad Bod trend is an encouraging development in the world of self-image. If used correctly, a positive shift in social norms and overall health can occur. The “perfect physique” should be whatever Bod you have now, but your health and body composition can still be a work in progress. Strive for regular improvement, not perfection. That’s what the Dad Bod is all about.

**

Evan Hadrick is a former collegiate track athlete who graduated from the University of Miami and currently works as a track & Field/Cross Country coach and athletic administrator in Dallas, TX. You can read more of his work at StateoftheU.com, where he is an assistant editor contributing sports commentary about University of Miami athletics.

How Body Fat Sabotages Your Immune System

By | Fat mass, Health

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that no one likes being sick.

What if there was something you could do to improve your health and reduce your sick days?

As it turns out, having a healthy body composition contributes to a stronger immune system, helping you to resist minor infections and reduce your risk of getting serious diseases, like heart disease and diabetes.

What’s a healthy body composition? Put simply, there are two main areas of focus: sufficiently developed muscle mass and a body fat percentage in a healthy range  (10-20% for men; 18-28% for women).

Unfortunately, over ⅔ of Americans are classified as overweight, with a shocking 1/3 of Americans classified as obese . Americans are on average heavier than any other time in history. There has been a similar increase in heart disease and diabetes diagnoses. That is why the CDC says obesity is an epidemic in this country.

How does this tie back into the immune system and your health? It all has to do with the nature of body fat.

What Happens When Your Immune System Activates

When your body gets sick – due to a bacterial infection, a virus, etc. – the body’s defense system gets triggered, causing inflammation.  This is thanks to your “innate” immune response: your body’s all-purpose defense mechanism that serves as the first wave of defense against foreign invaders.

The infected area becomes red and swollen due to increased blood flow, which can be unsightly and uncomfortable. Think of what happens to your nose when you get a cold. That’s inflammation.

This reaction is caused by white blood cells called macrophages and the proteins they emit called cytokines (this word will be important in a minute). These cytokines encourage inflammation.

You may have not thought of it this way before, but inflammation that’s triggered by your immune system is typically a good thing. That means your body is releasing the appropriate hormones and proteins, activating your white blood cells to start the recovery process, and working to defeat the infection.  If there wasn’t any inflammation, your body would be in serious trouble.

So if inflammation is what naturally occurs when your body’s immune system is triggered, how does inflammation relate to body fat, body composition, and obesity?

When Inflammation Becomes Permanent

When white blood cells cause inflammation, it’s a sign that your body’s immune system is properly functioning. Inflammation begins, white blood cells attack the foreign invader, the invader is neutralized, and the inflammation subsides.

This is how your body’s defense system naturally works. However, white blood cells aren’t the only type of cell that have the ability to emit cytokines.  A second type of cell that can emit cytokines and cause inflammation are adipocytes or fat cells.

Most people know that your body stores excess calories as fat so that you can use it later for energy if food becomes scarce.  

Just recently, scientists have learned that fat is an active endocrine organ, one that can secrete a whole host of proteins and chemicals, including inflammatory cytokines.

What happens when your body keeps adding on more and more adipose tissue?  Cytokines are released by your fat cells, triggering inflammation. In fact, obesity is characterized by researchers as “ a state of low-grade, chronic inflammation.

This means that increased fat cells puts your body in a constant state of stress/immune response. Your body is always in a state of inflammation; your immune system is permanently “switched on.”

Think of your body’s immune system like your body’s crack team of defenders, highly trained and designed to repel any and all foreign invaders.  In this scenario, your adipose cells are like enemy agents planted in your home territory. Their mission is to spread fear of an attack at all times, and they trick your defenders to be on high alert at all times.

As you might have guessed, perpetual, never-ending inflammation isn’t good for the body.

Sabotaged Immune System

Obesity causes a state of chronic inflammation, and this causes your immune system to become compromised.  Chronic inflammation is a serious issue and can lead to the development of minor and serious illness and conditions.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Influenza (the flu)

You may remember several years ago that there was a particularly deadly strain of the flu virus called H1N1.  As hospitals started to fill up with the sick, doctors in Spain noticed something: overweight and obese patients were beginning to show up in disproportionate numbers in intensive care units, and they were staying for longer than people who were not obese or overweight. Increased inflammation due to increased pro-inflammatory cytokines appeared to be a leading factor contributing to their increased flu risk.

Stories like these led  researchers in Canada to analyze the flu records for the previous 12 years, stretching from 2008 back to 1996. They found that people who were obese were more likely to come into the hospital for respiratory diseases than those who were not obese. They concluded that obese people were an “at risk” population during flu seasons due to their compromised immune response.

  • Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading killer of adults in the United States.  Although there are many factors that can contribute to heart disease, recent research has pointed to inflammation caused by obesity as one of the most significant factors contributing to its development.

The main culprits are, again, the cytokines produced by excess fat in the body.  These cytokines cause inflammation of the walls of your arteries, causing damage to the arteries and increasing pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. When you have high blood pressure, it means that your heart isn’t pumping blood effectively, and it starts to enlarge. An enlarged heart is a significant risk factor that can lead to heart failure if steps aren’t taken to remedy it.

  • Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition characterized by insulin resistance – the inability of your body to remove excess sugar from your blood. Just like heart disease, there are many related factors that lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes, and obesity has long been associated with the development of diabetes.

However, with the discovery that fat is an active tissue that can secrete cytokines and wreak havoc on the immune system, researchers have been able to show a link between obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Increased inflammation was shown to disturb a whole host of processes and the endocrine system. When obesity and the subsequent inflammation is left unchecked for a long time, it increases the risk of developing insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes.

Who’s At Risk?

A compromised immune system and inflammation aren’t issues that only concern overweight people.

Many people know that being overweight and obese is unhealthy and can lead to serious diseases over time.  Admittedly, poor diet and low levels of activity contributing to heart disease and diabetes over time in obese people isn’t exactly news.

Unless you start to take into account what the word “obese” actually means.

Classically, obesity has been defined by having a high Body Mass Index (BMI), a way of expressing the relationship of your weight vs. your height.  If your BMI exceeds 25, you’re labeled “overweight,” and once your BMI increases beyond 30, you progress into different levels of obesity.

Doctors have used BMI for obesity assessment for years, but unfortunately, BMI has led to confusion by inappropriately labeling people as obese or overweight when they are not, or healthy when they should be aware of their obesity risks.

Obesity doesn’t always simply mean “fat.” What obesity does mean is the excess accumulation of body fat, but what’s excess for you might not be for someone else. It is possible to have a “normal” BMI but a lot of excess fat; this is called being “skinny fat.”  Crucially, skinny fat people share many of the same metabolic risks as people who have high BMIs, including the risk of inflammation and a faulty immune system.

This is why you should look at having too much body fat not only as a problem for people who are visibly overweight, but also for people who don’t have enough muscle relative to how much body fat they have.

One way to determine whether you’re at risk is to have your body composition analyzed.  This assessment method will reveal your body fat percentage, a number that you can use to understand if the amount of fat you have is healthy or excessive for someone of your size.

How To Get Your Immune System Back In Line

Fortunately, because researchers have been able to identify body fat (and particularly, internal visceral fat)  as a major cause of inflammation and a compromised immune system, they’ve also been able to measure improvements when body fat is reduced. The goal to getting your immune system to function properly again is to stop it from being perpetually triggered.

In a study that followed obese patients who lost weight with caloric restriction and bariatric surgery, the researchers observed a significant reduction in immune system activation, which means less inflammation.  This reduction in immune activation occurred before and after surgery, which indicates that surgery isn’t always necessary: just the reduction of fat mass – and specifically, visceral fat.

Improving your body composition through a mix of strategies that promote fat loss and muscle gain can allow you to reduce your fat mass in a healthy manner that doesn’t require drastic measures like bariatric surgery.  Although this process can and will take time, the effects of having an improved and healthy body composition are immense, not the least of which is reducing overall body inflammation and having your immune system function properly again.

Healthy Immune System, Healthy Life

We’ve gone over a lot of very technical stuff here, so let’s go over the main points for you to take away.

  • Excess Body fat sabotages your immune system by leaving it permanently triggered
  • Inflammation caused by body fat makes you sicker and more vulnerable to disease
  • You can reduce and reverse these changes by reducing your body fat
  • Anyone can be at risk, depending on their body fat percentage, not their weight

No one likes being sick, and no one likes having to manage diseases like diabetes that stick around for a lifetime. To help you avoid these problems, one of the best ways to determine if your body fat is excessive and/or causing inflammation is to have your body fat percentage determined.

Once you have your body fat percentage, you can compare it against the normal ranges for men and women.  For men, you’ll want to be no higher than about 20% body fat; for women, try to stay under about 28%. These ranges may vary slightly depending on whichever source you consult, but these are good guidelines and agree with the ranges set by the American College of Sports Medicine and American Council on Exercise.

If you reduce your fat mass to a healthy range, you will subsequently reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. Having a killer “beach bod” may not motivate you, but what about a healthy body and fewer sick days?

Everyone should see the value in that.

 

Your Metabolism and Your Body Composition

By | Fitness, Health

You probably don’t think about your body composition when you’re thinking about your metabolism. But you should.

You probably think about it in terms of speed: “My metabolism is fast” or “my metabolism is slowing down.”  If that sounds like you, you’re not alone: simply googling the word “metabolism” yields 4 articles in the top 10 all based around boosting/increasing your metabolism for weight loss.

People are naturally afraid of their metabolism slowing and the weight gain they know comes with it. To some extent, those worries are well-founded.

Metabolism is linked with weight gain and loss because of its a biological process involved with energy and calories.  

The Mayo Clinic defines metabolism as:

…the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.

Notice how it doesn’t mention anything about the speed you process your food. That would be digestion.

In medical terminology, metabolism is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the minimum number of calories your body needs to perform basic bodily functions. BMR is usually expressed in terms of calories.  Your Basal Metabolic Rate also has another interesting quality: the more Lean Body Mass (which includes muscle, water, and minerals) you have, the greater your BMR will be.

When we talk about metabolism, we should always start the conversation with how many calories your body needs. But because your BMR and Lean Body Mass are linked, that means any conversation about metabolism becomes a conversation about your body composition.

Your Body Composition Is Linked To Your Metabolism

Why is it that some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and never experience any weight gain, while other people – even skinny people – feel like whenever they have one bite of dessert it instantly goes to their waistline?

The reason is that metabolism can vary in size.

Take a look at these two body composition profiles, and see if you can spot the difference.

Beyond the obvious differences in weight, the Person A has a much smaller Basal Metabolic Rate than the second.  This means Person B needs more calories than Person A in order to provide their body with the necessary energy to function without losing weight.  Because the BMR is bigger, the metabolism is “bigger.”

Greater than height and gender, the most important factor playing into BMR is the amount Lean Body Mass each person has.  That’s because, as research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states, the more Lean Body Mass you have, the greater your Basal Metabolic Rate will be. That is why strength training for muscle gain, which in turn will increase your lean body mass, is recommended as a way to increase your metabolism.

This is why people who are big or above average in weight can eat more than people who are smaller.  Their body literally requires them to eat more to maintain their weight, and specifically – their Lean Body Mass.

OK, you say, but these two people are very different in body weight – of course, the second person will have a bigger metabolism.  Take a look at the two people below, who we’ll call “Jane” and “Sarah”, two individuals who are similar body in age, height, weight, and gender.

Despite being similar in age, height, weight, and gender, these two people have very different body composition profiles.  As a result, they have different Basal Metabolic Rates. Although Jane has a body weight within the normal range (identified by being near the 100% mark), her body composition is defined by having more fat mass and less lean body mass and skeletal muscle than Sarah.

The person below has a lower body fat percentage and more Lean Body Mass – which is why when looking at this person, you’d describe them as “lean.”  Again, because this person has more than 10 pounds more Lean Body Mass, her Basal Metabolic Rate comes out over a hundred calories greater than the person above.

Metabolism and Weight Gain Over Time

Image Source: Flickr

Let’s take a deeper look at what you might call a “slow” metabolism. Far from being an issue of fastness or slowness, weight gain is almost always the result of a caloric imbalance that goes unchecked over a long period of time.

But first, something needs to be clarified – your Basal Metabolic Rate is not the only factor that plays into your overall caloric needs, and it’s not the total amount of calories you need in a day.  There are two other major influencers, which are:

  • Your energy level – how active you are
  • The thermic effect of food – the energy your body uses to digest your food

These taken together with your Basal Metabolic Rate provide your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This is the number of calories your body burns in a day.

BMR is a necessary piece of information to estimate TDEE. Although they’re not exact, equations exist for estimating your TDEE based on your activity level and BMR. These are based on multiplying your BMR with an “activity factor” – a number between 1 and 2 – that increases the more active you are (and decreases when you are less active, regardless of your appetite).

To take a closer look into metabolism and weight gain, let’s take the two people whose body compositions we’ve looked at above, Jane and Sarah, and see what could happen in a real world example and accounting for diet and exercise.

For this exercise, we first need to estimate TDEE for Jane and Sarah, using their BMRs as a guide.  Based on Jane and Sarah’s compositions, it would be fair to assume that Jane does less exercise/is less active than Sarah, so we’ll assign an activity level of “Sedentary” for Jane and assign “Lightly Active” for Sarah.

Using these numbers and multiplying it by the appropriate activity factor, we can estimate Jane’s TDEE to be 1573 calories and Sarah’s to be 1953 calories, a difference of 380 calories.

Notice how although the difference in BMR was a little over 100 calories when activity levels are factored in, the difference in actual caloric needs becomes magnified.

Now that we have an estimate of the calories Jane and Sarah will need/burn in a day, let’s give them calories to take in. Let’s put them both on a diet of 1,800 calories a day – the estimated caloric intake suggested by the USDA for sedentary women between the ages of 26-30.

Assuming that Jane and Sarah both follow the 1,800 calorie diet perfectly without any extra, high caloric snacks or treats, Jane would end each day with a calorie surplus of 227 calories/day. Sarah would end each day in a slight calorie deficit of 153 calories a day.

When you are in a caloric surplus – taking in more calories than you use – and live a mostly sedentary lifestyle, you will experience weight gain, specifically, fat. An extra 227 calories a day might not seem like a lot at first – that’s about a single soda -, but over time, a surplus of 227 calories a day becomes 1589 extra calories a week and a surplus of 7037 extra calorie a month: roughly 2 pounds of fat gain per month.

calorie surplus

Bottom line: despite being the same height, same gender, similar weight, and similar ages, because of the difference between Jane and Sarah’s body compositions, Jane will experience weight gain over time while Sarah might experience some weight loss (because of her calorie deficit), even though their diets are the same.  That’s because the differences in their caloric needs, although seemingly small at first, increase to significant differences when allowed to persist over time.

It’s not about their age or anything else; it’s about their body compositions determining their metabolism/caloric needs.

Making Your Metabolism Work For You

Because your metabolism isn’t something that slows down or speeds up depending on things like age, this actually gives you some control over it.  With the correct exercise and dietary plan, you can make your metabolism work for you

  • Improve and increase your metabolism

It all goes back to improving and maintaining a healthy body composition.

Because your body needs more energy to support itself when it has more Lean Body Mass, working to increase your Lean Body Mass can actually increase your Basal Metabolic Rate, which can have a huge impact on your TDEE once you factor in your activity level.

  • Avoid a decrease in your metabolism

For many people, simply maintaining their metabolism or avoiding a “slowdown” (which as we’ve seen, is a myth right up there with muscle turning into fat) is an important goal.

How can you avoid a decrease of your metabolism?

In short: by maintaining the Lean Body Mass that you already have.  That means maintaining your Skeletal Muscle Mass.

Your Skeletal Muscle Mass isn’t the same as your Lean Body Mass, but it is the overall biggest contributor to it. It’s the muscle that you can actually grow and develop through exercise, and increases/decreases in SMM have a strong influence on increases/decreases in Lean Body Mass.

Skeletal Muscle Mass is best developed through strength training and resistance exercise along with a proper diet.  A regular exercise plan that includes strength training and resistance exercise will help you maintain your Skeletal Muscle Mass.

This can be especially important as you age.  As people become older and busier, activity levels tend to drop and a proper diet can become harder to maintain as responsibilities increase.  Poor diet and nutrition can lead to loss of Lean Body Mass over time, which leads to a decrease in overall metabolism – not a slowdown.

  • Balance your diet and with your metabolism

The example of Jane is a good example of a well-intentioned dietary plan that doesn’t match the metabolism of the person practicing it.

Even though Jane has been led to believe that 1,800 calories is right for her based on age and gender, her metabolism doesn’t require that caloric intake, and she will end up gaining weight despite her efforts to eat a healthy diet. In the end, she will probably end up blaming her “slowing metabolism.”

It’s examples like Jane’s that show how important understanding the link between metabolism and body composition is.

How much Lean Body Mass do you have?  What might your Basal Metabolic Rate be?  These questions should be answered first before starting any weight loss or diet program, as well as conversations about metabolism.

The first step is always to get the information you need to get the answers to these questions by getting your body composition accurately tested.  Your metabolism and your body composition are strongly linked, so in order to truly understand your metabolism and weight, you must get your body composition tested.

Are Abs Really Made in the Kitchen?

By | Body Composition, Nutrition

There’s an oft-used saying that “abs are made in the kitchen.

The underlying theory, for those who haven’t heard this before, is that what you eat is more important than how much you exercise if you want to see defined abdominal muscles.

How much truth is there to this mantra? Are Instagram perfect abs really made simply by watching what you eat? Or can you just do a thousand crunches a day and reveal your six-pack that way?

In this article, we’ll 1) break down the science of nutrition vs. exercise and how each impacts body composition, 2) look at a few different types of diet plans and their effects on the body, 3) decide whether the saying “abs are made in the kitchen” is fact or fiction.

Let’s jump right in.

Background

The notion of “abs are made in the kitchen” is based on the fact that it is so much easier to gain calories than it is to burn it off through exercise.

 

This makes sense when you attach some numbers to it.

For example, let’s say your preferred exercise routine is swimming a few days a week. On average, you can expect to burn 400-700 calories in an hour.

But if you go home and scarf down a couple pieces of pizza, you can quickly take in the same amount of calories in a matter of minutes.

So from a time/practicality standpoint, it’s much easier to reduce your caloric intake by 400 – 600 calories a day and create the same calorie deficit as swimming/running for an hour.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that creating a calorie deficit through diet has the same effects on body composition as exercise.

First, we’ll look at some studies that weigh in (pun intended) on exercise.

How Exercise Impacts Body Composition

In a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, 320 post-menopausal women ranging in weight from normal to obese were split into two groups. The first were asked to do 45 minutes worth of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise, 5 times a week for a full year (they actually ended up averaging about 3.6 days per week). The second group did not exercise. And neither group was asked to improve nutrition or try portion control.

After one year, the exercise group lost an average of 5.3 pounds of body fat.

That’s a lot of work to lose 5 pounds of fat.

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, may be a more efficient approach to improving your body composition, especially in the abdominal region. One study compared two groups who exercised at different intensities: one that did three days a week of high-intensity exercise and another that did five days a week of low-intensity exercise. After 16 weeks, the high-intensity exercise group lost both more abdominal visceral and subcutaneous fat than the steady-state exercise one.

So it appears exercise, specifically high-intensity exercise, can produce faster results if you want to see those abs.

Next, let’s see what type of impact diet has.

How Diet Affects Body Composition

There are many different diet plans for those hoping to lose fat and/or increase lean body mass. We’ll look at some of the most popular and review which are effective for changing body composition and which need to be studied more.

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet (or “Paleo” for short), consists of eating foods that are assumed to have been available to humans prior to the establishment of modern agriculture. If the caveman didn’t eat it, it’s out. This includes eating things like lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and nuts. It excludes foods like grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and processed oils.

Paleo is relatively new (in terms of nutrition research) and therefore doesn’t have a whole lot of credible evidence on its impact on body composition specifically. One meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the Paleo to 4 control diets based on U.S. nutrition guidelines.

The researchers found that the Paleo led to greater short-term improvements in waist circumference, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure.

It’ll interesting to see if Paleo proves to be more effective than other diet plans on improving body composition as more studies become available.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet (or “Keto” ) consists of eating high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb foods. It’s similar to Paleo but carbs are restricted to 25-50 grams per day.

A 2013 meta-analysis that compared Keto to a low-fat nutritional plan suggests that keto is more effective for weight loss as well as improvement of cardiometabolic health.

Another study that compared the ketogenic diet to a low-fat diet found that Keto was effective in short-term body weight and fat loss. On top of that, it appears that Keto may support preferential fat loss in the trunk area, although this requires further validation.

Finally, a study in which men performed resistance training three times a week and compared body composition effects of keto vs. the traditional Western diet found that the ketogenic group experienced significant fat mass loss, as well as lean body mass gains, compared to the Western diet group.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking (native to Italy, Greece, Spain, etc.).

This includes large quantities of fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, fish and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied diets and for good reason: It has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Let’s see what type of impact, if any, it has on body composition though.

One study on 248 healthy women published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the Mediterranean diet could help reduce body fat levels.

Another study in subjects with coronary artery disease showed that adherence to the Mediterranean diet significantly reduced body fat mass and percent body fat.

A meta-analysis published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders concluded that the Mediterranean diet “may be a useful tool to reduce body weight, especially when the Mediterranean diet is energy-restricted, associated with physical activity, and more than 6 months in length.”

Finally, when researchers looked at the Mediterranean diet’s effects on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor levels in overweight or obese individuals trying to lose weight and compared them to low-fat diets, they found that the Mediterranean diet produced greater weight loss.

Diets: The Bottom Line

Science shows there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dieting. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed 59 studies with various nutritional recommendations (low-fat, low-carb, etc).

Researchers found that weight loss differences between individual diets were small. Participants were able to change their body composition (lose weight) with both low carb and low-fat diets.

However, getting the right amount of protein seems to be one of the most important things you can do to improve your body composition.

In another meta-analysis of 87 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets favorably affect body mass and composition.

So it seems the consensus is that eating more protein can also help you preserve lean body mass when dieting.

Now, let’s look at the most effective approach for getting a six pack: combining a high protein/low carb diet with different types of exercise like cardio and strength training. This is where things get interesting.

How Exercise Combined with Diet Impacts Body Composition

According to another study published in the journal Obesity that compared the effect of dieting and exercising (alone or combined) on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese post-menopausal women, the diet-only group achieved more weight loss than the exercise-only group. However, the greatest effects were seen in the combined diet/exercise group, “where 60% of participants achieved ≥10% weight loss at 1 year.”

Other studies show similar results: a combination of dieting and exercising works best if you want to lose fat (which is how you will see your abdominal muscles).

The question is, are certain types of exercise (resistance training, long duration cardio, etc) more effective than others for improving your body composition?

In a 2015 review published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, researchers analyzed 66 clinical studies and came to the following conclusions:

  1. Exercise in combination with diet led to the most significant changes in body composition.
  2. The combination of resistance training and diet was more effective than endurance training or a combination of endurance and resistance training at altering body composition measures (reduction of body mass and fat mass).

Conclusion

Making adjustments to how you eat can lead to more fat loss in less time compared to exercise alone.

So, the verdict? Abs are made in the kitchen and the gym.

Like anything worth achieving in life, getting a six-pack takes both work and knowledge. Doing 1000 crunches and 1 hour of cardio a day won’t help you see your abdominal muscles any faster if you don’t make the right changes to your diet.

“Spot reduction” is also another myth. You can target your abs and core with resistance training that help with the muscles in that area, but you also need to lose overall body fat to see the definition in those abdominal muscles– and that requires a combination of diet and exercise.

So where do you go from here?

First, determine your body composition goals. If your goal is to lose fat and gain more definition, then you’re going to have to eat at a calorie deficit. If your goal is to increase lean body mass and lose fat, then your diet and exercise regimen may look different.

At the end of the day, the best exercise/nutritional plan is the one you can stick with. Once you find the right approach for you, you can make it a lifelong habit. That’s what will give you your six-pack.

***

Scott Christ is a health and wellness entrepreneur, writer, and website strategy consultant. He’s also the creator of the world’s healthiest plant-based protein powder.

What to Eat In Order to Gain Muscle

By | Muscle, Nutrition

So you started working out and lowered your overall body fat.

First off, congratulations should be in order!

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight  despite life’s occasional curveballs is something that you should be proud of. The positive changes in your body composition is proof that your efforts have finally paid off!

So where do you go from here?

Your next goal may be one of the following:

I want a huge, action star physique.

I want to achieve a leaner, more athletic look.

I want to increase my functional strength and achieve new PR’s in my lifts

Whether your goal is gaining strength or sculpting your body to your desired physique, the approach boils down to same thing — gaining muscle.

Eating for Well-Defined Muscles

As previously discussed in an article published about how much muscle you can gain in a month, the three main pillars of muscle growth are: nutrition, exercise, and hormones.

In this article, we’ll put the spotlight on nutrition and address your most frequently asked questions about what to eat in order to build muscle.

Let’s get started!

People use lean body mass and muscle mass interchangeably. Are they similar or different from each other?

Yes, lean body mass and muscle mass are two different things.

Essentially, all muscle is “lean” meaning it is primarily composed of proteins, which are lean. However, things start to get more confusing when some folks use lean body mass and skeletal muscle mass interchangeably.

Lean body mass (LBM), also known as lean mass, refers to your total weight minus all the weight comprised of fat mass. This includes your organs, your skin, your bones, your body water, and your muscles.

On the other hand, skeletal muscle mass (SMM) is a part of your LBM, but it is the part that is referring to the specific muscles used that are controlled voluntarily to produce movement and maintain posture. When you’re thinking about gaining muscle, you are actually referring more specifically to your SMM. This is what we want to track and here’s why:

Apart from changes in your SMM, a gain in your LBM numbers can also be a result of water gain. Water gain can occur from bloating or eating salty foods but also from swelling from injury or disease. That’s why you cannot attribute a increase to LBM numbers completely to muscle gains.

You can learn more about the distinction between the two in Lean Body Mass and Muscle Mass: What’s the Difference?

Now that we cleared that up, let’s dig into the facts and findings about muscle gains through diet and nutrition.

Is the hype about protein justified when it comes to bigger muscle gains?

Yes, to an extent. It’s an established fact that eating high quality protein within close temporal proximity (immediately before and within 24 hours after) of resistance exercise is recommended to increase muscle gains.

The strain of repetition when you perform resistance exercise tears the muscle fibers, and the protein intake (although macronutrients like carbs and fat play a role, too) provides the resources to rebuild the newly torn muscles into something bigger and stronger.

It’s also worth noting that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and as you most likely already know, your muscle is made up of these macronutrients. As we’ve emphasized in Why Everyone Needs Protein — Think of your muscles as the house itself while the amino acids that make up protein are the bricks.

The good news is that your body can manufacture a huge chunk of these amino acids. The not-so-good news is that some of them, also known as essential amino acids (EAA), can’t be made by the body. You have to get your EAAs from food sources.

In short, you need to follow a high protein meal plan that contains mixed amounts of these EAAs to help ensure increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS)

How do I know if I have enough protein intake to promote MPS?

As of June 2017, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) for building and maintaining muscle mass. Remember, your specific dietary needs depend on the amount of muscle mass you have as well as the type and intensity of your physical activity

With these figures in mind, let’s say you weigh 125 pounds (57 kilos), and you’re working to increase your LBM.  You would need 57 x 1.4- 2.0, or 79.8 – 114 grams of protein a day.

This may sound like a lot but it’s not. A cup (140 grams) of chicken contains 43 grams of protein.   Meanwhile, a can of tuna can contain as much as 49 grams.  Eating a cup of chicken and a can of tuna, you’d almost entirely meet your protein needs.  If you add in a glass of 2% milk (another 9-10 grams of protein), you’ve already hit your goal.

Below is a rough dietary guideline based on activity level:

  • 0.8-1.2 g/kg for regular activity
  • 1.2-1.5 g/kg for endurance athletes
  • 1.5-1.8 g/kg for strength/power athletes

If counting grams of protein for the day is not your thing, researchers have recommend an intake of about 20-40 grams of whey protein following a heavy bout of whole body resistance exercise to promote greater muscle recovery. The results stressed that the traditional 20 grams of whey supplement after working out did not promote as much MPS as the 40 grams of protein.

Can I build more muscle from eating too much protein?

Not really.

Researchers found that eating five times the recommended daily allowance of protein has no effect on body composition in resistance-trained individuals who otherwise maintain the same training regimen. That means that doubling or tripling your protein intake doesn’t translate to greater muscle gain after exercise.

It’s also worth noting that this is one of the first interventional study to demonstrate that eating a high protein meals does not result in an increase in fat mass.

Will too much protein hurt my kidneys?

While protein restriction may be appropriate for treatment of existing kidney disease,  some research has shown high protein intake in healthy individuals to not be harmful to kidney function.  Unlike extra stores of fat that the body is so keen about in holding on, the amino acids in protein are more likely to be excreted via the urine when not in use.

With that in mind, there are certainly risks associated with consuming too much protein so it’s wise to keep your intake in check.

So what our conclusion here? Eating more protein makes you feel fuller longer, can help curb overeating, and is essential for recovery and growth but don’t forget equally important nutrients like carbohydrates and fats for proteins when hitting your daily caloric goals (we’ll address this issue later).

Meat is often considered an excellent source of protein. So should I eat more meat to gain muscle? What if I’m on a plant-based diet?

Good question!

Sure, meat provides complete sources of proteins that are rich in essential amino acids so it truly is an excellent source of protein.

In a small study comparing  the effects of resistance training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle among two groups — older men with an omnivorous (meat-containing) diet and those with lacto-ovo vegetarian (meat-free) diet, the researchers found that the omnivorous diet resulted to greater gains in fat-free mass and skeletal muscle mass when combined with resistance training than the vegetarian-diet group.

Another study of 74 men and women who had type 2 diabetes — one half on a vegetarian diet and the other half on a conventional diabetic diet — were assessed at three and six months to measure how much weight they had lost. The study concluded that the vegetarian diet was almost twice as effective at reducing weight compared with the conventional diet.

But here’s the caveat — The greater weight loss seen in people on the vegetarian diet was also accompanied by greater muscle loss, particularly when maintaining their normal exercise routine. This might be an unwanted outcome and a disadvantage when compared with the omnivorous diet.

Finally, another research study examining the relationship between the type of protein intake and the level of muscle mass in healthy omnivorous and vegetarian Caucasian women found:

“A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower muscle mass index than is an omnivorous diet at the same protein intake. A good indicator of muscle mass index in women seems to be animal protein intake.”

Take note, however, that these findings do not automatically mean that animal protein is necessary to develop muscle mass.

As we mentioned in this in-depth article on whether or not you need to eat meat to gain muscle, the findings indicate that vegetarians might have a harder time getting adequate protein intake. As a result, they may not be receiving the same quality of amino acid variety to support muscle maintenance/growth as meat-eaters. This issue can be addressed by adding more variety in your diet or through supplementation.

So what about my intake of carbs and fat?

If you want to build muscle, increasing your dietary protein intake makes sense. However, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard carbs and fats.

For one, carbohydrates help replace glycogen and aids in enhancing the role of insulin when it comes to transporting nutrients into the cells, including your muscles. Combining protein and carbs also has the added advantage of limiting post- exercise breakdown and promoting growth.

In a nutshell, a diet balanced in protein, carbs, fats, and fiber is the most effective way to build muscle.

How about the ketogenic diet? Can it help me gain more muscle mass?

Most likely.  The main premise of a ketogenic diet is to opt for high fat, moderate protein, and a very low carb diet.

In an 11-week study of men who performed resistance training three times a week, the researchers found that lean body mass increased significantly in subjects who consumed a very low carb, ketogenic diet (VLCKD). Significant fat loss was also observed amongst the VLCKD subjects.

Does “when I eat” if I want to build muscle?

For decades, the idea of nutrient timing (eating certain macronutrients at specific times like before, during, or after exercise) and meal scheduling has sparked a lot of interest, excitement, and confusion.

A good example of nutrient timing is the idea of the anabolic window, also known as a period of time after exercise, where our body is supposedly primed for nutrients to help recovery and growth.

However, a review of related literature revealed that while protein intake after workout helps muscle growth, it may persist long after training.

If you’re going to ask the ISSN,  meeting the total daily intake of protein, preferably with evenly spaced protein feedings (approximately every 3 h during the day), should be given more emphasis for exercising individuals.

They also state that ingesting a 20–40 g protein dose (0.25–0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) of a high-quality source every 3 to 4 hours appears to favorably affect MPS rates over other dietary patterns, which allows for improved body composition and performance outcomes.

In short, it’s more important to focus on the total amount of protein and carbohydrate you eat over the course of the day than worry about nutrient timing strategies.

The Takeaway

In summary, here’s what you need to remember when it comes to eating in order to gain muscle:

  • Muscle gains are hard to come by if you don’t complement your exercise training with the right nutrition. Besides acting as fuel for physical activity, eating right helps in muscle recovery and development of new muscle tissue.
  • Pay special attention to your protein intake in order to build muscle. Helpful figures to remember are 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) depending on your body composition, activity type, and activity intensity.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about a specific amino acids and anabolic (muscle-building) superpowers. However, it’s still important to consume different sources of protein when you can and not just focus on a single protein source. Plus, remember that your body needs carbs and fat too.
  • Do not worry about when is the best time to eat your steak. Eating a portion of lean protein with some fiber-rich carbs and fat every meal is a good way to help your body repair and rebuild muscle after resistance exercise. As much as possible, increase make sure to complement your exercise with the appropriate nutrients to promote muscle recovery and growth.
  • If you’re on a plant-based diet, make sure you’re incorporating a wide variety of protein-rich plants to ensure that you’re getting the full range of amino acids. You may have to consider plant-based protein powder supplementation.

Remember, people have different goals when it comes to working out and gaining muscle  — from aesthetics to improved sports performance to feeling better about yourself. That means there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Whatever your goal, it all begins with one small step at a time. What changes are you going to make today?

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/what-to-eat-in-order-to-gain-muscle/

5 Ways Sitting All Day Wrecks Your Body Composition

By | Corporate Wellness

Think about how long you sit in a day. It’s probably something you have never tracked, but on average Americans spend more than half their waking hours sitting! Between sitting in traffic, attending class or work, or relaxing on the sofa the number of hours you spend sitting can add up quickly. Even if you exercise three times a week, you may still suffer from a sedentary lifestyle because its hard to counteract the total number of hours that you sit in a week. Why does this matter? How much harm can sitting most of the day actually do to your health? Quite a lot actually. According to recent studies, your inactive, sedentary lifestyle may be shortening your lifespan!

You May Want to Stand Up for This

Headlines like “Sitting is the new smoking” might seem like the type of clickbait health article you can dismiss because everyone else is sitting all day too so … how can it harm you right?

Not so fast. In 2009, over 17,000 Canadians participated in a study that sought to find a connection between sitting and mortality. Participants ranged in age, body type, and activity level. At the end of the study, researchers found an association between sitting time and mortality from all causes and concluded extended periods of sitting should be discouraged. A sedentary lifestyle where you sit all day harms your health by encouraging muscle loss and fat gain and increasing your risk factor for multiple diseases.  

In this article, we will cover the five ways your body composition is negatively affected by too much sitting. But don’t worry, it’s not all doom-and-gloom: we have tips on how you can break up long periods of sitting, even if you work a desk job.

#1: Insulin Resistance

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death among Americans. Those who sit for extended periods of time, don’t exercise, and don’t take care of their nutrition can experience insulin resistance, which happens when insulin isn’t able to transport excess blood sugar out of your blood and into your muscles. When insulin resistance because significant, that’s type-2 diabetes.

One study of 3,757 women found that women who sat for eight hours a day had a 56 percent higher chance of developing diabetes. Diabetics tend to have more fat within their bodies, particularly visceral fat, which can further encourage insulin resistance and keep them from being healthy.

In addition, diabetics experience quicker loss of muscle mass as they age compared to healthy individuals. The loss of muscle intensifies symptoms further deteriorates body composition.

#2: Risk for Heart Disease

Enzymes that burn body fat decrease by 90% when sitting for an hour or longer. The enzyme involved with body fat burning is called lipoprotein lipase, or LPL. LPL’s role is to produce good cholesterol, or HDL, which helps with triglyceride levels and protects against heart disease by keeping bad cholesterol from building up in the arteries. A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to decrease HDL Levels.  A low HDL level is a common metabolic syndrome risk factor and is associated with increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressures) and cardiovascular disease.

In a 2003 animal study, rodents were forced to stay lying down for most of the day – to simulate a sedentary lifestyle – and the researchers found that the LPL levels in their leg muscles decreased immensely. When they stood up, the enzyme was ten times more active! Although these studies with humans are still underway, its still a convincing reason to take short breaks with moderate physical activity.

#3: Muscles become weaker

When you sit, your gluteal muscles, abdominal muscles, and legs lay dormant. If you sit for extended periods of time day after day, these muscles can degenerate. Because the size of your metabolism is linked with your body composition – more muscle increases metabolism and helps your burn more calories – any muscle loss, especially from the lower body which is your largest muscle group, can lead to consistent fat gain if the diet is not changed.

In the future, gradual muscle loss from your lower body can hurt your functional strength and as you become older increase your fall risk and affect your ability to live independently.    

#4: Circulation Becomes Slower

Not only does blood flow to your brain slow down when you sit for too long, but the blood flow to your legs also becomes sluggish. Sitting for an excessive period of time without standing can increase the risk of developing blood clots. Most of the time blood clots are harmless and will dissolve on its own. But there is the possibility that the blood clot breaks off and cause blockage in the lungs, which can be fatal.  

One study showed a profound reduction in the vascular flow after sitting for just three hours. But the researchers found that those who took breaks and got up to walk around for two minutes, every hour, increased their lifespan by 33 percent.

#5: Bones Become Brittle

Long-term sitting and inactivity can lead to weakened bones. The Mayo Clinic has stated that “People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do those who are more active.” The reason is that bone is live tissue that is constantly in a state of forming new bone material and absorbing the old bone material. As we age the rate that bone is reabsorbed is faster than new bone that is formed. One of the factors that lead to rapid bone loss is a lack of physical activity.

Like muscles, bones become stronger when they are used. Engaging in walking and movement which includes weight-bearing can increase the durability of bones.

Tips to Get Moving!

 

How can you increase your physical activity, even if you work all day? You have to get creative. Here are some tips to help you get started.

  1. Transportation – Do you drive to work? If so, park as far away as possible to get in extra steps throughout the day. If you can, bike or walk to the office. Take the steps up to your office if you are not on the first floor. If you can work from home, work from your home office. When at home, get up, do some walking, and even walk to the library to do more work. Think about your day before it starts to get those extra steps in each and every day.
  2. Layout makeover –  Have you taken a look at your office? Sometimes moving your office objects may make it easier for you to get your steps in. Take a look, is your printer close to your computer? Try to move it across the room to make yourself get up and move. Most of us live with our cell phones very close to us. Move your cell phone’s charger by the printer; it will help you get up to move and keep you less distracted. Make coffee in your break room, come back and do some work, and get up again to get your coffee. Anything to get yourself moving counts towards your health.
  3. Change up the way you sit –  If you are allowed, sit on an exercise ball at your desk for short periods, or take it a step further and try a standing desk. There are unique ways of moving at work nowadays with standing desks, treadmill desks, and even bicycle desks. Imagine getting through one of your long meetings with an hour-long bike ride, instead of a large latte. If none of these are viable options, or if an exercise ball isn’t your thing, there are exercises you can do in your desk chair that engage the muscles of your core.
  4. Trade out your comfy chair – If you are not allowed to use a ball or cool new desk, try just an old fashioned wooden, uncomfortable chair. It will make you sit up straight if you must remain sitting, attempt good posture.
  5. Alarm clock – Set a timer every hour for two minutes of constant movement. Try to keep moving with different exercises, sometimes called deskercises, stretches, or take a lap or two around the building.
  6. Step Tracker – Motivate yourself by purchasing a step tracker. It is an eye opener to many individuals to see how much you are sitting around. Many trackers you can wear as a bracelet and challenge friends to different goals.

Now It’s Your Turn: Be a Role Model

If you work an office job or you have a full course load, it can be easy to become inactive and lead a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that recent studies found that just one hour of physical activity can potentially offset the 8-hour sitting marathon many people perform in their offices. That doesn’t mean that getting all your activity for the day in your one-hour gym session is enough because you can’t forget the time you spend driving and relaxing at home! The idea is to find opportunities to get moving.

Now that you’re at the end of the article, stand up and start moving! Your body will thank you for it.

***

Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB is a Registered Nurse certified in Obstetrics. She has been practicing in labor and delivery for over a decade. She developed her writing career in 2012, specializing in health topics. She, her husband, Adam, and two children Zachary and James reside in Cleveland, OH