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Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition

The Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to sports and sports fitness, general fitness, bodybuilding, nutrition, weight loss, and human health. Here, you'll find everything from nutritional information and advice about healthy eating to training and exercise tips for improving your overall well-being.

Are You Really Hungry?

Posted April 26, 2017 12:00 AM by Chelsey H

As a baby, when you were full you would stop eating. And you would only eat again when you were hungry. Don’t you wish it was like that again? That you didn’t just crave a donut because that’s what popped up on Facebook or you didn’t eat the bread on the table just because it was there.

Understanding hunger is surprisingly hard in a world full of foodies, Instagram, and too large serving sizes.

Eating should happen when you’re truly hungry which means your stomach starts to growl. You’ll also feel hungrier over time and you’ll be willing to eat anything – ideally something nutritious– rather than a greasy or sweet snack.

When the urge to eat hits, wait about 10 minutes before you eat. If it’s a craving, it will probably pass after a glass of water and some time. But that’s easier said than done because many people have lost the intuitive ability to know when to eat and when to stop.

It is possible to get that intuition back. Here are four things to try the next time you get the urge to eat.

1. Take a quick assessment – Run through a mental checklist to make note of your food triggers. Becoming aware of your habits is a powerful step toward becoming a mindful eater.

2. Grab a glass of water – If you want to eat, but your stomach isn’t rumbling, go get a glass of water first. It’s hydrating and filling without added calories. Water also serves as a pause for you to decide if you’re truly hungry.

3. Log it out – Jot down your hunger level before you start to eat. If you want to get really into it, write down what you’re feeling and what you’re eating. This will help you to understand what triggers different reactions.

4. Change it up – Get outside for some fresh air, do housework, chat with a friend. Do something else besides stand in front of the refrigerator.

Hopefully, these four steps will start to help you think first and eat second. Now I’m going to put down the trail mix and take a walk….What’s your plan?

3 comments; last comment on 04/27/2017
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How Hunger Works

Posted April 19, 2017 12:00 AM by Chelsey H

Today is the first post of a mini-series about hunger. This first post will discuss what hunger is and how it works.

Simply, hunger signals the brain that it’s time to eat with the vagus nerve serving as the communication line between the abdomen and the brain.

When your stomach is empty or your blood sugar dips, the hormone ghrelin in the gut communicates with the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus regulates basic body functions such as thirst, sleep, sex, and hunger. When the hypothalamus receives the message, it triggers the release of neuropeptide Y, which stimulates your appetite. When you’ve eaten enough, the brain releases leptin, a hormone that signals fullness. Leptin is stored in fat tissues and it works by turning down the production of neuropeptide Y and turning up levels of proopiomelanocortin, an appetite suppressant in our bloodstream. The hypothalamus ensures that our insulin and blood sugar levels are back up to the appropriate levels.

If everything is working correctly then our basic physiological need for food, homeostatic hunger, would be satisfied with exactly the right amount of lean protein and raw veggies at every meal. Unfortunately, several factors can mess with metabolism or throw your hunger and fullness hormones out of whack such as hormone levels, stress, sleep, and a predisposition to obesity.

Moreover, there is another kind of hunger known as “hedonic hunger.” “Hedonic hunger is associated with the way our brains perceive pleasure and reward,” says Dr. Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center. “Certain triggers will cause our brains to crave a snack to soothe or energize us.”

Fatty, sugary food releases chemicals called opioids into the blood stream, giving us a feeling of pleasure.

Understanding the hormonal process of hunger and eating makes eating a little less sexy. At least it makes the second bowl of Fruit Loops I’m eating seem less appealing. Being able to know if you’re hungry is an important next step to taking control of your eating. Keep an eye out for next week’s article.

24 comments; last comment on 04/24/2017
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Counting Steps to Nowhere

Posted April 15, 2017 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: exercise Health

Before my Fitbit, well, bit it, I was really focused on achieving my daily step-count goal. In fact, I was so focused that I even, on occasion, would walk up and down my stairs in order to achieve the preset goal of 10,000 steps before the stroke of midnight. Instead of risking failure and not earning a much-coveted fitness badge for that week, I chose to forgo sleep and instead “stepped” without a destination.

Ten thousand steps over the course of 24 hours didn’t always seem achievable, especially if the day was spent seated at a desk.

Lucky for me that my broken Fitbit is tucked away in a drawer (confident of a repair that will surely never come); otherwise, who knows what I would have to do as midnight approached in order to achieve the 15,000 steps being recommended by a recent study out of Scotland.

According to the study, which was published in the Journal of Obesity, 10,000 steps a day may not be enough to combat heart disease and other markers of poor health. Those researchers are now recommending an increase in steps to 15,000 a day.

Researchers observed 111 non-smoking Glasgow postal workers (55 office workers versus 56 delivery workers) and their daily activity by using physical activity monitors for one week. In addition to measuring their daily activity and age (participants were an average of 40-years old), researchers also considered the participant’s body mass index, waist size, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels in their research.

The findings were obvious: Those who spent fewer hours moving were found to be in poorer health than those that moved. Also obvious: Those who accrued over 15,000 steps a day had no signs of increased blood pressure, poor glucose metabolism, excess abdominal fat, or high levels of cholesterol.

For those of you ready to fling yourselves on the ground in a tantrum over the new recommendation, consider this: The sample size of the study is impossibly small, and the study only concentrated on a week’s worth of activities. There were no findings concerning what the long-term consequences or benefits of 15,000 steps a day might be. Even the 10,000 step count is, admittedly, arbitrary, without any evidence that this number was effective at combatting poor health either.

So, until another study calling for 20,000 steps a day comes out, take as many steps as you feel up to taking. After all, where is all of this step-taking leading us? If we are lucky, it is leading us somewhere with cheesecake and a nap.

Do you use a step-counter? Do you think that the 15,000-step goal is excessive?

90 comments; last comment on 04/20/2017
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Healthy Hops

Posted April 07, 2017 1:00 PM by MaggieMc

In honor of National Beer Day—which commemorates the day the Cullen-Harrison Act made beer legal again, after being signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 22, 1933—I have a study for you that gives new meaning to “self-medicating.”

Researchers at the University of Washington have recently discovered that humulones, a derivative of hops that give your beer its bitter, hoppy flavor, can sometimes benefit sufferers of diabetes, certain cancers, and other ailments.

Of course, these effects were only seen in moderation, so don’t consider it a free pass for unlimited alcohol consumption, but the results are still pretty interesting.

Prior to this study, others had recognized that beer and “its bittering acids” had beneficial effects on diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and even weight loss. Werner Kaminsky, a professor of chemistry at the University of Washington, sought to discover the exact structure of those bittering acids.

First, Kaminsky’s coauthors from KinDex Therapeutics “recovered acids from the brewing process and purified them.” The next step entailed converting the humulones to salt crystals.

Then, Kaminsky picked up the process, using x-ray crystallography to determine the exact configuration of the molecules.

According to Kaminsky, this will allow them to determine which molecule goes to which bitterness taste in beer, in addition to the configuration of the molecules. While the exact configuration might not seem overly important at first glance, humulone molecules “are rearranged during the brewing process to contain a ring with five carbon atoms instead of six.” This distinction can be the difference between producing beneficial or disastrous results in pharmaceuticals.

So, tonight, when you celebrate National Beer Day, remember hops are only helpful in moderation! …Or forget, I bet they’ll help with that too!

Image credit: Werner Kaminsky via EurekAlert!

3 comments; last comment on 04/10/2017
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Tea for a Healthy Brain

Posted April 05, 2017 11:00 AM by MaggieMc

A while back, I wrote a blog about the calories incurred when you add things like sugar or milk to your coffee or tea. After that, my father expressed horror at my drinking four cups of tea by the middle of the afternoon. (Some was decaf, I swear.)

According to a study from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, all that tea may be benefiting my brain—although I might not be aware of it for a while. The longitudinal study involved almost a thousand Chinese seniors aged 55 years or older, and it found that regular consumption of tea “lowers the risk of cognitive decline by 50 percent,” and for those with a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, it lowers the risk by as much as 86 percent.

The researchers determined that it took a little less than drinking an 8 oz. cup of your favorite tea once a day to see these kinds of results—although, it’s worth noting that the “results” were a lack of change in cognitive function, so drinking tea before an IQ test probably won’t help your cognitive functioning.

Assistant Professor Feng Lei, the study’s lead researcher, was particularly excited that “a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders late in life,” especially because preventive strategies for Alzheimer’s are widely contested.

According to Feng Lei, the benefit is likely due to “the bioactive compounds in tea leaves, such as catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins, and L-theanine,” which may protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration.

Going back to our tea-and-coffee-additives discussion, adding milk to tea reduces the absorption of catechin, meaning that adding that bit of milk could diminish the benefits.

The researchers are planning to conduct more studies to further understand the impact of Asian diet on cognitive health in aging, while continuing to pay specific attention to the benefits of tea.

Image credit: NUS News

14 comments; last comment on 04/07/2017
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