Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is stress slowly killing us?

Having some stress is normal. It keeps our body alert, gives us energy, and helps us avoid danger. Stress starts to become negative when we face continual challenges and experience little relief in between. Continual stress starts to wear on our body and may play a larger role on our health than we once thought.

When we experience stress adrenaline is released into the bloodstream. This hormone increases your heart rate and blood pressure. On occasion this release is healthy, but frequent release could lead to health problems such as chronic high blood pressure, abnormal heart beats, and heart disease.
The hormone cortisol is also released into the bloodstream. This hormone increases the release of glucose into the blood for quick energy and tissue repair. Cortisol also inhibits functions that would not be essential in a fight-or-flight situation such as the immune system, digestive system, and reproductive system. This hormone also interacts with the brain, altering mood. It is believed excess release of cortisol could lead to changes in metabolism, lower immunity, and infertility. 

A study released this week from UC San Francisco followed 61 women for 1 year, half of whom where chronically stressed. Measurements of participant’s waistlines and fat distribution were assessed, and labs were drawn to identify insulin resistance, levels of stress hormones, and oxidative damage. Over the course of the year the women reported their intake of high sugar and high fat foods. The findings showed participants who were chronically stressed consumed similar amounts of high sugar, high fat foods but had significantly larger waistlines, higher oxidative damage, and more insulin resistance than lower stressed participants. This placed the stressed participants at higher health risk for heart disease and diabetes than unstressed participants who consumed the same amount of unhealthy food.
The study highlights the fact that weight gain and weight loss may not be as simple as calories in versus calories out. In previous animal studies fat cells grew faster in response to junk food under chronically stressed environments; this study suggests a similar metabolic response in humans.

How can we combat the inevitable chronic stress many of us face due to our jobs and living situations?
We need to develop a new attitude to problem solve and learn how to find solutions to limit the amount of stress we experience. We need to learn how to be flexible and “pick our battles”. We also need to learn to set limits and figure out when we need to say “No”.

We need to take care of ourselves. Eat health foods and avoid the junk; high sugar snacks and caffeine may be quick fixes but are not long term solutions to the problem. Start exercising to release “feel good” endorphins, relax tense muscles, improve your mood, and strengthen the cardiovascular system. Get enough sleep to be well rested and help your body recover from the stress you are under. Studies show lack of sleep can also increase the secretion of stress hormones in the body.
We need to relax more. Take deep breaths to slow the heart, stretch, and massage muscles to reduce tension. Take time to do something you enjoy and get away from the stressful environment. Stay away from unhealthy expressions of stress relief such as drinking too much alcohol, smoking, or overeating.   

We need to talk it out. Talk to trusted family and friends about your stress. Venting can be very cathartic and new perspectives and suggestions from others could help find new solutions you hadn’t considered. Also know when to consult a professional and your physician to learn better coping strategies and manage your health proactively.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Post Workout Recovery

Post Workout Recovery
Criticality of Nutrient Distribution and Timing

Your workout isn’t finished until you refuel
Research supports during the 20-30 minutes immediately following a workout your body is most receptive to muscle glycogen and protein synthesis. Glycogen is a type of carbohydrate stored in your muscles and in your liver. During exercise glycogen stores are used for energy and muscles breakdown from stress. Consuming a post workout snack replenishes glycogen stores, supports the restoration and building of muscle tissue, reduces post exercise fatigue, and aids in faster recovery.

Research supports a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is most effective in replenishing glycogen stores as well as increases the rate of protein synthesis. Consuming high protein snacks immediately post workout with little amounts of carbohydrates is not as effective for muscle tissue development. Alternatively consuming a snack mostly of carbs and very little protein is not as effective for muscle glycogen replenishment.
All sugar is not the same

Healthy balanced diets for athletes and nonathletes include limiting refined sugars. Processed foods, candy, and desserts are filled with sugar we want to avoid; for this reason sugar has a bad reputation. When it comes to increasing athletic performance sugar can be very effective and aid in workout recovery. Simple sugars such as glucose and fructose are rapidly absorbed and become excellent fuel sources during exercise. Post exercise, glucose especially, is quick to replenish depleted glycogen stores and reduce post exercise fatigue. Selecting natural sources of simple sugars, such as fruit, is recommended over candy or desserts.

Liquid post workout snacks can be consumed fast, aid in rehydration, and may be more portable than solid foods. Based on your preferences solid foods can be equally as effective. Aim for foods rich in glucose, high in glycemic value, and low in fat. The longer the duration and intensity of your workout, the more carbs and protein your body needs. Typically aiming for a 200-300 calorie snack is adequate for most workouts. Low intensity exercise and short duration may only require regular meals to properly refuel stores.
Post Workout Snacks
1 low fat string cheese and 1 apple (122 calories, 20g carbs, 6g protein)
1 cup low fat chocolate milk (170 calories, 25g carbs, 8g protein)
2 oz sliced turkey and 10 crackers (184 calories, 24g carbs, 9g protein)
¼ cup raisins with 1 low fat string cheese (190 calories, 32g carbs, 9g protein)
1 cup cheerios with 1 cup skim milk (191 calories, 34g carbs, 11.5g protein)
1 English muffin, 1 oz turkey, and 2 tbs hummus (219 calories, 30g carbs, 11g protein)
1 cup vegetable lentil soup with 5 crackers (230 calories, 41g carbs, 10g protein)
Smoothie with 1 cup skim milk, 1 tbs peanut butter, ½ banana, and ½ cup strawberries (245 calories, 35.5g carbs, 12g protein)
Low fat fruit flavored Greek yogurt and 1 banana (245 calories, 47g carbs, 15g protein)
1 English muffin, ¼ cup low fat cheese, ½ cup tomato sauce, and 1 cup vegetable soup (320 calories, 52g carbs, 14g protein)
2 waffles, 1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt and 1 tbs almond butter (334 calories, 36g carbs, 11g protein)
1 plain bagel and 1 hardboiled egg (344 calories, 52g carbs, 16g protein)
¾ cup low fat berry granola with 1 cup low fat plain yogurt (364 calories, 62g carbs, 17g protein)
2 tbs peanut butter, 2 tsp jelly and 2 slices bread (400 calories, 43g carbs, 14g protein)
1 roll, 1 oz turkey, 1oz low fat cheese, spinach, tomato, 8 oz orange juice (400 calories, 67g carbs, 17g protein)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Drink to Good Health: Resveratrol

This polyphenol (a type of plant compound) is an antioxidant that is naturally produced by several plants to provide protection from bacteria and pathogens. Red wine particularly has been touted as an excellent source of resveratrol, however the compound can also be found in blueberries, cocoa powder, cranberries, lingonberries, mulberries, peanuts, pistachios, purple grapes, red grapes, and in the roots of the Japanese knotweed plant.

The highest concentrations of the compound are found on the skin of red grapes making red wine highest in resveratrol. The amount of time the grape skin is fermented impacts the amount of resveratrol within the wine. White wine has less of the compound due to the skin of the grapes being removed earlier. Other factors including grape variety, humidity, and other environmental conditions also impact resveratrol content and the amount can range greatly from year to year. Most red wines contain anywhere between 0.2 to 12.59 mg/L of the compound. Typically organic wines are thought to have higher amounts due to less chemical usage and their need to produce more resveratrol to combat fungus. Pinot noir is fermented the longest with the skin intact which could also increase resveatrol levels. Wines from cooler regions such as Italian sangiovese, Australian shiraz, and French burgundy were found to have higher levels compared to warmer climates such as California, Spain, and South American wines.  

Resveratrol was discovered in 1939 but it was not until 1992 when scientists suggested resveratrol may be the reason for the heart benefits of red wine. The hypothesis was based on the “French Paradox” where high levels of saturated fat intake, smoking, and regular red wine consumption in France resulted in relatively low levels of mortality from coronary heart diseases. This suggested regular red wine consumption may provide protection from heart disease.  

Following the 1992 study, hundreds of reports have promoted the health benefits of resveratrol. The majority of studies have been conducted in test tubes or with animals. Several have been conducted on humans but these were not long term studies and have not shown significant evidence of resveratrols health benefits. Mouse studies have indicated activation of one gene that helps protect the body against side effects of obesity and diseases of aging. It is thought resveratrol may prevent heart disease by reducing inflammation, preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and preventing platelets from sticking together and forming clots. It is believes resveratrol may prevent cancer by reducing the spread of cancer cells. For Alzheimer’s disease resveratrol may protect nerves from damage. Resveratrol may also help prevent against insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce heart disease risk by 20-30%. Some studies have shown wine drinkers to have lower risks than people consuming beer or liquor; however other studies found no difference. It is not yet clear if polyphenols, such as resveratrol, in red wine have the most beneficial impact on reducing heart disease risk. Due to the limited studies in humans we are unable to confirm health benefits of resveratrol at this time.

Manufacturers have capitalized on selling resveratrol as a supplement, and while it is generally considered safe, the long term side effects have not been studied. Resveratrol does have estrogen like properties, similar to soy, and should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women. It is also recommended children and adolescents under 18 not take the supplement as the effects on development are unknown. People on certain medications such as anticoagulents (Warfarin), antiplatelet drugs (Plavix, Persantine), and NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen) are also advised not to take resveratrol supplements. Until more is known regarding the estrogen like properties of resveratrol, women at risk or with a history of estrogen-sensitive cancers should also avoid supplements.

In addition to resveratrol, red wine contains other polyphenol compounds and anthocyanins which have beneficial antioxidant properties. Until more research ensures the efficacy and safety of supplements my opinion is to consume these compounds from natural sources so they can work together in synergy with other phytochemicals.