Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Dietician does it again...

Now, I am not wanting to sound like I have an issue with dieticians, but this morning on BBC Breakfast they (well more specifically one of them - Dr Clare Leonard) over stepped the line.

Always, we are told how how a few of those with a dietetic degree think most of us nutritionist types to be quacks who peddle unnecessary supplements, bad science, and holistic nonsense. They will point to the lack of a dietetic degree (despite the fact that many of us possess science based degrees, masters or PhD's and are more current with the research than they are) as an indictment of the fact that we are not to be trusted. We could go on, but let's get back to the story in hand...

This morning's story was centred around the amount of sugar in breakfast cereals (us quack nutritionists have of course known this a long time) revealing the frankly astonishing amounts in some of the popular brands of cereal (in particular those aimed specifically at children tended to be the worst offenders).

In true BBC form they invited an expert in to talk about it (she must be an expert as she calls herself Doctor) - but we should of course mention that far from being impartial - Dr Leonard is the nutritional 'expert' for Nestle under the more official sounding moniker of 'Cereal Partners Worldwide' and clearly a strong advocate of us all eating a wheat/sugar refined cereal for breakfast.

Amongst some of the other unbelievable statements our good doctor has to offer was the fact (according to her) that "there is no research linking sugar consumption to obesity"

Yes, you read it correct, but in case you are finding it hard to comprehend that anyone with more than GCSE Physiology would say that I am going to write it again....

"there is no research linking sugar consumption to obesity"

Oh really??? I am sure that I need not go into the absolute dearth of research from some brilliant individuals, such as John Yudkin, Gerald Reaven, David Jenkins, or the pioneering concepts and findings from someone like T.L Cleave who realised many years ago the damage refined sugars and flour were causing. In fact, two things we can be pretty sure of are that sugar makes you fat and rots your teeth, while (by it's effects on insulin and links to insulin resistance) we can be pretty confident of its role in a whole range of maladies, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, parkinsons, gastrointestinal ills, and the list goes on (sometimes called diseases of civilisation or western illnesses due to the relative absence of them in indigenous populations until the arrival of 'civilisation' and the importing of sugar in its various forms).

Another of her pearls was that it is "fat in the diet that causes you to get fat" and at this point I nearly spat my eggs out all over the television in sheer incredulity at that statement. Clearly she has no knowledge whatsoever of triglyceride formation...some fructose anyone?

Why the BBC decided to interview such a one-eyed so-called 'expert' to do nothing but try and deflect questions and peddle false truths is beyond me. What is worse is that by calling her a Doctor they give the public the impression that this person is a medical expert and should be listened too.

Let me state this clearly. It is very rare, as someone who has studied and researched also, that I can state anything as equivocally as I am about to, but there is no place in your child's diet (or your own) for refined carbohydrates and sugar-filled cereals. There simply is no real basis on which you can argue for their inclusion. These foods are so devoid in nutrition that they actually have to try and add something back in during the processing. You could leave a bowl of cereals outside your door overnight and it would be left untouched by all the wild animals in the neighbourhood, which should tell you something!

What concerns me most is the effect these cereals are having on our kids from a young age, developing insulin resistance and hyperglycemia in our youngsters that is creating a dangerous public health issue, damaging organs, increasing their fat cells, promoting obesity and affecting behaviour. Kids are taught that food is super sweet, comes in a packaged box, and doesn't actually resemble any kind of actual food itself (scary how many kids now can't even recognise common fruit and vegetables....).

Any nutrition expert who doesn't think this is the case is either deluding themselves or has 'sold out' to a commercial interest. Simple as that. Those of us who work with regular people trying to lose weight clearly have a different perspective (sure, take a 24 stone teen who is eating 30 pop tarts for breakfast and replace with a small bowl of All-Bran and you might see a difference, but that is hardly evidence of the benefits of sugar laden cereals) on this topic.

If you'd like to read more then I highly recommend the excellent book, 'Diet Delusion' by Gary Taubes (sold in the USA as 'Good Calorie, Bad Calorie') although any good textbook on nutritional biochemistry will shed some light on the links between sugar and insulin...

Let's hope that next time the BBC covers this topic they do so in a better way than they did today, which quite honestly was RUBBISH!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Feel Better In 5 Minutes

We're on a bit of a roll with the whole injury prevention theme, so here's the final piece of the puzzle for putting together an effective warm-up; self myofascial release through foam rolling.
Foam rolling is essentially a form of poor man's massage. It works via something called autogenic inhibition. This involves increasing the level of tension on a muscle until it perceives it as potentially injurious. As a protective mechanism the muscle will then relax. The end result is decreased levels of resting tension in the muscle and improved mobility. The video shows the techniques for the quads, add/abductors and lats but it can be done all over the body. Just find where you are tender and gently roll your body over the foam roller on that area. Spend about 30-60 seconds on each area on a regular basis to get the benefits. For best results buy your own foam roller and use it at home for few minutes every day, it's cheaper than a massage.
On training days, foam rolling would come before the specific warm-up (see the previous posts for examples). Don't wait till after your injured to start warming up properly folks!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lower Body Warm Up

Following on from our last post, here is a lower body warm up focusing on glute activation and hip mobility. Just as everyone can benefit from increased thoracic mobility in the upper body, it is very important to learn to move from the hips rather than the lower back. This "spares the spine" according to Dr Stuart McGill, a world renowned expert in low back disorder. Essentially, the more mobile the hips and the better your gluteal muscles are at doing their job, the better your lower back will be.
When you sit at a desk for most of the day the glutes can tend to shut down and the hips can become stiff and immobile. This results in more stress being passed onto the lumbar spine and eventually to pain and disorder. These exercises are designed to counteract the effects of sitting at a desk all day. It can be done before any training session, or even on rest days as a form of active recovery. The more often the better.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sort Your Desk Posture Out

As much as every client is different and will have their own unique training needs, there are some things that just about every client can benefit from. I would count thoracic mobility and scapula stability among those things.

If you spend most of your day in a seated position then it is likely that you have poor thoracic mobility. This results in a slouched posture which in turn prevents the scapula (shoulder blades) from tilting back when you lift your arms. When the scapula is not tilting properly, it reduces the space in the shoulder through which the muscles of the rotator cuff travel and over time cause impingement (this is painful and bad!).
So, if you want to prevent shoulder injury you need to ensure that the thoracic spine has adequate range of motion and the muscles that control the shoulder blades, such as the serratus anterior and lower trapezius, are strong enough to move the scapula into the correct position.
Long story short; good thoracic mobility plus good scapula stability equals healthy, pain free shoulders.

Check out the video for a sample upper body warm up which focuses on the spine and scapula. Do this each exercise for about 45 seconds in a circuit fashion before training to start fixing that desk posture.

Team Aegis

Friday, April 03, 2009

'Healthy Appetite?' or maybe not....

I was very kindly bought a book for Christmas by the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay (obviously he didn't actually buy it for me), although most the recipes seem to have been created by Gordon's Head Chef at Claridges - Mark Sargeant. I have to confess, it has sat on a shelf in my kitchen for a few weeks, having been so busy and suffering from a very poor social calendar has meant little need for culinary guidance lately. The book is called 'Healthy Appetite' and is meant to include healthy recipes, however, on first impression I am not so sure how healthy they actually are...

Anyway, I thought I would have a little look at one of the 'healthy' recipes and have to say I was a little shocked. Now, I must supply the caveat that this isn't a thorough book review, that will follow soon. However, the first recipe that I arrived at was a so-called healthy breakfast smoothie and I have to tell you I was a little surprised at the ingredients.....

It starts off o.k with a couple of portions of berries, but goes rapidly downhill with the addition of milk and then 3 - 4 TABLESPOONS of sugar. Yes, you have read correctly, that is about 40 - 45 grams of sugar in one smoothie, plus the sugar in the milk and obviously that contained in the berries. In short, this recipe is about the last thing you would want to give someone with any degree of insulin resistance or blood sugar imbalance issues. There is little need to sweeten berries, but even if you REALLY need to then you can add in some Xylitol (however, this is in my opinion completely unnecessary). However, as recipes for a healthy breakfast go, this one is a long-way off and would benefit greatly from the addition of some essential fats, some whey protein, nuts, and the removal of the unnecessary added sugar........

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

More Anti-Atkins B@llocks!

O.k - it is a harsh title for a blog post. I accept that, but every once in a while someone shows me an article written somebody who clearly doesn't know what they are talking about. This particular little tirade against the Atkins diet that was recently forwarded to me is exactly the kind of uninformed rubbish that is pedalled by people who (despite putting a picture of the book on the article) haven't actually read the book, or any of the recent research, otherwise you feel they would be a lot less vilifying in what they wrote.

I am often criticised or challenged for trying to get people to eat more fat, reduce their sugar and grain intake. The usual accusation levelled at me in perjorative fashion is that I promote 'pseudo-Atkins' approaches, and it is usually uninformed comments like we see in the media or on peoples websites that provide the fuel for these. Mostly these comments are simply regurgitated verbatim et litteratim without a true understanding of what they are saying.

Try as I might, I cannot let this go unchallenged. So, in answer to recent comments in an article I thought I might try and right a few wrongs. So, here are a few of the comments from the article that are often cited by many dieticians and the public alike. I have bolded them with my viewpoints underneath?

The Atkins diet is a diet where you limit your carbohydrate intake and rely more on protein

O.k well it doesn't start on a good footing from square one does it? In a recent study over 12 months in the U.S comparing four different diet approaches (I'm going to come back to this excellent study) they showed that protein intake on Atkins was relatively comparable with both Zone diets and the national recommendations. What characterises Atkins over most common approaches is the greater fat intake. Has this guy read the book????

The problem with the Atkins diet and why many people think the Atkins diet is bad is that it is a great short term weight loss diet but very unhealthy for long term.

Hmmm, o.k well I'd love to see some references, but sadly they seem to have not been included here. In fact the article in case carries NO referencing at all. Well, this study at Stanford in the US would disagree with the above point. Check the abstract HERE .
You might be interested that contrary to the quote from the 'anti-atkins' article, the above study found that not only was Atkins more effective for weight loss, it was also the only diet in the study that showed FAVOURABLE changes in triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and Blood Pressure.
Long-Term concerns that are often voiced about this type of diet tend to centre around the possible effects of a raised protein intake on kidney health in those with sub-par kidney function. However, there is NO data to support this hypothesis and it remains nothing more than a caveat given by those who are now having to admit that it may not be quite the nutritional heresy it once was.

Carbs are very important for the body and are what give you energy when these are cut down as a short term fix this will make you feel lethargic and can trigger other emotional problems.

O.k I must of missed the section on 'essential carbohydrates' in my MSc lectures and nutritional study. This is clearly someone who has never tried this or used this approach. I could go into quite a deep lecture on this but lets keep this brief. Actually most peoples terrible issues with energy are due to their inability to regulate their blood glucose levels, which is caused (in most cases) by excessive intake of refined carbs, grains, flour, and sugar. We see consistent improvements in energy, mood, and many other measures by simply replacing many of these carb calories with fats. Controlling insulin is central to dealing with lethargy and energy issues, not to mention successful weight loss and to do this effectively you must look at carb intake.

We aren't saying that you shouldn't eat carbs. In fact the research show's that those with a high degree of carb sensitivity often lose weight better when they have a more moderate than low carb intake. However, the notion that carbohydrates are what 'gives you energy' is completely misleading, as is the portrayal of this as a 'short-term fix' - we view it as a long-term fix. We keep our carbs in most cases to a large unrestricted intake of vegetables, full of antioxidants, phytochemicals, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and many other goodies.

Now, I could be here all day pulling out references to support my criticism, but I am not the one completely slating the lowered carbohydrate, higher-fat approach. However, a recent study out in February completely contradicts the 'emotional problems' that this article talks about. The study by Yancy et al found improved quality of life scores on mental health with the low-carb group only! . This follows a similar study from 2006 in the Journal of Obesity where the authors concluded "that weight loss can result in significant improvement in a broad range of self-report symptoms and that, compared with an LFD, an LCKD results in specific improvements in mood".

I think that is that covered. Let's move on.

The other problem with the Atkins is once you come off it you will put on allot (sic) more weight as your body will have gone into a starvation phase storing fat not knowing when you will be given food next.

Oh please. Let's not pretend this is an Atkins phenomenon, in fact you are far more likely to experience this with a true fad diet such as the 'Special K Diet' or the 'Flat Belly Diet' or some such similar rubbish. The Atkins is not a fad diet, in fact in keeping with the word 'Diet' which actually means 'way of life' the Atkins is designed to help people find a way to live long-term that prevents weight regain (READ THE BOOK!!!!). Anecdotally a search of the many online forums shows how much success there is, while empirically the Stanford study that is cited above showed that compared to Zone, Ornish, and national recommendations, those who followed Atkins had a higher rate of success at keeping their weight loss off.

"The main danger with the Atkins diet is how you actually lose weight from it. The Atkins diet triggers a short term weight loss situation called ketosis.This can also be life threatening for individuals who have diabetes."

Oh good grief. It just gets worse, not this old chestnut! Please go and learn the difference between ketosis and diabetic ketoacidosis. I won't go into that here, but the low level of ketosis seen on the first two weeks of Atkins cannot be compared to the extraordinary levels of ketones that are seen along with dangerously high levels of blood sugar seen in diabetics. Ketogenic diets were often the treatment of choice for epilepsy in children - hardly something that would be used if it was so desperately bad for the kidneys. While there is slightly higher rates of kidney stones (3-7%) seen in children after 18 months, the chances of any side effects from the two-week induction phase of Atkins are almost always overstated and I've yet to meet anyone who had kidney failure from two-weeks of low-carb eating. I've eaten low-carb for several years now and am pleased to report my kidney's are still intact and functioning perfectly well.

You do lose weight in this way but mainly water weight, the carbs in your muscles and as you move along the process some fat but also muscle mass something you really don’t want to be losing and is certainly not healthy to lose.

I am going to overlook the grammar and get to the point. Bodybuilders have been dieting like this since most of us can recall. Actually Dr Mauro Di Pasquale, Author of the Anabolic Diet, bases it around the ketogenic approach. In fact, just about every expert out there who really knows what they are talking about would say this is the basis on which bodybuilders, fitness models and others are actually able to get lean for shows, ever met a bodybuilder who leans out with pasta, rice, and bread? Shifting to a higher fat and reduced carb intake can help shift the body's metabolism to prefer fat burning over carb oxidation, which is why ketogenic cyclic diets tend to be so successful.

I have never understood this criticism of lowered carb/higher fat approaches. Yes, you do lose some stored water, what exactly is the problem with that? Many people struggle with fluid retention so the reduction in bloating and oedema that can come through reducing carbs (refined carbs and grain raise insulin, which leads to kidneys retaining sodium and the body retaining water) is often welcomed. Not to mention the benefits of a reduced vascular load, as evidenced by the reductions in blood pressure seen on an Atkins diet.

Personally I would advise no one to use the Atkins diet but instead go for a healthy lifestyle change where you could lose weight fast and keep it off for good

Please share this with us? Let me guess? Low-fat? Special K? Muller Light? I think by refusing to admit that approaches similar to Atkins (let us not forget that the notion that sugar and refined grain products may be deleterious to health was being mooted by many others, such as Jerry Reaven, and the brilliant John Yudkin before Atkins) may have some merit - and indeed recent research is confirming this- you are in danger of not only misleading and confusing clients, you are missing out on possible tools to help clients, particularly those with insulin resistance and Syndrome X/metabolic syndrome.

Our above comments are not intended to be a direct criticism of the authors of the article in question, I am sure they are well-intended. However, it comes across like a piece that just echoes dogma and myths that have been leveled at anything other than the USDA Food Pyramid approach for years now. For us, if you are going to write such a strongly worded piece full of such absolute criticism and vitriol then you really should back it up with some solid science and evidence. As educators to the public we have a responsibility to report objectively on issues that are often misunderstood by them, instead articles like this cloud the waters rather than clear them.

Finally, we emphasis that here at Aegis we don't talk about stuff unless we do it ourselves. That's why we don't write articles on bodybuilding or high-end athletic conditioning, we write about diet and exercise for the everyday client and person in the street who we help and see results with EVERY week, often using approaches and methods influenced by such people as Atkins.
Part of our rule is not to advise clients on diets and training unless we have tried them ourselves, or at least researched them thoroughly, which is where, for us, this article falls down. It doesn't seem to us like the author has even read the book, which may be a good place for them to start......

The fact of the matter is that modern research is now showing strong evidence for the efficacy of low-carbohydrate and higher fat approaches for weight loss and the treatment of insulin resistance and syndrome X/metabolic syndrome. Like it or not, the results cannot continually be swept under the 'Atkins carpet' that dieticians in particular are so fond of using in such perjorative fashion.