High Protein Diets: Good but in moderation

I’ve always been a proponent of incorporating a high protein diet to my weight loss program simply because I try to work out a lot and I’d like to build up some muscle mass too, but generally speaking, we should be wary of too much protein intake for a variety of reasons, not least the addition of extra fat which is what we’re trying to avoid.

Protein is generally a good thing to put into any daily regimen of meals provided that we are being smart about how we use it. The general rule of thumb is to figure gaining about 25% of daily calories from protein. Any more than that and we’re getting into some foggy areas regarding overall body health. Protein can be obtained from several different sources, of course. Red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and nuts are common sources but again, we should consider what other elements we acquire from these food sources. Red meat tends to be high in protein but also provides a lot of harmful saturated fats, cholesterol and some undesirable Amino acids that can affect the body’s digestion. Eggs are high in cholesterol. Chicken and fish are generally safer options and nuts, despite being relatively low in protein concentration, are also good.

Two issues I’d like to mention about high protein diets are fairly important. Bodybuilders will tell you that the higher the protein, the quicker the weight loss. What they don’t tell you is that their exercise regimen demands that extra content in order to build muscle. If you are up-taking huge amounts of protein without the extra exercise, the body will immediately convert that into body fat. Also, eating large meals at night that are high in protein also causes issues. Think about it. It’s 11.00pm and you have a big meal of steak and fries. Your body is getting ready to shut down for the night and exercise is done for the day. While you sleep, all of that protein goes immediately to your middle as the body’s metabolism is in idle. My work schedule in my last job demanded late night meals and I’m convinced that is where my belly fat came from. Nice one Raymond!

The other aspect of high protein diets that we have to be careful of is the nutritional supplement obsession that seems to invade every dieter’s mentality. Once we get wind that protein is good, we all trundle off to the GNC store and spend hundreds of dollars in large quantities of protein powder that we immediately think will drop weight off like a stone. Wrong. It won’t, but what it will do is affect your kidney function if you consume too much protein. A by-product of protein breakdown by the kidneys is urea which has to be excreted as urine. Force more protein in the system and the kidneys have to work harder. Just a thought.

High protein diets like everything else in life are good provided they are implemented with just a modicum of common sense. Remember, 25% of daily calories and no more. Throw the bottles of protein powder away. No late night steak dinners or the like and concentrate on fish or chicken to give that extra protein boost.

If we can do that, those high protein diets can be a huge asset to your weight loss program.

The Gastric Band: Drastic and difficult

As someone who doesn’t suffer from a major, debilitating weight problem, it is difficult for me to imagine ever resorting to the Gastric Band to enforce my weight loss principles. However, despite being drastic and difficult, sometimes it is necessary but surely the trick is to act before we get to this point in our journey.

Surgery for me under any circumstances is so painful mentally, that if I can figure out a way to chicken my way out of it, I’ll do it. Weight loss for many people is a simple process. Eat less, exercise more and the weight falls off. Not everyone is that fortunate so in some cases, people resort to extreme solutions such as the insertion of a device called the Gastric band. It consists of a saline filled piece of silicon that wraps around the opening to your lower stomach like a plastic tie. It reduces the size of the volume of your stomach so that it takes less food for the body to tell the brain “No Mas”. The surgery is done laparoscopically and the patient generally recovers quickly in a matter of days. A relatively simple procedure if that is what is needed.The device has achieved mixed results across the board with all demographics and has several side effects that can become very unpleasant.

Before I move onto my next point, let me first say that I understand that there are many medical reasons where the only suitable weight loss option is the Gastric Band, and that regular dieting and exercise might not be possible. I am directing my comments towards those of us who haven’t had the stones to follow a dieting plan, and haven’t been dedicated enough to exercise regularly as part of their daily routine. My sympathy simply dribbles away for this person who now, as a result of having reached a weight that has become unmanageable because of sheer size, has to have the Gastric Band inserted which has become their only option to lose weight. To these people, I ask why?

I can recall mentioning on many occasions that weight loss is all part of a general state of mind. It’s about creating a culture so that the person, rather than the diet, controls the weight problem. Regimens of that type are far more successful and long lasting than the short, sharp, shock that many people employ with only meager results. I implore anyone reading this who is facing the possibility of surgery and who has an opportunity to avert it through self-management. Forego the surgical procedure and dedicate yourself to following the simple procedures that we have discussed over the past several weeks. It has to be the easier option, doesn’t it?

The Gastric band has many features that make it a fit for dieters with specific weight loss needs. To the rest of us, it should be a last resort.

How to Lose Weight the Old Fashioned Way

Let’s face it. There are literally hundreds of diet plans and exercise regimens available today that will drop the inches off any waistline given enough time. Some are affordable, some are not, but either way, if you are really committed to the cause, it is relatively straight-forward to lose weight the old fashioned way.

Losing weight is truthfully just simple math. Provided that the calories your body uses for energy is more than the total consumed through food and drink in a day, then your body will lose weight. It is at times, a little more complicated than that but basically that format will start you off on the road to weight reduction. As a rule of thumb, for every 250 calories that you burn over and above what is consumed each day, in a seven day period, the body should lose just over 1lb in weight. The trick with this regimen is to position your levels at points where the body doesn’t decline because of a lack of nutrients and where too much exercise doesn’t cause injury to a stressed metabolism.

Calorie intake should be pegged at about 1250 per day, along with an hour of exercise with 20 minutes of that vigorous. This should be a benchmark to start work from. Reducing fat, sodium and starch intake will also help as fluid will be lost at a greater rate than normal. Along with that, you must consume a healthy amount of water per day, about 6-8 eight ounce glasses will make sure the body stays hydrated properly.

Focus on eating 5-6 times per day and dispense with the huge meals, especially after 7pm. Food groups should be fruit, vegetables, fish and lean meats such as chicken and shellfish. Soda has to be eliminated, even in diet form, and can be substituted with soy products. Whole grain cereal and bread will maintain roughage levels and help to prevent intestinal problems especially during the period immediately after the new regimen has begun. Processed foods should be regarded as ‘Kryptonite” as their nutritional value is appalling and they contain a huge amount of sodium.

Measuring serving amounts is a great tool for understanding exactly how much food a person consumes on a daily basis. Many dieters are horrified once they start to record their food intake as the comparison to what had been the norm for them, is now so much less. As we have talked about before on several occasions, what we are looking for here is to change the culture of eating and poor exercise. Tracking your numbers in this way daily helps to create that confidence and encouragement that we sometimes need to sustain us through the dog days of any weight loss program.

If we can follow some of these guidelines, we can eliminate some of the excessive cost involved with structured diet plans that involve the purchase of large amounts of pre-packed food, and embark on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

As we can see, it isn’t hard at all to lose weight the old fashioned way. You just have to earn it.

Dieting or Exercise for Weight Loss: Why not both?

Many people have long held the belief that exercise has to be a part of any weight loss program and that it forms a more important part of losing weight than anything else, including diet. However, recent studies have shown that for the long-term, exercise on its own is not sufficient to lose weight consistently. So dieting or exercise? Why not both?

For me personally, I’ve always felt that exercise is essential to any weight loss program that is going to show success over time. No matter how many calories you drop, if you cannot burn them during the course of your regular day, then your body will find a way to store those chemicals as fat and add to the poundage. However, recent studies have shown that dieting seems to provide better results.

The theory is that control of calories is much more of a realistic and achievable target than an exercise program that involves trips to the gym, along with strenuous and sometimes difficult work-out sessions in uncomfortable environments. Human nature being what it is suggests that we are more likely to throw in the towel on the gym membership before we start eating the chocolate cookies again. A lot of this, to me is common sense, but I guess in order to scientifically prove the theory, researchers had to travel to deepest Africa and subject an ancient tribe to all kinds of weird experiments with “tagged hydrogen and oxygen molecules”, GPS sensors and strict diets to track how fast they burnt calories and also how far they traveled on their hunting expeditions. All too much for me.

Basically, I maintain that a stringent weight loss plan has to have BOTH a dieting and exercise component and that the successful people that lose the significant weight are typically those who manage to find time, and the willingness, to do both. I always found that dieting came relatively easily but that the exercise, unless a ball was involved, had to be structured. The old exercise bike in the garage along with the headphones just wasn’t enough to float my boat for long enough to lose any noticeable pounds.

Weight loss is a state of mind and not just some schedule that’s written on a calendar or an entry in a personal trainer’s daily log. It is a commitment that needs to be made not just to achieve the goal of losing your target number of pounds, but extends into your activity habits for the rest of your life. I’d rather all of this hard work and sacrifice actually led to a healthier, and happier life. The intention is not to go grab a double cheeseburger once I break the tape of my weight loss target. It is to continue on beyond to maintain a constant healthy weight, and with that in mind, at least for me, both dieting and exercise need to form a solid partnership in my weight control schedule.

Fitbit: Fitness with Social Media and Mobile

One of the problems I’ve had personally with maintaining my weight and fitness program is with staying motivated over the long term. Anyone can diet or work out for a couple of weeks but what happens a year, or two years from now? FitBit provides a complete environment for the least social of us to maintain focus through Facebook, Twitter our Smartphones.

Dieting and weight loss is as much about the social aspect of what to do and not do as it is about the technical issues. Top athletes will tell of the times when they had to train on their own for weeks on end and found it almost impossible to accomplish their goals. Once they were immersed back into a “team” atmosphere, they became more comfortable and content and as a result, achieved much more.

Fitbit is a way for the average Joe to share experiences and achievements through social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as providing the technology support so that the consumer can make the most of current technology to keep track of performance and goals. For instance, Fitbit provides an interactive weight scale to track weight loss, calculate BMI index, and put your information to work at your fingertips digitally. There is a device called Fitbit One which tracks distance travelled, speed, steps taken and folds it all into a socially shareable statistic which can be used to motivate friends and fellow exercisers travelling along the same path to similar goals. The Fitbit One will also track sleep patterns and wake you up in the morning.

There are Mobile Apps that allow the athlete to track all data through their Smartphone, IPad or tablet and keeps information current and available at all times of the day or night. The app has just become available for Android. Fitbit Flex is a wristband that incorporates all of your daily exercise and dieting data into state-of-the-art technology. The new advances in the Fitbit Flex ensure that complete accuracy is maintained so that the information you glean from the device is meaningful.

One of the things I love about Fitbit is the Social Media aspect of the device. Sharing experiences and gaining support and motivation from fellow exercisers is very important. Nothing is worse than struggling through a difficult part of any weight loss program, hitting the wall, and feeling like you’re in a “desert” with no life around you and no help on the way. Fitbit puts you back into that “team” atmosphere.

I’m a Social Media freak anyway so this type of technology is a must for me. Prices are reasonable with the Fitbit One and the Fitbit Flex starting at around $100 each. In my view, that is a very small price to pay to gain the motivational support that we all need from time to time while pursuing our goals of maintaining weight loss.

5 Reasons To Not Use Nutrisystem as Part of Your Weight Loss Program

One of the most popular and visible weight loss programs on the market today is NutriSystem. Around since 1972, many would think it would be the ideal way to lose waistline inches fast. However, here are 5 reasons as to why you might not want the people at Nutrisystem handling your diet plan.

1. Too expensive
At an outlay of around $300-$350 for a 28 day plan, the cost of Nutrisystem can be excessive as their customized diet program also requires the customer to purchase fresh food such as fruit, vegetables and water to complement the meals that they provide. This probably should be obvious to most people but in many cases, this is one of the major complaints. Remember, the food that Nutrisystem sends you is readily available at any grocery store.

2. High quantities of sodium in their pre-packaged items
If you are a food fanatic, or if you just read the food labels on packaged foods, you will know that there are huge amounts of sodium contained in all of that stuff so Nutrisystem’s plan cannot avoid the issue as they send you a full month’s supply of food in advance. Customers with heart or kidney issues should stay clear of the plan for health reasons but as with any dieting plan, you should consult with your doctor first anyway.

3. Requested foods substituted too often
As a dieting customer, Nutrisystem allows you to request your own menu which would seem to be a feature of the plan, provided that when the food is shipped, it actually corresponds to the order that was placed. In many cases, apparently, food is substituted without prior consultation which would be a huge issue for me. For example, if you are a vegetarian, do you really want an eggplant lasagna replaced with a Veal Parmigiana? I don’t believe I would.

4. Health Side Effects can be difficult
Some consumers have reported experiencing some physical side effects such as bloating, constipation, nausea, and stomach pain among the most common. My own feeling about this is that the diet is based on certain pre-requisites such as 25% protein, 55% carbohydrate, and as much as 20% fat. These combinations do not necessarily agree with everyone’s metabolism. Remember also that the diet plan requires the user to drink eight glasses of water per day.

5. No long-term weight control benefits
The problem with a program like NutriSystem is that it is “weight loss in a box”. If the user discontinues the plan and reverts back to old habits, the weight returns. Part of establishing effective weight control is to embed good eating habits alongside regular exercise which is independent of an outside source.

Generally, I think Nutrisystem is an effective program of weight loss. If the consumer does what he or she is told, then the benefits are well established. You simply don’t stay in business for 40 years in a market like this without having consistent success. Would I use it? No. I wouldn’t. For me, it is way too expensive and I am a huge advocate of establishing personal habits that become everlasting and are not short term. However, if I was a career minded executive, who had little time for cooking or exercise, and where cost was not an issue, I might very well give Nutrisystem a shot.

Worst case scenario is that if you don’t like the program, then send the food back and wave goodbye.

Paying for a gym membership? Pay for a personal trainer too

Many people as part of their weight loss program include a gym membership in order to add some structure and discipline to their routine. A great idea, but for people like me, I need some extra motivation to push the envelope on the days following a late night out. If you’re paying for a gym membership, make sure you pay for a personal trainer too.

Far too many times, the best intentioned of folks that really want to lose some serious weight start off like gangbusters. They follow every little twist and turn of their diet schedule and they religiously complete their workout routines to the second. All seems to be going well and then suddenly, the wheels start squeaking. Maybe you’ve had a long day at work and feel extra tired, or you had a late night out and can’t quite rise to the alarm at your customary 5.00am. Either way, these are the dark days of weight loss programs. Typically, anyone can follow a diet and exercise plan for a couple of weeks, but when you hit “the wall” for the first time, the boys easily get separated from the men.

It’s for this reason that I highly recommend you invest in a personal trainer when you enroll at a gym. The benefits are huge, and not least, quite simply, you have a motivating force standing right next to you when things start getting tough. For me, being an older male, I’m not able to put the same amount of vigor into my workout routines as I used to say 20 years ago. When I rode the exercise bike at home, the minute I started to get tired, I’d hop off the bike and tell myself that “I’ll make it up tomorrow”. Guess what. You won’t. The situation is very similar to going to school. If it wasn’t for teachers, we might still be walking around with our knuckles dragging on the ground.

If you can find a really dedicated personal trainer, your progress will feel so much more accomplished. Your trainer will set up a plan that is co-ordinated for you, your routine, and your body frame. He or she will monitor your progress and set daily and weekly goals which will add that extra little bit of bite to your routines. There’s no doubt that there will be times where you grow to hate that personal trainer, but it is all part of the focus in getting that weight off permanently. Additionally, you have someone who you can bounce questions off regarding diet, general exercise and any other health matters that don’t require a medical professional.

The extra cost of a personal trainer might be considerable in some cases depending on where you live, and may as much as double the outlay for the gym alone, but trust me, it is worth it over the long haul.

The Great Beer Belly Debate: How to lose it

If you are anything like me, over the last several years you’ve probably put on a few pounds here and there. The problem is that extra weight usually finds its way to your waistband and begins to block the view of your shoes. It’s called the “Beer Belly”. A simple term but how do we get rid of it?

The trick, in my view, is relatively straightforward but sometimes that simplicity gets lost in the mass of information about weight loss and exercising that we’re flooded with every day. There’s a bunch of literature, books, DVD’s giving you all the “easy” fixes to miraculously get rid of the beer belly while sitting on the couch sucking down the third bowl of ice-cream. There are some wonderful weight loss programs out there that will shed pounds in a hurry. However, I’ve learnt that if you want to lose belly fat, you need to bring two qualities to the starting line. Dedication and good ‘ole hard work! If you’re reading this and you say to yourself “I’ve heard all this crap before”. That’s great. Read it again, because if you’re here on my blog, you obviously didn’t listen clearly the first time.

1. Stop drinking beer
This should be obvious but it needs to be said. Beer is full of calories (about 150 per bottle) so 3-4 of these babies will shoot up any gains you might have in other areas. If you’re a regular consumer, halve the intake and drop to lite beer (only 100 calories).

2. Work those ABS
No amount of dieting will get rid of the gut fat unless you work the abdominal muscles. The reason the beer belly got there in the first place is because muscle tissue has declined towards middle-age and so the calorie usage has dropped. If you have a desk job, tighten the muscles to see how long you can hold them. Do that 10 times a day every morning and repeat every afternoon.

3. Eat little and often
Replace those big evening meals and lunchtime fast food specials with 5-6 smaller meals per day. The Nutrisystem diet program has used this principle for years and made millions out of it. No more McDonald’s, Burger King, Steak n Shake etc. If you must eat out, grab a Subway sandwich.

4. Regular cardiovascular exercise
Try to establish a workout plan that involves exercise that gets the heart racing. Walking is fine to start with but the body adjusts the metabolism to compensate after a while so you have to increase the level of fat burning. A minimum of 30 minutes to start with and then step it up to no more than 60 minutes. Try to join a gym as this will force you into a routine.

5. Cut down on the sugar
Sugar is one of the body’s biggest enemies when it comes to weight gain. Processed foods such as hot dogs, cookies, hamburgers, and pretty much anything associated with chocolate should be reduced dramatically.

Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.

If you keep to this regimen, you will see progress but because of our age, it will be slow. The trick is stamina for the long haul. Many of us just accept that we are what we are and don’t think we can lose weight now that we’re a little older. That’s a crock.

Let’s get to it, people! There’s a beer belly out there to get rid of!

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