The Real Truth about Low Carb…

Hi & Welcome Back!!

There seems to be a real lack of consensus as to what low carb means in a food  / diet choice..

For many people the term low carb means ‘old’ style Atkins  where the perception is that you ate nothing but fatty meats, cheese and eggs. (this of course was not true – the ‘old’ Atkins was more severe in terms of carb intake than the later versions, but all most folk know about the Atkins diet is the severe carb reduction of the initial 2 week dial in phase) For others low carbs means carbs making up less than 60% of your daily food intake. For still others it means aiming for no more than 20% of your food coming from carbs.

It is confusing – especially when diets that advocate a 40 / 30  / 30 split amongst the macronutrients is called ‘low’ carb when it patently is not.

For me Low carb is a misnomer and confusing – what we should be eating is as close to NO PROCESSED Carbs as possible.

In terms of general health & well being, in terms of stimulating your metabolism I don’t recommend low carb. Carbs are great! They are your body’s preferred fuel source after all.

But… and it is a big but…it depends upon the type of carbs that you choose to eat.

If you have been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that I am dead set against processed carbs. No ifs, no buts these have been proven time & again to wreak havoc on our bodies – especially when they are eaten like is predominant in the western lifestyle. The effect they have on your hormones (especially insulin) on your body composition (fat storage anyone??) on your energy levels (Afternoon fades anyone??) and your general health verges on the deadly.

By Processed carbs I mean sugar (in all its forms), white flour, white rice, most pasta, sodas, fruit & vegetable juices, any food labelled ‘diet’ or Low Fat’, cakes, cookies & breads – if it comes in a box or your grandmother would not recognise it as food – it’s a processed carb. Processed carbs also stimulate your appetite, meaning that you have to fight cravings  for more food because the processed carbs are so nutrient sparse that your body triggers its hunger stimulants to try to get more of the nutrients that it needs.

Preferred carbs are those remain as close to the filed as possible – the classic fresh fruit The shaper we get from eating processed carbs...and vegetables (frozen too!!) are high in fibre, create a higher TEF (Thermic Effect of Food – ie our body burns calories just to process them!) and have vitamins & minerals. These are the real deal – most are low in calorie count and high in nutrients and frankly I believe that you should eat as much low or unprocessed carbs as you want to. The only caveat being that you should ensure that you eat a variety of carbs,. If all you eat is pears – you could put on body fat due to the way fructose is metabolised – fibre or not. But a variety of fruit & vege choices ensure that this type of potential effect doesn’t happen.

But the real secret to eating healthy carb is to ensure that you have some protein with every meal.

If I eat a plate of pasta I am hungry again in short order. If I eat a plate of steak and veges.  I am sated for hours to come. Carb type matters.

Eating 2000 calories of processed carbs will, I guarantee, ensure that you are hungry again in a short time and are causing large insulin spikes as your body tries to deal with the increase in blood sugars. This is what happens to most  people… once they start eating large portions of processed carbs like pasta, cereals, or rice it becomes hard to stop and even worse they want more an hour (or less) later!

Now if you were to eat the same 2000 calories as low or unprocessed carbs a couple of things would happen. Firstly the sheer bulk of this amount of unprocessed carbs would ensure that you did not feel hungry for hours and secondly this amount of unprocessed carbs would mean that you would have to eat more slowly and slow eating has been shown to beneficially affect both metabolism nutrient uptake and satiety.

What I have found that works best for me is to avoid as many processed carbs as possible, try to have some protein with every meal and eat as much unprocessed or low processed carbs like fruit & veges as I want.  This is not eating in the ‘old’ Atkins style, it just means reducing or avoiding cereals, grains & pasta products, refined sugars and diet or low fat dairy products as much as humanly possible.

I am not going into the Paleo / Hunter gather diet versus the Western diet here – but the way I find works best for me is closer to this than the Government approved, obesity inducing food pyramid. I honestly think that this is the healthiest way to eat.

All it takes is a little lateral thinking – eat your burger without the bun, have your eggs without toast for breakfast, drink water instead of fruit juice have a sald instead of rice and os on. Try it – you will feel better, your energy levels will rise and like as not your fat will begin to decrease. Cool!

So the message is not to eat low carb, but eat low or no processed carbs as much as possible. Trust me your body will thank you for it!!

Be well. Don’t forget to lik us or Tweet…

8 Exercises, 7 Ways & 8 Foods to boost your Metabolism

Hi & Welcome back!!

This week I want to give you some specific foods, exercises and techniques for boosting your metabolism. As you know a faster metabolism means a leaner body and less body fat. You also know that in order to fit healthy & lean you need to use a combination of diet, exercise and lifestyle to achieve this.


The best format to use when exercising as I have discussed in earlier posts is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The best way to use utilise this training protocol is to do what is called Metabolic Resistance Training which is a mix of resistance and cardio training. You do this by creating a cycle or chain of exercises that are performed as a circuit for a set number of rounds.

A good basic bodyweight chain is:

  • Push ups
  • Squats
  • Chin ups

Still a killer metabolic booster…

Run through this chain 3 – 5 times with 2 minutes rest between each round and you will raise your metabolism for hours to come. However this is a format, a protocol that gives results.

In terms of actual exercises to pick…Overall the best ones to use are those which use a lot of muscle (ie compound exercises) and create a high metabolic cost. So the list below is my picks for the best overall metabolism boosting exercises. It is not exhaustive nor is it meant to imply that you would do a workout that uses all of these exercises. Instead you can take a couple of these and combine them into a circuit and get the most bangs for your metabolic buck that way….

1.       Deadlifts

2.       Chin / Pull ups

3.       Squats

4.       Push ups

5.       Burpees

6.       Jumping Jacks

7.       Weighted Box Step ups

8.       Push presses

7 Ways to Fire Up Your Metabolism

Sometimes the smallest things—like getting more protein in the morning or enough rest at night—can lead to the biggest weight loss surprises.

Don’t skip breakfast.

Eating lean protein along with some complex carbs in the morning will get your metabolism revved up for the day ahead. Protein from eggs will help stabilize your blood sugar, make you feel fuller, and keep you from overeating later in the day.

Get your beauty rest.

Human growth hormone works directly on cells to increase your metabolic rate by 15 to 20 percent and can only be produced during the hours of deep sleep. So make sure you get a good night’s sleep!

Eat Whole Foods

At mealtimes, try consuming lean proteins from beef, lamb chicken or fish along with low GI complex carbohydrates from fruits and veggies. Eating this way kills cravings, enables you to feel full, and helps you avoid the downsides of sugars and their insulin spiking effects. This magical combination will speed up your metabolic rate as food is transformed into usable nutrients. Food not only provides fuel for your body, but it also provides specific instructions for your metabolism.

Eat Often

Every time you eat you increase your metabolism, the more often the more your metabolism boosts. Grazing all day is okay but can be difficult to manage. Try to eat 5 or 6 protein containing smaller meals to get more boosts in your metabolism!


Build Lean Protein Into Every Meal

Your body has to work much harder to break down protein – it increases your metabolism by increasing the Thermic Effect of Food. Adding protein to every snack and meal will increase your metabolism boost.

Avoid Highly Processed Foods

Check foods that have a label closely for the various types of sugar (Maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose, lactose, sucrose etc etc) High Fructose Corn Syrup and Hydrogenated Oils (Trans fats). These ingredients wreak havoc on your metabolism, generally lack fibre and don’t do a thing for your health.

Don’t Eat Carbs or Fat Just Before Bed

Instead have a protein shake (made with casein if possible as it is absorbed more slowly) as this will provide plenty of fuel for your body to use for repair & renewal while you sleep. Eating carbs or fat within 2 hours of going to bed however increases the chances of them being stored as fat.

8 Foods to Boost Your Metabolism

You know if you look over the magazines while you are waiting in the supermarket queue you’ll see endless headlines about the latest ‘super food.’ There seems to be one every week promising to melt those pounds away while you do whatever you want.

Often a good food is marketed with an emphasis more on people’s fears than any real effect it has. (Look at Acai berries – great for vitamin C, terrific source of antioxidants but not a miracle for fat loss…)

Unfortunately such foods with those wanted effects do not exist.

Without regular challenging exercise, a metabolic enhancing meal plan and a decent night’s sleep, your metabolic rate is not going to do anything except to stay sluggish.

The good news is that there are a number of things you can eat that will stimulate your metabolism. Even better all of these foods are delicious and nutritious.

Here are eight of my favourites:

  1. Fish.If you are a regular reader of this blog you’ll be familiar with the benefits of taking a fish oil supplement – simply put Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to your good health and to a faster metabolism. Not to mention their anti-inflammatory effects and other benefits. But Fish itself is a great source of protein. Protein increases your metabolism through increasing the Thermic Effect of Food (ie our body has to burn more calories to digest protein than it does for fat or carbs). In fact eating fish has been found to boost your calorie burn by as much as 400 calories a day.
  2. Dark green leafy vegetables. You know the ones – spinach, chard, kale, silverbeet, chicory, collard greens and so forth. These types of Veges are full of fibre (which increases your metabolism because of the extra calories needed to process it and ‘move’ it along. They are also full of vitamin A, vitamin C, loads of B group vitamins, calcium, and loads of other phytonutrients and minerals.  Most Veges are high in fibre, low in calories and boost your calorie burn, but nutritionally speaking the dark green leafy vegetables are the best overall.
  3. Tomatoes. Tomatoes contain high levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which is an anti-cancer phytonutrient (especially good for avoiding prostate cancer so the research suggests – so fellas need to eating a lot of tomato products) They also contain 3 acids in abundance – malic, citric and oxalic acid. These acids support your body’s kidney & liver functions which means that eating tomatoes helps your body eliminate waste and fat. Lastly like dark green leafy Veges, Tomatoes are a good fibre source.
  4. Blueberries and other berries & whole fruits. Whole fruits – not juices – contain lots of fibre, loads of vitamins and lots of antioxidants. One cup of blueberries only has about 80 calories, but it has 4 whole grams of fibre. This means that blueberries (like most whole fruits) increase the thermic effect of food by expending calories to deal with the fibre content. Blueberries are also believed to lower cholesterol and help to regulate blood pressure. Even better frozen berries show very little nutrient loss so you can have them & their benefits all year round!
  5. Whole grains. You’ll be getting the message by now – it terms of boosting your metabolism food can help through several mechanisms – through nutrients, through affect on hormones and through the mechanical cost of processing fibre. One of the best sources of fibre are whole grains. Personally I prefer to get my fibre from Veges & whole fruits but the fibre content of grains cannot be ignored and should be a part of your metabolism boosting food intake. However you need to check the food labels to ensure that the bread or cereal or pasta you are about to buy has whole grains as the main ingredient. Too many products proclaim themselves as whole grain but are chock full of sugars. Sugars that can take your metabolism in the wrong direction.

  6. Chillies, curries, and other spices. A constituent called capsaicin found in many hot peppers and other spices has the ability to fire up your metabolism while it fires up your mouth and makes you break a sweat. There are studies that show a 50 percent increase in metabolism for 3 hours after eating capsaicin. So keep your metabolism firing and add some flavour to your food by adding hot sauce, fresh chillies, a good Thai curry or capsicums to your meals. Spices are a simple to add ingredient to help kick your metabolism into a higher gear.
  7. Green tea. Yep – a lot of the hype is true – Green tea does increase your metabolism and your calorie-burning by up to four percent. It is also believed to assist in burning fats, reducing sugar cravings and works to inhibit the enzymes that slow digestion, thus raising metabolic rates. In addition to its metabolic properties, green tea is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols, making it one of the most healthful beverage choices around.

  8. Ice water.Water is necessary for all your bodily processes, including the ones that control your metabolism. If you’re under hydrated, your body will underperform. Water also flushes out fat deposits and toxins.  Almost everyone from your Grandparents to the trainers on Biggest Loser to nutritionists the world over tells you to drink at least large glasses of water every day. The trick to using this to boost your metabolism is to make those 8 glasses ice water. If you drink ice water instead of room-temperature water, your body burns an extra nine calories per glass – not a lot but remember every bit helps when you are trying to recondition your metabolism. Drinking room-temperature water can burn roughly 16 calories per glass—ice water means a burn of 25 calories per glass.  So eight glasses of cold water a day can be responsible for burning 200 calories!

Remember, the right types of exercise, a good night’s sleep and smaller, evenly spaced meals are the formula for getting your metabolism rocking again…

See you next time – don’t forget to Tweet this or ‘Like’ us on Face Book…

How you can fix a Broken Metabolism Part 1

How can you fix a Broken Metabolism? Part 1

If you are more than 20lbs (10 KG) overweight the chances are your metabolism is slowing and may even, in terms of fat loss, be broken.

The next 4 Blog posts will look at the four main areas that not only affect fat loss but which we can influence to achieve a leaner, fitter body in the most efficient manner.

Let’s be clear everything we do, every process that takes place in our bodies, is an output of our metabolism. There are some areas where we can effect changes to it and the area we are most interested in is the area of fat loss.

Great way to recondition your metabolism…

Here is a quick overview of the various factors you need to strategically combine to recondition a flagging metabolism so that it is more efficient at creating fat loss…

  • Food types that:

o   Boost Metabolism

o   Blunt Metabolism

  • The Hormonal Affects of Food:

o   Fat Storage

o   Fat Sparing

o   Fat Burning

  • The Thermic Effect of Food:

o   Macronutrient ‘Burn rates’

o   Food timing

o   Meal Frequency

  • Exercise:

o   Weight bearing – lean = Higher metabolism

o   Cardio – work long or work hard can’t do both

o   Metabolic Circuits – HIIT, drive metabolism up and keep it up for up to 30 hours after

o   NEPA – non-exercise physical activity move more!!

Any attempt to shed body fat and to become leaner & fitter is at least 80% diet. But the diet

This’ll rev up your metabolism…

part of the equation is not as simple as the old fashioned ‘just cut calories’ approach. This is not only outmoded but leads to poor results. As we saw in an earlier post (  a calorie is NOT just a calorie except as a way of measuring energy.

We now know that certain foods can increase our metabolism, these are Metabolic Fuels.

Metabolic Fuels tend to be low in sugar, lightly or un-processed and closer to nature than many of the foods you eat at the moment. These are nutrient dense foods that promote feelings of fullness, provide metabolism supporting vitamins & minerals and amino acids. They increase our metabolism by requiring more energy to process (see the upcoming part 3 for TEF), by providing essential vitamins, mineral, fatty acids and proteins for body repair & growth and by keeping blood sugar levels (see Part 2 – hormones) steady.

Metabolic Fuels:

  • Any lean type of lean protein – including whey protein powder
  • Eggs.
  • High fibre complex carbs like Oatmeal
  • Fibre rich vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, and brussel sprouts.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like Kale, spinach.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Blueberries and other whole fruits.
  • Cherries.
  • Beans – any type
  • Nuts – especially Walnuts
  • Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids from fish oil
  • Healthy Fats like Olive Oil, Coconut oil
  • Greek style Yogurt.
  • Green tea.
  • Ice water. It costs your body around 9 calories to warm up ice water to body temperature – 25 calories per glass instead of 16.
  • Dark Chocolate: Lots of antioxidants at the 70% or higher cocoa level. Just don’t eat the whole block you only need a square or 2.
This does as well….

Spicy Metabolic Fuels:

Chillies, curries, and other spices – many of these contain a substance called capsaicin. Capsaicin can fire up your metabolism (some studies have shown a 50 percent increase in metabolism for 3 hours after eating capsaicin), act as an anti-oxidant and assist in stabilising blood sugar.

Here are some of my favourite metabolic & flavour enhancing spices:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chilli powder
  • Black pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
    • Garlic Coriander / Cilantro


This is not a complete list by any means but the rule of thumb here is the closer to nature a food is, the more beneficial it is for reconditioning your metabolism.

On the other side our culture is full of highly processed denatured, nutrient sparse foods that blunt & slow our metabolism.

These foods lack fibre, are quick to be processed by our bodies, convert easily to sugar and often need vitamins & minerals added back to them to give them some nutritional value after processing.

Food Like:

  • Sugars – fructose, sucrose, dextrose, maltodextrin, to name but a few varieties
  • White Flour & white flour products like white bread, cookies, & biscuits
  • White Rice, rice crackers
  • Noodles
  • Semolina
  • Most pastas
  • Soda Pops
  • Cakes & Baked Goods
  • Commercial Fruit Juices
  • Most commercial yoghurts – especially low fat varieties (this usually means high sugar!!)
  • Virtually any packaged product that screams ‘Low fat’

The rule of thumb here is if it contains ‘white carbs’ (think flour, sugar & rice) it is best

Years of a broken metabolism at work…

avoided or at least eaten sparingly. If it promises to be ‘low fat’ – check out the sugar content because high sugar is worse than saturated fat for your metabolism. If your Grandmother would not easily recognise it as food think twice.

Mum was right lots of leafy vegetables and fruit along with lean protein is the best way to eat.

Foods can also elicit a hormonal response from our bodies based upon calorie numbers and the quantities and types of macronutrient present. These responses can be either fat burning or fat storing.

Simply put look to move towarss food swith the fewest number of ingredients on the label. Generally fewer ingredieints means less processed and less processed means more nutrition and less calories…

Next time we’ll look at the Hormonal Affects of Food

  • The Hormonal Affects of Food:

o   Fat Storage

o   Fat Sparing

o   Fat Burning

I hope you found the information above of interest. We’ll be backnext week to look at Hormones & Fuel.

The Surprising Truth about Saturated Fats & their place in a Healthy Lifestyle.

The misconceptions and outright lies about saturated fat and your health.

Hi Welcome Back!!

As you know I believe that there is a mountain of evidence (growing larger daily) that shows that processed carbs are the underlying cause of obesity and that a simple way to drop body fat and shift your shape is to cut them out of your diet.

Surprisingly research says you should too...

A few people have written in and asked ‘What about saturated fat? Doesn’t it cause hear t attacks and obesity?’

Here is the first of several posts on the truth about saturated fat. What I have to tell you will surprise you. It may even make you angry.

For decades we’ve been told that saturated fat will clog up our arteries and kill us. Most health professionals will tell you that fat is bad for you, that it raises the bad cholesterol (LDL), causes obesity and is a major contributing factor to heart disease & stroke. The media also pushes this line and rolls out dietician and nutritionist one after the other who agree.

The trouble is that no-one has ever proved it.

You read that right – NO-ONE HAS EVER PROVED IT!

There is better proof for these than the Lipid hypothesis

What has become Politically Correct Nutrition is based on the assumption that we should reduce our intake of fats, particularly saturated fats from animal sources. Fats from animal sources also contain cholesterol, which is presented as the other main cause of heart disease and is seen as an evil part of the a ‘civilized’ diet.

I’m here to tell you that this is a false perception. And a deadly one.

Simply put saturated fat is a normal, natural part of the human diet and has been literally from the time the first Neanderthal took a bite of animal…

Fats are essential to our health – without them you would sicken & die.


Well fats from animal and vegetable sources:
• Act as a concentrated source of energy in the diet;
• They provide essential parts of the building blocks for cell membranes
• They provide a wide variety of hormones and hormone-like substances.
• They act as carries for all of the fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E,& K
• They assist with mineral absorption
• They are an essential part of the processes involved in converting carotenes into Vitamin A
• Fats slow down absorption of food if part of a meal so it takes longer for us to feel hunger again.
• Fats are a part of what keeps our skin in condition
• Fats are involved in…
You get the picture – fats are essential to our health.

The cause of this demonization of saturated fats is a thing called the ‘Lipid Hypothesis’. (fat theory).

Now according to this fat theory there is a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in someone’s diet and their incidence of coronary heart disease. This was proposed by a medical researcher in the 1953 whose name was Ancel Keys who believed that there was a connection between fat intake and mortality from heart attacks in 6 countries: Japan, Italy, England, Australia, Canada, and the USA.

His research has called the anti-fat tune for over 40 years...

What he reported was that the US had the highest heart attack rate and the highest fat intake whilst Japan had the lowest fat intake and the lowest rate of heart attacks. The other countries neatly fitted into the 2 extremes, again based on reported fat intake and heart attack incidence. Keys called this a ‘remarkable’ relationship and went public with the idea that eating fat causes heart attacks. He was quite a natural publicist and was soon on the cover of TIME gravely warning that people were ‘eating themselves to death’.

In 1970 he then said that new research had shown that it was not all fat, but rather the amount of animal fat eaten could be used as an accurate predictor of someone’s likelihood of suffering a heart attack. He also noted that there was a strong link between cholesterol and heart disease. His hypothesis was that the saturated fat derived from animals raised cholesterol and this lead to heart disease. Most Doctors and even the Heart Foundation believe this to this day – 40 years after the theory was proposed.

Thing is there are major flaws & problems with Keys & his research.
In numerous subsequent studies over the last 40 years his data and conclusions have been brought into question. For example the data he used to draw his conclusions came from only six countries – which represent only a small portion of the countries where data was available on fat consumption versus heart disease death rate.

When subsequent researches have gone back and used data from the same era, but from a greater range of countries, even with a bias towards the ‘western diet;’ they found that there was no link between fat consumption and heart disease deaths.

Read that again – NO LINK!!

So Keys’ conclusions were actually false.

Next is the fact that even in the 1950’s it was recognised that there were a number of factors that caused heart disease but Keys chose to consider only one potential factor – fat intake. He gave no consideration of other factors such as smoking rates, stress factors, sugar intake, exercise frequency etc etc.

Guess Keys forgot about these & heart disease...

It is unfortunate that his faulty research was coupled with a flair for promotion and the beginnings of the food processing industry because this confluence of factors has seen Keys study cited for over 5 decades as proof of the “fact” that saturated fat is bad for you.

There ain’t much in the way of facts here…

Since that time, numerous other studies have been conducted trying to link saturated fat intake to heart disease. The majority of these studies have failed to correlate ANY risk at all from saturated fat. A couple of them made feeble attempts at linking saturated fat to heart disease, however, it was later shown that in those studies, the data was flawed as well.

This is actually good for you...

I’ll be back with the Whys & Wherefores of the good things about saturated fats and how eating them can actually be better than good for your health…

I’d love to hear from you – so Tweet this, Face Book like this or leave a comment!

Food impact on cholesterol is irrelevant

Welcome Back

Here is another important post from Dr Briffa – enjoy!!

Claims regarding the impact of foods on cholesterol are simply irrelevant

I got a press release today from the consumer advocacy group Which? informing me that “Misleading health claims to be banned at last”.

Apparently, European Union Member States today voted to adopt a list of scientifically proven health claims that can be made about food and drink products. Claims for green tea and glucosamine (regarding benefits for blood pressure and joint health) are examples of a couple of things that did not make the cut. On the other hand, it seems the following claims will be allowed to be made:

  • reduced consumption of saturated fat contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels
  • plant sterols and plant stanols contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol

Cholesterol levels are widely recognised as a marker for heart disease, and so the logic goes that reducing cholesterol levels will help prevent this condition. In this case, cholesterol is being used as what is known as a ‘surrogate marker’. The assumption is that a positive change in surrogate marker levels will translate into benefits for health.

However, is this actually true?

Taking dietary steps to reduce cholesterol has not been convincingly shown to reduce the risk of heart disease or overall risk of death. If this practice does not have benefits for health or extend life, why bother? Eating less saturated fat and swallowing stanols and sterols can reduce cholesterol all they like, but none of it has proven benefits for health.

It is perhaps worthy of note that a PR representative of the Unilever-made Flora Proactiv products commented here [1] that:

“We absolutely agree that simply lowering cholesterol without making wider positive changes to one’s diet and lifestyle will not make a significant positive health impact.”

I take this as admission of the general uselessness of cholesterol reduction in terms of its impact on health.

It can be hard for some to make sense that taking dietary steps to reduce cholesterol is not broadly beneficial to health. However, we should perhaps not be too surprised, when we consider that we have plenty of similar experiences regarding pharmaceutical drugs.

For example:

  1. drugs called resins reduce cholesterol but do not reduce overall risk of death
  2. the drug ezetimibe reduces cholesterol but has never been shown to benefit health
  3. drugs called fibrates improve the ratio of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol but don’t reduce overall mortality
  4. hormone replacement therapy improves the ratio of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol but doesn’t reduce overall mortality and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease

The situation with statin drugs is somewhat nuanced. In primary prevention (in essentially healthy individuals) statins do not reduce risk of death. In secondary prevention (those who have already had, say, a heart attack or stroke), they do, but the fact remains that even in high risk individuals, the great majority of people who take statins do not stand to benefit from them at all. There is reason to believe, by the way, that the little benefit statins have is not as a result of their cholesterol-reducing action, but due to other effects including anti-inflammatory blood-thinning actions.

In short, the fact that foods low in saturated fat and/or rich in sterols/stanols may contribute to lowered cholesterol levels is irrelevant. The idea that this translates into benefits for health is simply unproven. My advice? Don’t swallow it.

Article printed from Dr Briffa’s Blog – A Good Look at Good Health:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] here:

Low-carbohydrate diets look good for the prevention and treatment of cancer

Welcome back:

This week I am presenting 2 posts from the UK. Dr John Briffa ( is one of the few medicos on-line that are wroth following and I thought that these 2 posts of his are well worth passing on for you to read.


Low-carbohydrate diets look good for the prevention and treatment of cancer

Posted on 29 November 2011

In general terms, I recommend a diet lower in carbohydrate than conventional guidelines say is healthy. At least part of my thinking is based on abundant evidence linking a relatively carbohydrate controlled diet with benefits in terms of body weight and disease markers for conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. However, I came across a recent paper which made me think more about the impact a low-carbohydrate might have on risk of another important condition – cancer [1].

You can read a summary of the paper here and download a provisional pdf of the full paper here.

The paper starts with reference to hunter-gatherer diets, and their relatively protein-rich, low-carb nature, and remarks that cancer has been found to be rare in societies eating such a diet. It then goes on to postulate several major mechanisms that may account for this association. These include:

1. Cancer cells feed preferentially on sugar (glucose)
Glucose (from sugary and starchy foods) provides the prime fuel for cancer cells, so a diet lower in carbohydrate may therefore reduce tumour development or progression.

2. Insulin and IGF-1 can stimulate tumour cell growth
High carbohydrate diets increase levels of insulin and what is known as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which stimulate tumour cell growth. A lower carbohydrate diet may reduce tumour proliferation as a result.

3. Ketones suppress cancer
Very low carbohydrate diets can lead to the production of ‘ketones’ (mainly produced from fat) that suppress tumours.

4. Low-carbohydrate and ‘ketogenic’ diets ‘starve’ cancer
Low-carbohydrate diets mimic caloric restriction and ketogenic diets mimic starvation – and caloric restriction/starvation is linked to reduce tumour development and progression.

5. Low carbohydrate diets can reduce inflammation
Inflammation is believed to be a risk factor in the development of cancer, and high-carb diets encourage inflammation. Low-carbohydrate diets have been found to be more effective than low-fat ones in terms of reducing markers of inflammation.

The paper also makes the case that such diets may help better meet the nutritional needs of those with cancer.

I’ve only plucked out some of the highlights of this paper, as you can read it in its entirety if you so wish. If you do, though, you may well find that the paper makes a pretty compelling case for the role of carbohydrate-restricted diets in the prevention and treatment of cancer.


1. Klement RJ, et al. Is there a role for carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer? Nutrition & Metabolism 2011, 8:75

Questions raised over the role of HDL-cholesterol in cardiovascular disease

Posted on 2 December 2011

Cholesterol in the bloodstream is transported in two main forms: ‘low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol’ (LDL-cholesterol) and ‘high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol’ (HDL-cholesterol). Conventional wisdom tells us that LDL-cholesterol is responsible for the fatty build-up on the inside of arteries known as ‘atherosclerotic plaque’, but that HDL-cholesterol clears this plaque. Because of this, HDL- and LDL-cholesterols are dubbed ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol respectively.

A paper was published recently which attempted to explore further the relationship between HDL-cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease. Low levels of HDL-cholesterol have been associated with enhanced risk. But just because two things are associated with each other, does not mean one is causing the other.

Low HDL-cholesterol levels often go hand-in-hand with other metabolic ‘abnormalities’ including raised triglyceride (a form of blood fat) levels, raised blood pressure, raised blood sugar levels and abdominal obesity. Could it be one or more of these associated factors or other factors entirely that account for the relationship between low HDL-cholesterol levels and heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.

To answer this question, Danish scientists isolated individuals with low HDL-cholesterol levels as a result of a genetic glitch [1]. In these individuals, HDL-cholesterol levels are low, but this is usually in isolation and not in combination with other metabolic abnormalities (such as raised triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar and abdominal obesity).

It turns out that in these individuals with genetically determined low HDL-cholesterol levels, risk of heart attack is no higher than in the general population. The logical conclusion here is that low HDL-cholesterol does not cause heart attacks (which means that higher levels do not protect against it either). In other words, this evidence strongly suggests the link between HDL-cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk is only an association and not causal.

But if this is the case, could the same not be true for LDL-cholesterol too?

Many doctors and scientists will not hear of such a thing, of course, and will quote studies which show cholesterol-reduction with statin drugs reduces risk of cardiovascular disease as evidence of the fact LDL-cholesterol causes heart disease. However, as is well-recognised now, statins have many actions in the body which might reduce cardiovascular disease risk in a way which has nothing to do with cholesterol (including anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning properties).

Also, we have evidence that statins substantially reduce the risk of stroke, even though cholesterol is a weak or non-existent risk factor for stroke. And we have evidence that statins reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in individuals with normal or even low levels of cholesterol. These lines of evidence suggest that statins actually work through mechanisms that are distinct from their cholesterol-reducing properties.

I know that some will tell us that cholesterol is to be found in atherosclerotic plaque and that ‘proves’ that cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease. Actually, though, it does nothing of the sort. If I graze my knee and form a scab there, chemical analysis of the scab will reveal something called fibrin (a clotting agent). Has fibrin caused my scab? Of course not.


1. Haase CL, et al. LCAT, HDL Cholesterol and Ischemic Cardiovascular Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Study of HDL Cholesterol in 54,500 Individuals. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism November 16, 2011

See you next week when I’ll be looking at 4 fat loss proptocols to follow when you want to drop fat fast!!

Be well.


Harness the Power of Insulin

 Welcome back –

There have been millions of words written and many millions more I’m sure to come all on the subject of how to lose weight and build muscle. Now regular readers know that I hate the term ’lose weight’ it is inaccurate & wrong – your goal is to lose body fat. It is entirely possible to lose kilos of fat but have the scales drop by less than that amount because you’ve added some muscle.

So losing weight is out, losing fat is in.

The questions usually revolve around two polar opposites – either how do you eat to add muscle without adding fat, or how to diet to lose fat whilst still adding muscle.

Do use intermittent fasting? Atkins? Palm Beach? Drink Shakes 3 x a day? Run miles every day? Work out twice a day? Eat low carb? Eat high carb? Add the latest magic food?

You know there are plenty of available strategies to consider and they all try to address one or both of the needs mentioned above but results are mixed. What works for some fails for others. The unpalatable truth is that there is no magic one-size fits every metabolism solution available. The cookie cutter approach needs to stay in the kitchen with the pastry.

For Fat Loss there isn't a cookie cutter approach...

There is a common thread in all of the effective strategies though – they utilise your metabolism to work with you for the desired results and they all – the ALL – harness the power of insulin.

Insulin has been given a bad rap in the popular press – it does not cause obesity, it is not the ‘fat hormone’. It is true because it is a ‘carrier’ hormone insulin has the ability to induce fat storage if the environment allows for this.

However id allowed to work as it is supposed insulin is in fact the single most anabolic hormone present in your body (remember anabolic means build, catabolic is to tear down)

Insulin ensures that your cells are ‘fed’, that amino acids are taken up and protein synthesis is completed.

Energy cannot be destroyed, just transformed.

If I remember my High School science correctly we were taught that energy can be changed from one form to another (ie transformed) but it can’t be created or destroyed.

To lose body fat you need to use up more energy than you take in. To lose a pound you need to either take in an amount equal to; or use up a total of 3500 calories. To gain weight (I deliberately did not say fat in this case – to build serious muscle you have to eat a lot of nutrient dense foods. Google Chris Hemsworth’s diet for his muscle gain for Thor) you have to ingest more calories than you need to remain in energy homeostasis if you are going to support lean tissue gains.


Serious training needs serious eating to support serious growth...

Of course if you eat more than you need and you are not exercising to create lean body mass then you’ll get fat. The Bottom line is that if you eat too much, without the mitigating effects of high intensity exercise, you’ll get fat, no matter where the calories are coming from.

In the real world, the world without chemical interdiction of the body’s processes, there is simply no mystical combination of nutrients – macro, micro or otherwise – of meal timing of super supplements etc et that can change this fact. It simply is – eat more than your body needs on a consistent basis and you’ll get fatter.

BUT – we know that a calorie is NOT just a calorie and all calories are NOT created equal. Different macro- & micronutrients produce different long-term effects hormonally and metabolically.

This brings us to nutrient partitioning.

Nutrient Partitioning: Macronutrients Matter

Nutrient partitioning is another of those scientific sounding terms that a lot of folk use to make their theories for weight loss (not fat ahem…) sound more solid. Dr Scott Connelly the man who with Bill Phillips ‘created’ MetRX, was the first to use the term I supplement marketing. Now a lot of folk do.

This doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it’s not rooted in solid science it is. Nutrient partitioning is regulated by a co-ordinated, multi-part symphony that consists of liver & gut action, brain & Central Nervous System (CNS), of muscle & fat tissues, of hormones & ion channels and more besides. Even now we are still not entirely sure of all of the components and exactly how nutrient partitioning works…But work it does.

The supplement that introduced the term 'Nutrient partitioning' into marketing speak...

More importantly we can make it work for us.

What is done with the food we eat by our bodies is a function of nutrient partitioning.

The calories we ingest are either burned for fuel, used for repair & growth or stored as energy for future use (yep – glycogen first then fat once the glycogen stores are full).

Naturally we’d want as much of the food we eat to be used as fuel for repair and lean tissue growth with as little as possible being stored as fat. Whether we are a week end athlete, a couch potato or a real athlete we all agree on one thing we want to eat our food with the absolute minimum stored as bodyfat.

So whilst you can’t destroy the energy we gain from food the macronutrients we ingest do matter and have an effect on nutrient partitioning. The question is how do we maximise the glycogen stores in our muscles & liver and minimise our fat stores whilst conditioning our metabolism to either maintain or gain lean muscular tissue?

Part of the answers lies in the fact that nutrient partitioning becomes less efficient, less effective the more insulin resistant that you become. In diabetics and the obsese nutrient partitioning is so out of shape that it becomes dysfunctional.

Insulin is enormously important in the actions of nutrient partitioning – the more insulin sensitive you are the better it works, the more that nutrients are partitioned & used by your body towards our muscle building, low fat storing goals.  The more insulin resistant – the more fat you store as Nutrient partitioning twists out of true.

Insulin: Sensitive = Good, Resistant = Bad

You keep a knockin' but you can't come in - Insulin Resistance

We eat food and the carbs are broken down to glucose and absorbed by our blood stream. This gives our bodies an immediate and easy to access source of fuel. If the fuel is required it is burnt (via ATP synthesis) if not needed it is stored – both of these actions are controlled by Insulin.

Under insulin’s direction glucose is either stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissues, or it is converted to triglycerides and stored as body fat. That’s it, only 2 possibly outcomes.

Despite what we have read, and the fact that we want to max out glycogen storage and restrict fat storage – Insulin doesn’t care. Its action is constant – it gets out fat cells to be always taking up glucose. Once in the fat cell the glucose is transformed to fatty acids or glycerol both of which are needed to make up triglycerides. Which then get stored as fat.

So what?! you say – well this means that our bodies are ALWAYS storing fat after each & every meal. It sounds scarier than it is really is though…

The amount of fat stored under normal circumstances is under 15% because the lion’s share of the glucose (85 – 95%) is taken up & used by the muscles and as a part of body repair actions.

The key here is ‘under normal circumstances’…

Eat too many nutrient sparse, processed carbs and the whole glucose as our nutrient partitioning friend scenario alters radically. Too much available glucose means that the glycogen stores quickly fill up (their storage is limited) and the excess glucose is turned to fatty acids and then stored as triglycerides – you add fat. Speed is an issue here as well glycogen stores rapidly fill as they are the primary source of energy for our muscles and major organs like the liver. These stores can empty at a slower rate than they fill (although it is still quite quickly) even if we are out under sudden wide ranging stress, hit a hard exercise session etc. This emptying requires that more glucose be taken up to place what is used. Thing is if there is an excess of glucose in the blood stream and the just filled glycogen stores are not given a chance to empty then we

They don't come much more processed than this...

store it as fat.

Too much glucose in our blood stream is, ironically, poisonous – this is why insulin’s main purpose is to clear it from the blood through glycogen and / or fat storage. Our bodies are designed to constantly clear glucose from our blood streams. It does this by using insulin to interact with a specific receptor on fat cells that signals the fat cell to uptake the surplus glucose. This signal is sent once the glycogen stores are full.

Thing is – Insulin is just the messenger, the uptake of the glucose is controlled by a receptor. If your body has become insulin resistant the receptor ignores the insulin. But the glucose remains toxic so more insulin is released in quantities that force the receptors to allow the glucose & other nutrients to get into the cells.

Gain so what?! You say – well thing is a non-virtuous circle of feedback is created – the more insulin used to ‘pry’ open the cell receptors the more resistant to the actions of insulin they become so the more insulin is released…Even worse the insulin resistance in muscle & other tissues also rises meaning that the insulin sensitivity has decreased.

Normally this happens in these tissues when the glycogen stores are full, but with increased resistance mimicking the ‘full’ signal glycogen stores may not fully fill up falsely creating an excess of glucose in the blood stream which causes the dreaded insulin spike to get it cleared. Not only does insulin resistance cause you to get fat but it also robs your lean tissues and organs of a full complement of energy.

Consistently increased insulin levels also cause the metabolism to become “stuck” in its carbohydrate-burning mode. It does this by inhibiting the fat burning genes and by activating the carb metabolism ones. So your body develops a preference for carbs as all fuel and fat as little or none.

So we need to restore or at least improve our insulin sensitivity.

How to go about Improving Insulin Sensitivity

Good Carbs

Realise as a start that carbs are not bad, they’re not the enemy. Excess carbs, especially from highly processed nutrient sparse sources are.

Firstly watch what types of carbs you are eating. Again – you know the drill eat carbs from sources as unprocessed and as nutrient dense as possible. Next look at when you are eating you carbs. Aim to have about 30% of your daily intake at breakfast with a godly amount of lean protein.

Spread the other 70% over the day – again being aware of the source of them. If you are working out ensure that you have a decent ‘hit’ of carbs with protein in the hour after working out.

Look everyone’s metabolism and its needs are different – these are only rules of thumb – you have to see what works best for you. Main thing is to eat fibrous, unprocessed carbs mainly from fruit & vegetables and sparingly from grains. Eating this way will bolster your chances of nutrient partitioning working more for and less against you.

Remember that most folk have about 100 grams of glycogen in their liver and another 400-odd in their muscles. If you were to totally deplete these stores any amount of carbs over 500 grams not burned immediately for energy would be destined for fat storage.

So again try to limit your carb intake to avoid taking in an excessively high amount. Also again – check your sources of carbs – lean towards the fibrous, the unprocessed as much as possible.

What we really need is a way to improve our nutrient partition by increasing our insulin sensitivity, or by decreasing our insulin resistance.

Improving nutrient partitioning by combating insulin resistance

I have written before about the effect of whole body inflammation on metabolism, fat storage and heart disease. It should come as no surprise that by reducing any inflammation in the body we also improve our insulin sensitivity.

Look for oils that have a low Omega 6 and a high Omega 3 porofile

Leaving aside the cogent arguments of the Paleo folk regarding the inflammatory effects of grains, we know that a major cause of inflammation is the imbalance between Omega 3 & 6’s. Turns out that this imbalance is also a supporting factor for insulin resistance. High Omega 6’s means a higher than desirable level of inflammation regulators, whilst a high level of Omega 3 means higher levels of the anti-inflammatory ones. (we do need both but it is the ration that effects out sensitivity.)

A common denominator in obesity & diabetes (especially type II), is chronic inflammation of the cell membranes. This means that poor insulin sensitivity means you’ll gain fat, and that  your ability to effectively partition nutrients will suffer.

Increasing your Omega 3 ratio is the easiest way to limit if not decrease inflammation and also improve your insulin sensitivity. Fish or Krill oil supplements, eating fatty deep sea fish and even supplementing with alpha-linolenic acid, an omega 3 fatty acid will all help.

Using olive, coconut or macadamia oils for cooking & dressings and cutting down as much as possible on ‘vegetable oils’ (seed oils really) like canola, safflower, peanut and blended oils will help also. All of these oils have a much higher level of Omega 6 than omega 3.

Now here is some concerning news – whereas fat tissue was once thought to be passive and largely inert, we now know that fat stores also have a function to control our whole body insulin sensitivity. Inflammatory responses in our body that cause insulin resistance & diabetes are in fact linked to our fat stores. The more of these you have the more likely it is that you will have insulin resistance and be at high risk of diabetes.

Fat it appears acts more as endocrine (hormone producing) organ, releasing hormone types called “adipokines.” It is these adipokines that control whole-body insulin sensitivity and inflammation. The famous hormone Leptin is an adipokine that is a strong nutrient partitioning agent that increases fat burning, decreases fat storage and improves insulin sensitivity.

Other adipokines work in the opposite direction. The way to influence which ones are produced is to up our Omega 3’s so the ‘good’ adipokines are released and the ‘bad’ ones are not..

Lastly – Don’t Stress!

This'll kill you - destress!!

Our insulin sensitivity falls off a cliff if we are under chronic, not acute stress. In these days of traffic jams, deadlines, taxes, poor economies etc etc it is hard to avoid experiencing at least some form of chronic stress.

Unchecked. Constant stress is a killer. It affects a plethora of body systems and erodes your health in numerous ways.

Learn to get enough sleep, exercise hard & regularly, enjoy regular sex, relax, do some meditating, choose who you spend time with and work at not worrying about the things outside of your control.

You’ll live longer, be happier and have much better insulin sensitivity…

See you next week – don’t forget to Tweet or face Book us!!


Kahn BB. Lilly lecture 1995. Glucose transport: pivotal step in insulin action. Diabetes 1996;45:1644-54.

Kahn SE, Hull RL, Utzschneider KM. Mechanisms linking obesity to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Nature 2006;444:840-6.

SchutzY. Concept of fat balance in human obesity revisited with particular reference to de novo lipogenesis. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2004;28 Suppl 4:S3-S11.

Schwarz JM, Linfoot P, Dare D, Aghajanian K. Hepatic de novo lipogenesis in normoinsulinemic and hyperinsulinemic subjects consuming high-fat, low-carbohydrate and low-fat, high-carbohydrate isoenergetic diets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003;77:43-50.

Parks EJ. Dietary carbohydrate’s effects on lipogenesis and the relationship of lipogenesis to blood insulin and glucose concentrations. Br J Nutr 2002;87 Suppl 2:S247-S253.

KoltermanOG, Greenfield M, Reaven GM, Saekow M, Olefsky JM. Effect of a high carbohydrate diet on insulin binding to adipocytes and on insulin action in vivo in man. Diabetes 1979;28:731-6.

Roberts R, Bickerton AS, Fielding BA, Blaak EE, Wagenmakers AJ, Chong MF, et al. Reduced oxidation of dietary fat after a short term high-carbohydrate diet. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:824-31.

SemenkovichCF. Insulin resistance and atherosclerosis.J Clin Invest 2006;116:1813-22.

Calder PC. n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:1505S-19S.

SerhanCN, Hong S, Gronert K, Colgan SP, Devchand PR, Mirick G, et al. Resolvins: a family of bioactive products of omega-3 fatty acid transformation circuits initiated by aspirin treatment that counter proinflammation signals. J Exp Med 2002;196:1025-37.

Schwab JM, Chiang N, Arita M, Serhan CN. Resolvin E1 and protectin D1 activate inflammation-resolution programmes. Nature 2007;447:869-74.

SimopoulosAP. Importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids: evolutionary aspects. World Rev Nutr Diet 2003;92:1-22.

BurdgeGC. Metabolism of alpha-linolenic acid in humans. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2006;75:161-8.

DeFilippisAP, Sperling LS. Understanding omega-3’s. Am Heart J 2006;151:564-70.

WellenKE, Hotamisligil GS.Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. J Clin Invest 2005;115:1111-9.

ShoelsonSE, Lee J, Goldfine AB. Inflammation and insulin resistance. J Clin Invest 2006;116:1793-801.

Rosen ED, Spiegelman BM. Adipocytes as regulators of energy balance and glucose homeostasis. Nature 2006;444:847-53.

GnudiL, Tozzo E, Shepherd PR, Bliss JL, Kahn BB. High level overexpression of glucose transporter-4 driven by an adipose-specific promoter is maintained in transgenic mice on a high fat diet, but does not prevent impaired glucose tolerance. Endocrinology 1995;136:995-1002.

Abel ED, Peroni O, Kim JK, Kim YB, Boss O, Hadro E, et al. Adipose-selective targeting of the GLUT4 gene impairs insulin action in muscle and liver. Nature 2001;409:729-33.

TrayhurnP. Endocrine and signalling role of adipose tissue: new perspectives on fat. Acta Physiol Scand 2005;184:285-93.

Havel PJ. Update on adipocyte hormones: regulation of energy balance and carbohydrate/lipid metabolism. Diabetes 2004;53 Suppl 1:S143-S151.

Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C. Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Nutr Rev 2010;68:280-9.

Murata M, Kaji H, Takahashi Y, Iida K, Mizuno I, Okimura Y, et al. Stimulation by eicosapentaenoic acids of leptin mRNA expression and its secretion in mouse 3T3-L1 adipocytes in vitro. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2000;270:343-8.

Perez-Matute P, Marti A, Martinez JA, Fernandez-Otero MP, Stanhope KL, Havel PJ, et al. Eicosapentaenoic fatty acid increases leptin secretion from primary cultured rat adipocytes: role of glucose metabolism. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2005;288:R1682-R1688.

ItohM, Suganami T, Satoh N, Tanimoto-Koyama K, Yuan X, Tanaka M, et al. Increased adiponectin secretion by highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid in rodent models of obesity and human obese subjects. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2007;27:1918-25.

Oh DY, Talukdar S, Bae EJ, Imamura T, Morinaga H, Fan W, et al. GPR120 is an omega-3 fatty acid receptor mediating potent anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitizing effects. Cell 2010;142:687-98.

KreierF, Fliers E, Voshol PJ, Van Eden CG, Havekes LM, Kalsbeek A, et al. Selective parasympathetic innervation of subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat–functional implications. J Clin Invest 2002;110:1243-50.

RobidouxJ, Martin TL, Collins S. Beta-adrenergic receptors and regulation of energy expenditure: a family affair. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol 2004;44:297-323.

Schwartz MW, Woods SC, Porte D, Jr., Seeley RJ, Baskin DG. Central nervous system control of food intake. Nature 2000;404:661-71.

Drawn in part from an excellent article on by Bill Willis PhDc and John Meadows, CSCS, CISSN – 9/14/2011



Insulin – not the bad guy we thought???

Hi & Welcome back!!

For years Insulin has been painted as the bad guy hormone – you know the one that takes blood sugar and then shunts it off to be stored as fat.

Thing is, this is only partially correct. The real issue for most of us in the Western world insulin resistance coupled with too many processed high GI carbs. In fact becoming more insulin senstive will help us lose fat, build muscle and have a more efficient metabolism.

Insulin Sensitive or Resistive??

Traditional Nutritionists & Dieticians, despite the mountains of research to the contrary,  all seem to believe that fat loss is as simple as subtracting X calories from your daily intake and Hey ! Presto! Instant 6 pack abs! Be nice if it was true and would fat loss a whole lot easier and Gyms & weight loss centres would rapidly be rolling out lean, athletic women & men.

Just imagine the world we would be living in if all it took was the application of some simple arithmitic applied to a total calorie count. <sigh> never going to happen.

Let’s not make any mistake here though – a pound of fat is still 3500 calories and to lose fat you still have to achieve some form of calorie deficit in order to do so. In fact no mater how hard you train you can’t outperform a bad diet – or one that overloads you with calories that you just don’t need.

But this is only a part of the overall strategy that we need to use to achieve our desired outcome –  a leaner body that LBN and has a revved up metabolism.

Part of this strategy is understanding the metabolic and hormonal effects of food and then using  these effects in a tactical plan to achieve our goals.

Insulin Sensitivity

The single most important hormone when it comes to body recomposition is – Insulin. Yep the ‘bad guy’. Y’see Insulin is the most anabolic(repair & growth) and anti-catabolic (tear down) hormone that we have.

Insulin improves amino acid uptake by muscle tissues initiating protein synthesis promoting growth & repair. It also acts to prevent amino acids (the building blocks of our bodies) whether from food or our hard earned muscle from being used as a reserve fuel source when calories are cut below what our body has become to view as the ‘norm.’

Trustworhty fat loss advice? I don't think so...

Insulin also has a ‘dark side – under the right conditions, it is also the most lipolytic (fat storing) hormone in the body, shuttling fatty acids and glucose to fat cells for fat storage.

A logical approach to fat loss is one that moves you to a low-carb diet that is used to reduce calories and at the same time minimise insulin release so you avoid fat storage. This is right on the money if you are overweight, have a low activity level and are likely insulin resistant (or well on the way to being so). This covers the majority of the population these days.

It is also the way to go if you are over 40, a Type II diabetic or suffering from Syndrome X. I agree except that I am NOT an advocate of low carbs, but an advocate of low processed carbs for fat loss.

However no hormone is completely bad and the above approach is an incomplete one. If you work out hard on a regular basis, create a calorie deficit whilst eating nutrient dense foods – then moderate amounts of insulin is a positive thing. Why?

Because  insulin helps your body to maintain muscle the leaner you get. So you can strip off fat and keep or build muscle. The key is the complete approach of training, diet and food types.

However if you are overweight, sick, obese, a sedentary worker on the slope to Type II then your diet should not be the same as for someone who is active, lean and nowhere near becoming a diabetic of any persuasion.

In utilising insulin’s positive side – one size does not fit all.

If your body is insulin sensitive then you can have a higher amount of carbs in your diet because you will get the anabolic effects of this hormone. Again my belief is that you should avoid as many processed carbs as possible, but if you have some and are Insulin sensitive the efects will less likely to go to fat storage.

All carbs but not much goodness here...

If your body is insulin resistant, then higher carbs will mean that suffer more of its’ lipolytic (fat storing) effects. Simply – high GI & processed carbs should be a muich smaller part of your diet if you are insulin resistant.

So if you want to recompose your body you need to look at ways to increase your insulin sensitvity and reduce your insulin resistance.  Becoming more Insulin ‘Sensitive’ as opposed to resistant should be a goal right up there with resistance training, metabloic conditioning and eating lots more protein.

So in addition to focussing on cuting out high GI processed carbs we need to looking at ways to improve our bodies ability to utise them & insulin more efficiently.

Some easy ways to improving your Insulin Sensitivity.

1. Avoid mixing  ‘White’ Carbs with HFCS

All carbs aren’t be bad. All grain based carbs require at least some processing before humans can eat them. White carbs (flour, pasta rice – even the ‘healthy’ brown varieties) by themselves are not fat inducing. But combining these starches with sugars – especially fructose, and particularly HFCS – is downright evil.

Google High Fructose Corn Syrup and you’ll see that many researchers are now condemning the use of this sweetener as the major cause behind the obesity epidemic in the Western world. Americans partake of over 60 pounds a year…

Millions of our Asian brothers & sisters eat one of the purest starches out there aa a dietary staple – rice. By pure low carb thinking they should be the fattest folk on Earth. They’re not and in fact it is only when the traditional high starch / low sugar ratio becomes high starch / high sugar do we see obesity & diabetes rates rise in Asian populations.

The number one cause of obesity in the USA - HFCS

Guess which form of sugar has the worst effect on ALL humans? Got it in one – fructose, particularly HFCS.

Fructose is metabolised & processed by our bodies differently from glucose. There are now a heap of studies that indicate that fructose, NOT glucose, is the main culprit in table sugar that causes insulin resistance.

In animal studies increased fructose intake produced insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, high insulin levels, high triglycerides, increases in whole body inflammation and hypertension.

So to up your insulin sensitivity and to lower your insulin resistance – start by cutting out high fructose corn syrup, fructose sweeteners, sugar, sodas, processed fruit juices, fruit smoothies, and dried fruit. Then make sure that if you are having ‘white’ carbs ou are not mixing them with fructose – so watch cakes & cookie, pasta sauces and more. read your labels!!

Remember – never, ever combine white carbs with HFCS.

You can still eat 1-4 pieces of whole fruit a day is permissible – its fructose effects are ameliorated by the fibre (slows down digestion) and the presence of vitamins, minerals & antioxidants mean that fruit has more good than bad.

2. Increase your Omega 3’s

The ratio of your fatty acids is important to your overall health. We all know this. Just like we all know that our intake of Omega 6 is way higher than our intake of Omega 3 because of our use of canola oils etc etc.

Omega 3’s have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and have a host of other beneficial health effects. Cut down on the polyunsaturated oils, increase the olive oil, eat cold water fish, grass fed beef, lamb & take a fish oil supplement.

3. Add some Spice

This is a natural way to improve your Insulin Sensitivity...

Cinnamon has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity when a couple of grams a day are added to your diet. Numerous studies have shown it improves glucose uptake by the cells.

Oh yeah – it has to be cinnamon powder – not pop tarts or cinnamon donuts…

4. Have some Green Tea

Metformin is a prescription glucose dispersal drug that is given to folk in the pre-curser and then the actual type II diabetes stages.  It is expensive, and in the 90’s a lot of bodybuilders were using it. Why – well the role of any glucose dispersal agent is to mimic the effect of insulin in insulin resistant folk.

The good news is that green tea is also a glucose dispersal agent. So drinking 3 -5 cups a day can actually help improve your insulin sensitivity. Even better green tea’s action shows a distinct inclination towards pushing carbs to muscle cells and not to fat cells.

Sounds about perfect to me – and you don’t need a prescription!

5. Ditch the trans fats

Along with HFCS, trans fats are just about the worst substances that you can be ingesting. They are simply devastatingly bad for your health.

A mountain of research has shown that in addition to all of their other health destroying effects, trans fats also inhibit glucose dispersal and promote insulin resistance. They also have been shown to support preferential fat storage around the belly.

Check your labels and if you see trans fats or hydrogenated oils on them, find something else to eat.

Where do you sit on the low carb continuum?

Look if you are 20 or more pounds (10 kilos) above your fighting weight then the low carb (remember low processed High GI carbs!) is the best way to lose fat. Just be aware that apart from very fibrous carbs (like broccoli or spinach) you’re likely already very insulin resistant so just about any carbs you eat will end up being stored as fat unless you are doing regular challenging workouts and following the diet advice from previous blog posts.

The Research shows that the best approach for folk in this grouping to improve their insulin sensitivity is for them to lose body fat through low-carb / higher protein eating.

The good news is that the leaner you get the more diet options you have available to you.

A natural Glucose Dispersal Agent

If your  insulin resistance level is high, then your carb intake should be low. If your insulin sensitivity is high, then your carb  intake can be higher. Logically if your resistance / sensitivity is in the midle then modest carbs is the way to go.

Since insulin resistance is closely correlated with body fat so the fatter you are the fewer carbs you have. So if your body fat is above 20% for a male & 25% for a female – no carbs for you!! Well low GI carbs anyway in modest quantities.

If you run between 12 to 20 (or 25)% then you can up your carbs, especially if you are regularly working out.

Les than 10% – eat clean, but pretty much whatever you want.

So insulin has benefits as well as drawbacks and once again the negatives are tied to excessive processed carbs and trnsfats…

Be well, see you again soon.

A Beginners Workout to Help You Sculpt an Incredible Body with Bodyweight Training

Welcome Back!

Here is a simple and intense 2 -part workout, each of which you can perform 3 times a week in the comfort of your own home, at the park or beach using just your bodyweight.

It combines strength with intense cardio and uses the interval / HIIT protocol. This means that it has a high metabolic cost, will burn fat during the workout and more importantly for hours afterwards.

Background Information:

  • A circuit is when you move from one exercise to the next without resting in between.
  • Then rest for no more than 2 minutes before doing the next circuit.
  • All rest should be ‘active’ rest where you do not stand still but just keep moving by walking around. Not only will you get your breath back more quickly, but you will add the overall metabolic cost.
  • Reps are a guide only – if you can do more reps then do so, if less then that’s okay – match your efforts to your capability.
  • If push ups are too difficult substitute them with push ups from your knees.
  • Chin / Pull ups:  if you can’t do the reps then use one leg on a secure (ie won’t slip or tip) chair to assist in pushing you to the top of the movement.
    • Once there ‘lock’ your arms & back and fight your weight all the way down. This called an eccentric contraction and will give you sore muscles but will also help you develop strength more quickly.
    • Concentrate on bringing your elbows to your ribs rather than your chin over the bar. This activates your back .

      Like a squat for your upper body...

  • Rope Jumping (skipping) count every second step. If 100 is too many aim for 50 & then work up from there.
  • Add 1 more round each week until you are doing 8 rounds, and then try another workout.
  • Try to add at least 1 rep each workout to your push ups, lunges & squats. Aim for 10 reps with the Chin / pull ups. (When you get here you will be stronger than just about everyone else you’ll come across in your life!)

Work out #1:

Three (3) rounds of:

  • Rope Jumping, 100 Count
  • Push Ups, 10 reps
  • Forward Lunges, 10 reps each leg
  • Rope Jumping 100 Count
  • Chin / Pull ups, 5-10 reps
  • Squats, 20 reps
  • Rope Jumping, 100 count

Complete 1 circuit and rest for 2 minutes and then go again until you finish all 3 rounds. Do this 3 days a week.

Work Out #2

Do this work out the days in between the body weight workout above – 3 days a week.

Go to the park (or if you are feeling particularly adventurous) the beach and do some sprints.

Why sprint? Well ever seen a fat sprinter?

Not everyone wants to look like this - but the point is, sprinters are not fat!

Sprinting fits into the HIIT protocol, is challenging, has a high metabolic cost and will help you burn fat. It also gives your workouts balance. It should take no more than 20 minutes.

  • Gently jog around the park / along the beach to make sure that your hips, knees & ankles are loose and your leg muscles are warmed up.
  • Step out 50 metres
  • Run the 50 metres as fast as you can
  • Don’t stop moving at the 50 metre mark but drop to walking / jogging speed and take a 2 minute period whilst still moving.
    • This ‘active rest’ is important as it helps move lactic acid out of the working muscles and stops them from tightening up.
    • Keeping moving also adds to the overall metabolic cost and post workout ‘Afterburn’.
  • Repeat until you have done 3 rounds.
  • Work up to 10 rounds by adding 1 round every second work out.

Do some hamstring & quad stretching afterwards when the muscles are loose & pliable and stretching will do the most good.

Upping the Ante:

Body Weight Work out:

Once you are able to hit or exceed the rep targets in the body weight work out you can add intensity a number of ways.

  • You can do more reps
  • You can do more rounds
  • You can add exercises into each round (add a set of burpees /  squat thrusts after the push ups and after the Chin ups for example)
  • You can vary your exercises (try spiderman push ups instead of regular ones, or jumping lunges instead of split ones for example.)
  • You can add weight via a vest.

    Great way to up the ante for working out at home!

NB weighted vests are NOT recommended for chin ups – This is for 2 reasons – firstly using your own bodyweight on this exercise is challenging enough by itself and it will take some time for you to work up to doing 10 reps a time. Secondly, and depending upon the type of home chinning bar you are using, you will find that most home chinning bars are not strong enough to handle added weight  – I weigh 100KG and if I added even the lightest vest I own I will be close to its top rating of 110 kg.

However if you are using a chinning bar that is part of another, stronger set up feel free to add weight once you can do 10 reps. Adding weight before then will be counterproductive.

Sprint Intervals:

  • Take note of your time and try to get faster over the same distance.
  • Increase the number of rounds.
  • Increase the distance from 50 to 75 metres and then from 75 to 100.
  • Try doing your sprints uphill
  • If at the beach try doing using the dunes (super tough!!)
  • Set a timed protocol where you sprint for 20 seconds, jog / walk for 40 and then repeat for a period of 5 minutes initially working up from there.
  • Go long or go hard...

    Use Tabata intervals – 8 rounds of sprinting for 10 seconds followed by 20 seconds of active rest.

  • You can add weight via vest – again be careful – the vest must not only fit snug enough so that the weights don’t beat you half to death by moving around whilst you are running but also allow your chest to move freely so you can breathe. NOT recommended except for those looking to become superhuman.

Well there you have it a simple, do-it-in-the-comfort-of-your-own-home work out that fits into my philosophy of reconditioning & improving the efficiency of your metabolism through interval / HIIT training.

You will burn fat and become leaner just with the body weight training – adding in the sprinting will increase your fat burn and metabolic efficiency but is not an absolute necessity.

However your results will be greater if you do both.

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