Sunday, 30 January 2011

Does eating fat make you fat?

This may sound like an odd question, but does eating fat actually make you fat? Fat has always received bad press. Firstly, let’s have a look at the different forms of fat before we discuss this point further:

Mono-unsaturated Fat

This is the best of all fats, and should be included in your diet. It helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.

Monounsaturated fat is believed to assist in the reduction of heart disease. It provides essential fatty acids for healthy skin and the development of body cells.

Monounsaturated fats are typically high in Vitamin E, the anti-oxidant vitamin which is usually in short supply in this country.

Mono-unsaturated fats we should include in our diet are Olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.

Poly-unsaturated fat
Polyunsaturated fat is also healthy. It is also an essential element in our diet because polyunsaturated fat includes essential fatty acids called omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. The body cannot produce this itself.

Ideally, look for poly-unsaturated fats that contain omega-3, like flax oil, hemp oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts or oily fish.

Polyunsaturated fat is also found in vegetable oils like safflower and sunflower.
Polyunsaturated fats have the same benefit as mono-unsaturated fats in the lowering of bad cholesterol. However, they also lower total cholesterol, which means the reduction of good cholesterol too. This is why Mono-unsaturated fats are perceived as a better source.
Saturated fat

Common sources of saturated fat include animal fats, butter, lard, red meat, poultry skin, cheese, cream and milk. Certain vegetable oils, like coconut and palm oil are also high in saturated fat.

Saturated fat has received a lot of bad press over recent years. However, a lot of the above examples are natural foods and are good sources of protein.  Gaining some of this fat from natural sources, won't lead to bad health. You cannot compare saturated fat found from an organic grass fed cow to saturated fat found in a processed beef burger. It is the processing that causes the problem. We have been eating saturated fat in its natural forms for thousands of years. I think we will see a u-turn in the information we have received on the subject in the near future!

Trans fatty acids
These are the worst of all fats and should be avoided at all costs.

Trans fats are chemically altered vegetable oils. They are produced artificially in a
process called hydrogenation which turns liquid oil into solid fat.
Trans fats can be found in thousands of processed foods from sweets and biscuits to ready meals. They are used because they are cheap, add bulk to certain foods and give products a longer shelf life. They have no nutritional value.

Trans fats have been linked to high cholesterol, which can lead to health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and infertility. Some nutritionists say that eating foods containing trans fat is similar to eating plastic.

Avoiding trans fats doesn’t need to be hard. Reduce any processed or refined food. This will not only reduce Trans fats but overall calories. Avoid ready meals, fast food, baked goods e.g. doughnuts and biscuits, and avoid products that list 'hydrogenated', 'partially hydrogenated' or 'shortenings' on the label. This all means Trans fat.

If a food is natural and if it was around a 1000 years ago then it won't include these fats! This is a great way to look at how healthy your diet is. How much of what you eat was around 1000 years ago? A topic for another time!!

So, back to the big question!

Fat does include calories, whether it is from any of the above forms. It contains 9
calories per gram, unlike protein (4 calories) and Carbohydrates (5 calories).
However, consumption of a healthy amount of the good fats (mono and poly), won’t lead to weight gain. Healthy fat is proven to speed up our metabolism and improve weight loss.  These fats will provide you with so many quality nutrients , that you will feel less hungry. A recent study showed that having an egg in the morning led to people consuming 20% less calories over the course of the day.

Fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil are all important in your diet. Nuts and seeds are  fantastic for snacking on and for regulating blood sugar levels. Fish at meals times is fantastic and is actually one of the best ways to start the day.

An unhealthy lifestyle with over-consumption of high calorific foods and little exercise will lead to us storing fat. So the next time you go for the low-fat yogurt, ask yourself - what is wrong with the fat? Nothing.

Include healthy Fat in your diet.

→ Healthy fat will aid fat-loss by raising your metabolism and providing you with vital nutrients

→ Avoid man-made trans fats.

Posted by Oli

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Lift Weight-Lose Weight

Fat burning is often approached in a very one-dimensional fashion. Hours spent on the CV (Cardiovascular) equipment and all manner of short-lived, counter-productive diets that allow the weight to return all too quickly once they have run their course. Gym equipment will often feature ‘Fat Burning’ programmes built-in to provide specific speeds and intensities at which body fat is the preferred energy source used by the body to complete the exercise. In reality this is a little bit of a false truth. Whilst your body does indeed favour fat at these low intensities, you still burn a percentage of fat at higher intensities and often expend more overall energy in the process. For example, walking on a treadmill for half an hour could burn 180 calories-102 calories (60%) of which are fat, whereas running for the same time could burn as much as 400 calories-120 calories of fat (30%). The key difference is the intensity at which the exercise is performed- the harder you work the more calories you will burn both during and after the session.    
The real secret to effective fat-loss is an improved Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), meaning the ability to burn calories even when you are no longer exercising.  The key factor in RMR is Lean Body Mass or the amount of fat-free mass an individual has. In other words-muscle. The more lean mass the higher the metabolic rate at rest and with this in mind weight training becomes a crucial element of fat-loss. This is not to say that aerobic exercise is no longer of use in the process however the two forms of training stimulate the metabolic system in different ways.
Aerobic exercise of a moderate intensity will stimulate the muscle metabolism during the exercise and for a short period afterwards, however, weight training (anaerobic activity) can result in an elevation in metabolic rate for as long as several hours or even days after the session! This reaction is known as After-burn. In order to achieve after-burn an individual must attain a heart rate of 75% or more of their maximum.  This can be achieved not just with weights but with high-intensity interval training and the effect will be the same, more calories burnt both during and after training. You can use several complex formulae to work out at exactly which point you enter this level of training however the simplest and most effective way is simply to pay attention to your breathing. As soon as you breathe harder than usual during exercise you encounter your aerobic training zone, burning glucose and oxygen as your primary energy sources. Once you become so short of breathe that talking normally is no longer possible you are firmly in an anaerobic state and using a different energy system altogether.  
Effective weight training means limiting the amount of repetitions completed to 1-20 in order to provide sufficient stress on the muscle to affect growth. There are many ways to train with weights but with regards to fat-loss Circuit Training is often favoured because of the high heart rate maintained due to short rest periods and consecutive exercises. The type of exercise will also play a part in how much energy is expended during any given workout. Generally speaking, compound exercises, those which use large groups of muscles working as a unit to perform an exercise (such as a Squat, Dead Lift or Clean and Press) are much more likely to trigger a higher heart rate than isolated moves (bicep curls or Triceps Extensions).  Muscle development occurs when you are at rest and therefore approximately 24-48 hours should be allowed between weights sessions to allow the muscle to repair and grow sufficiently in order to complete the next session. For those that attend the gym regularly (and for whom the thought of 48 hours of inactivity is simply unthinkable), this does not mean that other tasks cannot be completed in this resting period. On the contrary, the muscle metabolism will still be burning energy and this makes it the ideal time to be training aerobically.  This will tire the muscles in a different way and therefore any effective weight-loss programme should feature both aerobic and anaerobic activities.
In summary, fat-loss is a multi-faceted task and requires more than simply slogging away the hours on the treadmill and counting calories.  It requires a total fitness approach, allowing for not only the initial benefit of losing weight or body fat in the first place, but also providing a solid foundation for the continuation of a healthy lifestyle.