Energy Drinks: Are They Really That Bad For You? | Q+A

Energy Drinks: Are They Really That Bad For You? | Q+A

Question:

I feel like I should probably ignore the calories in energy drinks and focus on all the chemicals in them that I can’t pronounce on the can. Are these drinks okay or should I avoid them? I feel like you’re going to say I should stick to water.

– Andrew G.

Answer:

The calories from energy drinks almost always are from sugar, so you should be aware of that. The size of the drink matters greatly, as a 2 fl oz shot may have under 50 calories while a big 20 fl oz can may have 280 calories total (even though it says 120 calories per serving).

So on to the ingredients… The main stimulants are caffeine, guarana, and taurine. These serve to excite the central nervous system and have side effects including agitation, irritability, nervousness, restlessness, hyperactivity, insomnia, anxiety, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate and possible dehydration. Of course one’s response to these compounds depends on the dose and the person’s unique biochemistry. Another common ingredient is glucuronolactone which may have minimal effect on energy but is thought to fight fatigue and promote a sense of well-being. The typical dose of glucuronolactone in energy drinks is generally considered safe. Ginseng is often found in energy drinks and is also generally considered safe.

Nothing hydrates like water! But a cup or two of coffee is fine. If you feel that you need more “lift” from an energy drink – reader beware. Your tolerance of any particular energy drink can only be predicted by your body mass, previous experience and trial-and-error. Not the best way to go about it. Here are some guidelines to look for on energy drink labels.

 

  • Caffeine – limit daily consumption to 400 mg for healthy adults to avoid side effects, per U.S. FDA. For adolescents over 13 years, Health Canada advises that daily caffeine intake be no more than 2.5 mg per kg of body weight. The NCAA limits caffeine intake and tests caffeine levels in urine for collegiate athletes.
  • Guarana (contains caffeine & other stimulants) – up to 200 mg probably tolerated
  • Taurine – limit daily intake to 3000 mg to avoid cardiovascular effects

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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What Are Macronutrients? | Q+A

What Are Macronutrients? | Q+A

Question:

I am confused about macro nutrients.  Can you clarify what this means and how I can use this to help lean out? Please help me understand what macro nutrients are and how it can help me lean down.

– Marlyn L.

Answer:

Macronutrients are simply the classes of nutrients needed in large amounts, which includes carbohydrate, fat and protein. These provide energy in the form of calories (carb and protein 4 cals/gm, fat 9 cals/gm). Alcohol – not a nutrient – is the other food molecule that has calories (7 cals/gm). While the remaining 3 essential nutrients – water, vitamins and minerals – have zero calories.

Your current diet includes all 3 macronutrients. To say “use macronutrients” to help you lean out, seems to imply a structured ratio of the three. I will speak to this below, but first let me say that the overwhelming body of evidence regarding weight loss diets show that it’s a moderate restriction of calories, regardless of method, that achieves long-term weight loss.

What should your MACRONUTRIENTS intake be?

Each person’s effective macronutrient distribution for leaning out may be different. Are the changes required to meet a desired ratio sustainable for your lifestyle? How different is the proportion of macronutrients from what you’re currently eating? The US Dietary Guidelines recommend 10-30% calories from protein, 25-35% calories from fat and 45-65% calories from carbohydrate for healthy adults. You could reach your goals with 10% protein, 35% fat and 55% carbohydrate as easily as you might with 30% protein, 25% fat and 45% carbohydrate, assuming your activity level and energy intake are appropriate.

If you do decide to adhere to set percentages from each macronutrient, the act of tracking and analyzing your intake to determine your balance may be a major promotor of dietary change, thus caloric intake and weight loss. See our previous article: Keep a Food Diary, Log or Journal and Lose Weight Faster.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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Meal Planning for Adolescents | Q+A

Meal Planning for Adolescents | Q+A

Question:

Hi. I’m a teacher in the city and for an upcoming “project” I want my 7th grade students to create a healthy eating plan. I’m into fitness and eating healthy and want my students to learn about it. Seeing a kid eat a bag of Doritos for breakfast drives me nuts haha. I follow my own eating plan based on my weight and lifting 6 days a week. Mine focuses on the amount of protein, carbs, calories, and fat I consume based on my weight. I consume .5 g of fat per lb. of my body fat, 17 calories per lb., .5 g of carbs per lb., and 1.5 g protein per lb. I want something similar to use with my 7th grade students based on what they should do per lb. if they are not active, moderately active, and very active. I want them to be able to do math based on this so don’t want to use one of the calculators they have online. Would you have any ideas or recommendations for this?

– Drew

Answer:

Hello Drew, the recommendation is to use a range of nutrient values, especially for adolescents, as there is not one “ideal.” Here are the nutrients you identified and the general goals for youth in the age range of 7th grade for sustaining a healthy body weight*.

Calories for 11-14 y.o. – sedentary 1600-2000 calories, moderately active 1800-2400 calories, active 2000-2800 calories. Girls at lower end of ranges, boys at upper end.

Fat – 25-35% of calories

Carbohydrate grams – 130 grams minimum, 1.4-2.3 gm/lb very light intensity training, 2.5-3.6 gm/lb moderate or heavy training. (45-65% calories)

Protein grams – base need 0.5 gm/lb, 0.5-0.7 gm/lb early training, [DJ3] 0.6-0.7 gm/lb endurance sports or restricting calories. (10-30% calories)

Target nutrient values are only meaningful if there is a way to measure intake against them.  Otherwise, “X  grams” is meaningless. A nutrition analysis program or tables (e.g. USDA Food Composition Database https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/) to determine each and every food can be cumbersome.  It would be more practical to have students create a plan using known food group serving values. Standardized exchanges for meal planning have the following basic nutrient values:

·         Vegetables – 25 calories, 0 gm Fat, 5 gm carbohydrate, 2-3 gm protein

·         Fruit – 60 calories, 0 gm Fat, 15 gm carbohydrate, 1 gm protein

·         Non-Fat or Low Fat Cow’s Milk/Yogurt – 90-110 calories, 0-3 gm fat, 12 gm carbohydrate, 8 gm protein

·         Reduced Fat or Regular Cow’s Milk/Yogurt – 120-150 calories, 5-8 gm fat, 12 gm carbohydrate, 8 gm protein

·         Very Lean or Lean Protein – 35-55 calories, 1-3 gm fat, 0 carbohydrate, 7 gm protein

·         Regular Protein – 75 calories, 5 gm fat, 0 carbohydrate, 7 gm protein

·         Starches – 80 calories, 0 gm Fat, 15 gm carbohydrate, 2 gm protein

·         Beans (1/2 cup) – 100 calories, 0 gm fat, 20 gm carbohydrate, 8 gm protein

·         Nuts/Seeds (1 oz) – 150 calories, 10-15 gm fat, 4 gm carbohydrate, 3-6 gm protein

·         Fat – 45 calories, 5 gm fat, 0 gm carbohydrate, 0-1 gm protein

Serving sizes and descriptions can be found at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/fd_exch.htm.

For example, the target of 2200 calories, 50 gm fat, 275 gm carbohydrate and 100 gm protein,  could be met with 5 vegetables, 3 fruit, 2 low fat milk/yogurt, 1 regular milk/yogurt, 3 lean protein, 3 regular protein, 8 starches, 2 beans, 2 nuts/seeds, and 3 fat, with calorie distribution of 25% fat, 52% carbohydrate and 23% protein. For an extra credit exercise, you can have students check my work!

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Sources:

*from the 2003 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommendations for young athletes; Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements (2006); 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

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Natural Energy Foods to Help Replace Caffeine

Natural Energy Foods to Help Replace Caffeine

The caffeine in coffee, energy drinks* and energy shots is certainly a stimulant, but one that calls you back again to remedy a subsequent crash. It also acts as a diuretic and has other potential side effects including insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness.

* A word about “energy” drinks… Many contain B vitamins in addition to caffeine, which are really boosters for metabolic pathways to derive energy from food, as these micronutrients do not provide any calories directly and are not stimulants.

Consumers may not be aware that caffeine is being added to everything from jellybeans to beef jerky. Have you seen “wired” waffles? In response to this growing trend, the FDA announced in 2016 that it would investigate the safety of caffeine in food products. For our neighbors to the North, Health Canada institutes caffeine content limits in cola-type beverages and requires mandatory cautionary labelling.

Some natural caffeine sources include guarana, yerba mate, chocolate and tea. The last two only have a quarter to half the caffeine content of prepared coffee. Chocolate also has theobromine, which has direct psychoactive effects like stimulating neurovascular activity and enhancing memory and alertness. As far as tea, green tea that contains catechins which impact energy, mood and cognition separate from the caffeine effect.1

Chocolate and tea may give you some verve but are hardly a recipe for a full breakfast. What the body needs is energy in the form of molecules called ATP to activate muscles. These are provided from the calories in food during metabolism, and carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source.

Juice contains mostly fructose and water, and is rapidly absorbed requiring minimal digestion, thus providing quick energy for a perk. Both citrus juices and cocoa-based drinks are rich in flavonoids, which may increase cerebral blood flow and increase neural activity.2

So what’s wrong with a typical bowl of corn flakes to go with a cup of juice, cocoa or tea? Refined grains fall flat of providing sustained energy. For that you’ll need complex carbohydrates and a little protein and healthy (unsaturated) fat. One type of complex carbohydrate, known as fructo-oligosaccharides, may boost mood by way of its effect on gut bacteria which influences behavior via neurotransmitter systems. Another type, inulin, is similar to fructo-oligosaccharides and linked to improvements in learning and memory tasks, such as accuracy in recall.3 Some lean protein and healthy fat serve to prolong the energy from carbohydrates.

Some specific natural energy foods to work into your morning routine for more oomph:

Still a coffee addict? Try switching to half decaf coffee, an herbal coffee, or a tea (e.g. ginko biloba, ginseng, rooibos) to fill your mug. Don’t forget that getting those muscles moving will help circulate oxygen to the brain. See our article How Early Morning Workouts Can Impact Your Day | Fitness. If you’re slow to rise and an AM workout is out of the question, stretching is a great start.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Sources:

  1. Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Dietz C, Dekker M. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2017 Jan 5. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Flavonoid-rich orange juice is associated with acute improvements in cognitive function in healthy middle-aged males. Alharbi MH, Lamport DJ, Dodd GF, Saunders C, Harkness L, Butler LT, Spencer JP. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Sep;55(6):2021-9. doi: 10.1007/s00394-015-1016-9. Epub 2015 Aug 18.
  3. An Investigation of the Acute Effects of Oligofructose-Enriched Inulin on Subjective Wellbeing, Mood and Cognitive Performance. Smith AP, Sutherland D, Hewlett P. Nutrients. 2015 Oct 28;7(11):8887-96. doi: 10.3390/nu7115441.
  4. Chewing gum: cognitive performance, mood, well-being, and associated physiology. Allen AP, Smith AP. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:654806. doi: 10.1155/2015/654806. Epub 2015 May 17.

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How Can I Make My Own Breakfast Bar? | Q+A

How Can I Make My Own Breakfast Bar? | Q+A

Question:

I’d like to make my own ‘breakfast bar’ to eat in the morning on the car-ride to the gym to play racquetball. Sweet is OK, but most of the manufactured ones have chocolate and that is a little hard to swallow at 5am. Doc says I need to watch/lower my carb intake so I need to be conscious of that too. Even purchasing them at the wholesale club is costly, so would love to be able to make my own. Any proven recipes you can share?

– Jerrey S. Fell

Answer:

While I’ve only made my own bar once, I’d rely on reviews for taste and acceptability. Nutritionally, it sounds like you’d like a meal replacement vs. an energy bar or protein bar. For the base sweet component, mashed bananas are easiest, but using ground dates and/or dried coconut also makes for a sturdy bar. Oats or puffed rice are good starches to use for bulk without a pasty texture that flour would give. A nut butter or protein powder will balance out the carbohydrates. Buying mainstream ingredients in bulk then properly storing the remainder will keep your costs down. Generally, store bought bars cost $1 per ounce.

Here’s a great option without chocolate:

In a food processor combine 1 C nuts, 1 C shredded coconut, ½ C wheat germ, and 2 ripe bananas. Transfer to bowl and mix in 1 C whole wheat flour, 1 C oats, 1 C vanilla Greek yogurt, 2 beaten eggs, tsp. cinnamon and tsp. baking soda. Spread evenly in greased rectangular baking pan. Bake in 350o F oven for 20 minutes or until light golden brown; cut into 12 bars. Let cool completely before removing from pan. Each 227 Calories, 10.5 gm Fat , 27 gm Carb, 9 gm Protein.

For more of a granola flavor without baking:

Blend 1 C peanut butter, 1/2 C honey with mixer until mixed thoroughly. Adding a little at a time, mix in 1/2 C dry powdered milk and 1/3 C vanilla soy protein powder. Stir in 2 C puffed rice, 1/3 C finely diced dried fruit and 1/3 C finely diced nuts. If dough is too sticky, add more powdered milk. Press firmly into a wax paper lined pan until flat, about a half inch thick. Cool in fridge until solid and slice into 12 bars. Each 239 Calories, 13 gm Fat, 25 gm Carb, 9.5 gm Protein. Use a low carb protein powder to reduce carbohydrates.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

 

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