Why am I Gaining Weight Despite Diet and Exercise? │ QA

Why am I Gaining Weight Despite Diet and Exercise? │ QA

Question:

I’m 69 years old, I work out 3 times a week for 2 hours, 2 of those days are dedicated to upper/lower weight workout and the 3rd day strictly cardio on the treadmills and bike. I had a personal trainer for 6 months and I learned a lot of methods to workout. I’m careful with my intake and do not overindulge with high calorie or fatty foods, I’m frustrated when I get on the scale at the gym and at home, I gain pounds vs. seeing the numbers go down. It could be my metabolism (as one ages it drops drastically), just looking for answers, tips, suggestions. Thanks! 

– Lydia C.

Answer:

I understand your frustration, Lydia. Total pounds are easy to measure but won’t reflect body composition improvements. Ideally, you’d have tracked body fat percentage over the last 6 months. A tilt toward lower fat and more lean body mass indicates your metabolism should keep up. As body fat is reduced and muscle is gained the scale may not change (or go up). There is water stored with every pound of muscle, due to increased glycogen capacity. 

Another approach is to monitor waist, hip, and thigh circumferences by breaking out the tape measure. Reflect on how your clothes fit. If you’ve got any more wiggle room than 6 months ago – success! Also note progress in fitness level… strength, endurance, and intensity level. All these observations are better indicators of improvement than total weight.  

It makes a difference whether your weight workouts are focused on heavy weight with lower repetitions or more repetitions with less weight. The latter helps develop strength and muscles’ functional output while the former is intended to build up muscle (thus may increase weight). Once you tolerate a level of cardio (time, intensity, duration, or frequency) you’ve adapted to it and need further increases to promote greater fat burning. In the same regard, if your diet is good, but no better than before, then physique change is less likely.  

In summary: focus on body composition, not scale weight, and look to where you can refine your diet and exercise regimen. Keep up that dedication! 

– 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.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

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How to Eat When You Have Type II Diabetes | QA

How to Eat When You Have Type II Diabetes | QA

Question:

My name is Martin and I have Type 2 Diabetes. My A1C is very high and I struggle with a good diet plan or what to eat. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you

– Martin 

Answer:

So glad you realize the importance of controlling your diabetes, Martin. The best advice will be directly from a Registered Dietitian that you can sit down with and go over your particular diet and daily blood sugar levels, not only your Hemoglobin A1C. Preferably that person should also be a Certified Diabetes Educator® (carries the CDE® credential) who is a health professional who possesses comprehensive knowledge of and experience in diabetes prevention, prediabetes, and diabetes management. 

Top recommendations for Type 2 Diabetes from such experts address weight control and balanced meals, including the following advice* 

  • Research supports the use of a low-fat, plant-based meal plan as therapy for Type 2 Diabetes success. 
  • Eat vegetarian all day, one to two times per week. 
  • Each meal should contain healthy carbohydrates, fat, protein and ideally vegetables. Healthy carbohydrates are those that are rich in fiber (contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving) like whole grains, legumes and fruit.  
  • Eat protein first, add some vinegar to your food twice a day and have a good helping (about 15 gm) of resistant starch. 
  • Make the right snack choices (fruits and vegetables), reserving starches for your main meals. 
  • Prepare (even if simply assembling) meals at home as much as possible. You’ll generally eat more vegetables, smaller portions, less fat, fewer total calories. 
  • Use weekend or evening time to chop; chop fruits and vegetables in bulk. You’ll be more likely to eat more servings of these healthy foods.  
  • When you eat restaurant meals, practice portion control from the point when you order. Get less food placed in front of you to eat less and to consume fewer calories.  

*taken from Burns, J. “Lifestyle & Healthy Eating Tips For Diabetes Type 2” The Diabetes Council (2018, Oct. 17) https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/lifestyle-dietary-tips-for-diabetes-type-2/ 

– 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.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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High Energy Workouts for a Head Start on Swimsuit Season

High Energy Workouts for a Head Start on Swimsuit Season

Getting Fit for Swimsuit Season 

For a solid high-energy workout, you’ve got to put in the work! Even if you’re not keeping up with the class or if you’re running a slow mile compared to someone else, putting in the best that you can do means you’re getting an amazing workout. 

Your body is always competing with its own personal best. If you are challenging yourself in a way you haven’t been challenged before, then you’re doing things right! This can mean that you’re doing one more pushup when you thought you were ready to quit or running your mile a couple seconds faster than you did the last time. Strive to outdo yourself in bits and pieces and you’re bound to get more out of your workout! 

That being said, we know it’s easier to give that little bit extra when you have a game plan. Here are some options to help keep you moving until the last second of your workout! 

Circuit Training

Circuit Training tasks your body to perform a series of exercises back to back before a brief period of rest. This workout model is intense, not only because it works multiple muscle groups over the course of the workout, but because it requires you to keeping moving all the way through. If you’re really feeling ambitious you can even throw in some cardio before you start your circuit. 

A sample workout could look like this: Complete 8 to 15 reps performing the Leg Press, then the Chest Fly, then the Glute Kickback, and end with Bicep Curls. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat the circuit 2 to 3 times. 

View this circuit, and additional samples of this training model, here. 

Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises can be upper body or lower body focused. It’s all about building up your movement from slow and controlled to explosive and powerful. Plyometrics are great for generating speed, but to accomplish this, your body will need to expend a lot of energy to move the way you’re asking it to 

Lower-Body PlyometricsThese are exercises like box jumps, jump squats, and switch jumps. The sudden explosion of energy required to jump is what makes these exercises plyometric movements. You can even add a medicine ball to increase the intensity. Click to view some medicine ball plyometrics. 

Upper-Body Plyometrics – These focus less on jumping and more on generating power from your upper body. An example of this would be a clap push-up or a medicine ball wall throw and catch. You can view these and more upper body plyometric workouts here. 

Drop Sets

A drop set is several repetitions of the same exercise that you perform until failure. You are essentially pushing a single muscle group as far as it can go. To help pull you through this kind of workout, drop sets are designed to allow you to drop the intensity of your movement with each set. For example, once you’ve done as many as you can do at a certain level of resistance, you allow yourself to continue by decreasing the resistance and performing another set.  

The best way to perform these is on machines because you can more easily manipulate how much weight you’re carrying, and you’ll have a safe way to release the weight when your muscles finish their last possible rep.  

View some sample drop set workouts here. 

For more articles like this one, and to keep up to date on our fitness, nutrition, and wellness articles, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, today! 

Nutritious Green Foods You Didn’t Know About

Nutritious Green Foods You Didn’t Know About

Today we’re all about those healthy greens! We’ve got some interesting fruits and veggies to share, and they’re not your everyday choices. We’re pretty sure you’ll come across at least one you either haven’t heard of or haven’t considered putting on your plate! 

Good nutrition is all about variety, so pick out one of these fresh choices and see what delicious creation you can devise.

Nutritious Green Veggies

Purslane

Purslane is technically an edible succulent. Its leaves are tender yet crisp and even the stem is edible. In many parts of the world, purslane is considered a weed and is plucked and discarded. Throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, however, it is widely consumed.1 Whether you regard it as a delicious veggie or a weed for the discard pile is up to your taste preferences.  

Purslane’s flavor is lemony and, when fresh, its texture holds up well to acidic salad dressings. Not only does it taste good, it’s highly nutritious. According to recent research, purslane contains significant levels of Omega-3 fatty acids (5 times more than spinach!) and more Vitamin A than any other leafy green vegetable! 

Enjoy purslane in a fresh salad, in your sandwich, or even in soups and stews. 

Turnip Greens

Turnips are a root vegetable and they’re commonly enjoyed fresh, cooked, or pickled. The star of the show today, however, is the green top! Turnip greens can be consumed as a cruciferous vegetable.  

Like other bitter greens, these will have to be boiled down to be palatable.2 The extra effort is worth it because the turnip top is even more nutritious than the root. According to Healthline, the greens contain significant amounts of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Provitamin A (a substance that gets turned into Vitamin A), and Folate (which aids in the production of red blood cells). 

Try turnip greens sautéed or in a soup! 

Beet Greens

As with turnips, the beet root is the more commonly consumed part of this plant, but you don’t want to miss out on all the nutrients in the leafy green tops! Just one cup of these cooked greens offers 220% of the daily value of Vitamin A, 37% of the daily value of Potassium, and 17% of the daily value of fiber!3 

Unlike turnip greens, these are sweeter and have a similar flavor profile to spinach once they’ve been cooked. Raw, they’ll hold a slight but tolerable bitterness. Try them sautéed, in a salad, or in soup! 

Dandelion Greens

You may recognize these as difficult to eradicate weeds, but did you know the leafy parts, the roots, and even the flowers are edible?4 Assuming they haven’t been treated with chemicals or herbicides, dandelion greens can be a healthy addition to your plate!  

Per serving, they contain over 500% of your daily value of Vitamin K as well as high levels of Vitamins A and C.5 There’s even some research to support their ability to support healthy digestion and treat constipation.4  

Flavor-wise, these are slightly bitter. They can be best compared to the earthy flavors of endives and are often sautéed or braised to help cut the bitterness. 

Kohlrabi

Finally steering away from bitter greens, we’d like to introduce you to Kohlrabi. This is a small vegetable that has been a staple of German cuisine for centuries. It can be eaten raw or cooked and its flavor is similar to that of a broccoli stem.6  

Like many other cruciferous veggies, this little bulb is a good source of fiber. It’s also rich in antioxidants, iron, and potassium!6 

Use the root in the same way you might use carrots or broccoli, and the leaves in the same way you might use kale or spinach.

Nutritious Green Fruits

Cherimoya

Despite its scaly appearance, this fruit is soft to the touch. Get past its artichoke-style exterior and you’ll find pockets of sweet and creamy fruit within! Because of its sweetness, cherimoya also goes by the colloquial name, “custard apple.” Be careful to avoid eating the skin and the seeds (they’re usually large and easy to see and remove). Both contain small amounts of toxins that can be harmful if consumed in large quantities 

Interesting benefits of this fruit include mood and immunity boosting properties. Vitamin B6 is important to the creation of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and this fruit happens to have a generous amount of this essential vitamin!7 In terms of immune health, cherimoya’s high Vitamin C content can help bolster your body’s natural defenses. 

Chayote Squash

This fruit masquerades as a vegetable and is often used as one! Its mild, somewhat sweet, flavor makes it the star of many Mexican, Indian, and Latin American dishes.8 

In addition to a number of good vitamins and minerals, chayote squash has some possible medicinal qualities. While more research is needed to come to any definitive conclusions, there are records of chayote squash tea being used to lower blood pressure and to treat bloating.8 

Kiwano

This melon goes by many names and, while it isn’t green on the outside, it’s lime green inside earns it a spot on our list. You may have heard it going by the name “horned melon” or “African cucumber.”  

This fruit is great for keeping hydrated. Its water content is a whopping 88% and it also contains carbs and electrolytes that can help keep you fueled and hydrated after a hard workout.9 When it’s ripe, this melon tastes a bit like cucumber with a slight hint of banana. The easiest way to eat it is simply to cut it in half and spoon out the pulp. 

Do you have a favorite healthy recipe that highlights one of these fruits or veggies? Share your idea with us in the comments below! To stay in-the-know on trending health and nutrition topics, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog! 

Salt Grains for Muscle Gains?

Salt Grains for Muscle Gains?

Looking into the Potential Strength Benefits of Sodium

Salt has been called the “secret weapon in the gym” and “the newest workout supplement1.” The white granules known as table salt (also sea, kosher, or Himalayan salt) in your kitchen are simply sodium and chloride put together. By itself, sodium is one of several critical electrolytes which are minerals that affect the body’s fluid balance, muscle and nerve impulses, blood pressure and acidbase balance.  

Though human requirements are only 300-500 milligrams of sodium daily, the average American consumes ten times that – over 3,400 mg2! It’s well known that athletes have a higher need for sodium, mainly due to sweat losses. However, competitive athletes also train hours a day (and the majority not resistance work) compared to the average person in the weight room. So then, we wondered where the hype about extra sodium came from. Does liberally salting nearly everything you put in your mouth help you pump more iron in the gym?

The Strength Training Community 

Reading through three online sources3,4,5 touting the benefits of salt for size and strength it would appear that we’ve missed out on the key to bodybuilding success! Sodium increases blood volume and intracellular water retention. True, but sodium just doing its job for fluid status and muscle contraction doesn’t mean more salt enhances power and strength for greater gains. None of those articles provide evidence-based references or citations to support these supposed enhancements. (Sodium phosphate is a different molecule that is mentioned as an intracellular buffer that can increase aerobic and anaerobic performance when supplemented3.) The authors do agree that although you shouldn’t limit sodium, you don’t need supplemental salt for strength gains, just ample dietary consumption. A fourth bodybuilding source6 advises not to add excessive sodium to meals and shares that it’s more important to have potassium in balance with sodium intake.  

Sports Nutrition Experts  

We asked Jennifer McDaniel, RDN, a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), in the St. Louis, Missouri area if strength athletes and power lifters need additional sodium beyond that in the typical American diet. She informed us that sodium requirements vary significantly based on intensity and time of training session, sweat rate and acclimation to the training environment. “Based on the current research available, strength-based athletes do not need more than the average intake of sodium from the typical Western diet,” McDaniel said. She explained that most athletes’ eating habits far exceed the recommended limit of 2,300 mg sodium* per day making it unlikely that strength trained athletes would need an increase in daily sodium for the average hourlong training bout.  

* for the general public, from the 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines7.  

Also, nationally known, Marie Spano, RD, CSSD and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist®, gave us her input regarding athletes’ sodium needs. She shared that dehydration can decrease strength and power. “Your muscles need sodium to hold on to more fluid and for muscular contractions, so consume adequate sodium to cover sodium losses through sweat,” Spano advises.  She previously wrote, “To achieve proper hydration, athletes may want to add sodium to their sports drinks or preworkout meals to help retain the fluid they’re consuming.8 The amount depends on total dietary sodium intake and sodium losses through sweat while training in a particular environment.  

Professional Organizations  

American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) 2016 position stand and The International Society of Sport Nutrition’s (ISSN) 2018 research and recommendation update both addressed sodium. Regarding hydration, the ACSM indicated, “Sodium consumed in pre-exercise fluids and foods may help with fluid retention, and advised ingesting sodium during exercise when large sweat losses occur9. The ISSN stated that inadequate sodium would impair performance and advised replacing adequate amounts due to sweat losses10. In regard to extra sodium the Society indicated it was beneficial for hydration in the early days of training in the heat10.  

Neither ACSM or ISSN directly mentioned sodium involved in strength, power, weight training or muscle mass. In fact, the ISSN didn’t list any sodium compounds as “muscle building supplements” based on available literature but did name sodium bicarbonate and sodium phosphate under the “performance enhancement” category, noting there was strong evidence to support their efficacy10. The Society also indicated limited or mixed evidence to support the efficacy of [sodium] nitrates to improve aerobic work performance and endurance exercise10. 

Evidence from Scientific Research 

Being that salt is everywhere in our diet, research on supplemental sodium chloride solely for muscle strength or growth is lacking. Sodium bicarbonate, on the other hand, is not easily obtained from food and has evidence as a modestly effective sports nutrition supplement for short-term, high intensity exercise (anaerobic work) performance11,12. Benefits are most likely due to its action as an extracellular (blood) buffer11. Sodium citrate is a potential alternative buffer, but with unknown effectiveness. For endurance work, sodium phosphate may enhance performance12.  

The Final Word 

So, it seems the hype surrounding salt for strength comes from the importance of sodium for hydration and muscular contraction. Most people generally get enough of it in the form of sodium chloride, more of which doesn’t help strength gains as long as dehydration is prevented, particularly for training sessions that are very long or in the heat. Other sodium molecules consumed as sports nutrition supplements may offer ergogenic effects that can’t be derived from table salt, namely sodium bicarbonate for anaerobic work. The consensus is not to limit salt if you’re intensely resistance training, but you don’t need to intentionally use the saltshaker everywhere either. Consider just drinking a higher sodium fluid electrolyte beverage pre-workout. 

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