Weight Loss with HEALTHeME

Weight loss and good health made simple

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cardio or Weights? What's Best?

Strength training - great for the heart and weight loss.
Okay, you already know exercise is good for you. Aerobic exercise, also known as cardiovascular exercise, improves your endurance; strength training makes you stronger. But, what type of exercise is best for heart health? Many would think the answer to this question is a no-brainer: cardiovascular training is the way to go.  However, a new study indicates that a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise is best for your heart.

Researchers looked at three groups: one group did strength training only; one group did aerobic exercise only; and one group did a combination of both. Although the aerobic exercise group lost weight and trimmed their waistline, the combination group was the winner. Participants who did both aerobic activity and strength training lost about four pounds, dropped one inch from their waistline, and saw a decrease in several risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, including a decrease in blood pressure.

Another study found that twice-weekly strength training was an effective way to prevent the age-related increases in abdominal fat in women. Preventing or decreasing the amount of abdominal fat is important for heart health. The accumulation of abdominal fat is associated with increased blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, and insulin resistance.

While aerobic exercise improves your cardiovascular endurance and makes your heart and lungs function more efficiently, there is something special that happens when you add weight training to the mix.  Try to include strength training in your routine two days each week, doing one exercise for each major muscle group. It will only take about 15 minutes and your heart will thank you.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sodium & Potassium: Finding the Balance

To say salt isn’t good for us isn’t exactly headline news. Most people, especially those with high blood pressure, know it’s important be mindful of their sodium intake. A recent study takes this advice further, suggesting a diet rich in potassium is an important partner to a low-sodium diet.

Researchers for the Center for Disease Control, Emory University, and Harvard University examined the habits of over 12,000 Americans. They found people who eat a diet high in sodium and low in potassium have a 50% increased risk of death (due to any cause) and twice the risk of death from a heart attack. This is an important finding because the average American eats approximately 3,300 mg of sodium per day, which is about twice the recommended daily amount. Add to that the fact that most Americans do not meet the daily recommendation of 4,700mg of potassium, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Sodium is a naturally occurring substance found in many foods. Your body holds on to excess water in an effort to eliminate, or wash out, the sodium. When you have high blood pressure, this can be dangerous because the extra fluid raises your blood pressure even more. Since salt is made up of mainly sodium, it’s often at the heart of the issue.

So, what role does potassium play to help balance your blood pressure? Several studies, including a study published in the journal Hypertension, indicate eating a diet high in potassium actually lowers blood pressure. Although scientists aren’t sure how potassium does this, they believe it has something to do with the way potassium acts on your blood vessels. By either preventing the contraction of blood vessel walls or by promoting relaxation of the vessel walls, potassium decreases the pressure that blood places on the blood vessels – which is what blood pressure is all about.

Here's the bottom line: eat fewer processed foods and more fruits and veggies. Processed foods are high in sodium and low in potassium - exactly the combination that increases the risk of heart disease. Fruits and vegetables provide plenty of potassium, and, as long as you don't sprinkle extra salt on top, provide a healthy amount of sodium.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Goal setting tips for weight loss.

Never give up on your weight loss goals.  Never.
For many of us, the prospect of losing weight can be overwhelming. We feel we have to overhaul our diet, swear-off sweets, and exercise everyday…starting tomorrow! In the short-term, we come out of the gates strong, but then we burnout and lose ground on the positive changes we’ve made.

Sound familiar? If so, there is a better way to weight loss.   Instead of trying to revolutionize your life in one fell swoop; focus on changing your life and your health one step at a time by setting goals.

Goal-setting is an important skill and one that has been proven to help weight loss.  But, the kinds of goals you set may be the most important factor on your path to success. In one study, researchers examined the frequency of goal-setting for healthy weight loss. They found that people who set frequent goals related to specific actions, like increasing physical activity or recording their diet, were more likely to reach their goals than those who just set goals related to weight loss.

So, if weight loss is your ultimate goal, try setting weekly goals. Focus on one thing each week that you can control, like drinking more water one week and exercising for 20 minutes each day the next week. Setting weekly goals is a great way to stay on track to lose weight.

Here is a tool to help you set S.M.A.R.T. goals:
  • Specific: Vague statements like, "I'm gonna exercise more" won't help you reach your goal. An example of a specific goal is, "I'm going to walk for 30 minutes 3 times this week."
  • Measurable: Make sure you can measure your goal. If your goal involves drinking more water, a good goal would be, "I'm going to drink 16 oz of water before lunch every day".
  • Attainable: If you've never run, trying to train for a marathon in a month probably isn't going to set you up for success!
  • Relevant: Make sure your goal is something you actually want to achieve!
  • Time-oriented: Set specific time-parameters for all of your goals. A good example is "On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week, I am going to walk for 20 minutes before eating lunch".

Friday, July 8, 2011

Calories What Counts: Quantity or Quality?

All calories are not created equal.
We’ve been told for years, “a calorie is a calorie in terms of weight loss”. Decrease your calorie consumption by 500 calories per day (by way of modifying your diet and exercise), and you will lose one pound per week. And, while cutting calories will help you lose weight, recent studies indicate the types of food you eat may be just as important as how much you eat.

One 2010 study found that eating processed foods may have a profound affect on obesity. Researchers examined the post-meal energy expenditure for people who ate either processed foods or “whole” foods (less processed foods including whole grains). What they found was the post-meal energy expenditure for people who ate the processed foods was 50% lower than those who ate “whole” foods. Since the subjects in this study ate the same number of calories, researchers concluded the processed foods may be contributing to weight gain.

In a more recent study, researchers found that people who drink diet sodas were more likely to be obese than their non-drinking counterparts. It’s true that diet soda has zero calories. But, even with no added calories, the waistlines of diet soda drinkers grew 70% more than those who avoided sodas. Those who drank two or more diet sodas per day saw their waist circumference increase by 500% over non-drinkers.

Traditional thinking says if you cut out the calories of soda, weight loss is a given. However, according to one article, we can’t fool our brains with empty calories. From increasing blood sugar to simply triggering our desire to eat more, diet sodas may not be as harmless as you may think.

The moral of the story? Focus your efforts on “whole”, non-processed foods. Things like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help weight loss. And, if you’re a soda drinker, the non-processed rule applies to you as well. Swap your soda for water or 100% juice for a healthier alternative.