Neeks Answers: Health advice you have heard you need to follow to get fit!

In my “Neeks Answers” series, I pose a question to my followers about nutrition and then use those responses in order to give advice. In this edition, we will explore the question: “What health advice have you heard you need to follow in order to get fit?”

I’ve responded to each of your responses with some explanations on why some of those health tips might or might not be useful. Scroll down to read my responses!

WHAT HEALTH ADVICE HAVE YOU HEARD YOU NEED TO FOLLOW IN ORDER TO GET FIT?

I want to start by putting something in perspective. If you had 1 min to explain to someone exactly what they had to do to survive through something horrible you wouldn’t get into very many details right? You would tell them things to do that would probably simplify things to give them the best chance of surviving.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF MOST FITNESS & NUTRITION ADVICE!

 

Hail Mary pass, also known as a shot play, is a very long forward pass in American football, made in desperation, with only a small chance of success and time running out on the clock.

People summarize, and over simplify FACTUAL concepts into what I like to call Hail Mary’s. Why do some of them work and some of them not? LUCK.

If it’s advice that fits your lifestyle and you enjoy, you score a touchdown and that quarterback looks like a real MVP. (QB=name of diet; Wide Receiver = You.) If it doesn’t work out long term, instead of going back to the drawing board and actually making safer play ideas to win the game, for some reason, some people insist on continually trying the next promising Hail Mary instead of slowing things down and choosing plays that are way less risky but that have a better chance of converting a first down.

Let me decode as many of these as possible…

 

now that i got that off my chest, let me break down some of your responses…

 

“Don’t Drink Alcohol”

Avoid drinking your calories. Most drinks are high in calories and are easily over consumed on a causal night out. Not to mention they impair your judgment which may lead to you eating more at the end of the night.

Cool Story But Why…

At seven calories per gram, alcohol supplies almost twice as many as protein and or carbohydrates (4 cal per gram).

Alcohol, whenever consumed, is the first fuel your body has to burn. Before the alcohol is burned up, your body will not burn fat. This does not stop your weight loss, it simply postpones it, since the alcohol does not store as glycogen (a substance deposited in bodily tissues as a store of carbohydrates), and you immediately go back into lipolysis (the breakdown of fats and other lipids by hydrolysis to release fatty acids) after the alcohol is used up.

 

“Eat a Gluten Free Diet”- The goal here is to cut out ALL wheat, rye, barley to relieve the symptoms of celiac disease.

Cool Story But Why…

If a diet requires you to CUT something entirely out and you’re not allergic to whatever they are asking you to cut out which in this case is gluten-containing grains (and you don’t replace them with gluten-free grains to add calories back in for what you’re cutting out). You’ll lose weight by putting yourself in caloric deficit. Again a Hail Mary that might work.

 

“Don’t drink your calories”

Because liquid calories take less work to digest and the return on your “caloric investment” is poor in terms of satiety people often suggest eliminating them.

 

Cool Story But Why

Most liquid calories sabotage the chances of making it easy for you to sustain a caloric deficit. Of course there are exceptions to this statement BUT here is one example:

Fruit Juices: most are made from fruit juice concentrates which basically means that all the excess water from the fruit is removed, yielding a product seven times more concentrated than the initial juice. Here is some perspective for you, an 8 ounce glass of orange juice is 110 calories while a 12 ounce can of Coke is 140 calories. No real savings there and of course most of us don’t stop at 8 ounces, a more typical size is 12 to 16 ounces.

 

“Drink Sugar Free or Diet Sodas Instead of Regular Soda”

The goal here is to get you to swap out high calorie sugary soda with a zero calorie option than still kind of gives you similar satisfaction. People could tell you to drink water instead but that’s asking for way too much for someone who might be addicted so they created “diet” or “zero” calorie drink that’s  sweetened artificially 

 

Cool Story But why…

If you drink tons of regular soda and calorically you are ingesting 140 calories per 12 oz can multiple times per day and you swap to a zero calorie option which happens to puts you in a caloric deficit you will lose weight.

But if you don’t actually end of reducing your calories because the drinks caused you to be more hungry or stimulate more cravings that you act on (reversing the deficit you thought you were making) you will not lose weight.

Some studies found that because there is no nutritional value in these beverages, there are hormones that contribute to eating (cravings) that do not get turned off by these beverages so you are still hungry and often turn to food. And, since these drinks are loaded with artificial sweeteners that are sweeter in taste than sugar without nutrition, they can further stimulate the craving centers in the brain and GI tract. (https://news.yale.edu/2017/08/10/sweet-taste-not-just-calories-dictates-metabolic-response)

 

“Become a Vegan or a Vegetarian”

The thought process here, I’ll agree, has great intentions in terms of advice. It’s encouraging people to eat more fruits, veggies, plenty of whole grains and legumes and healthy fats! Where this plan may fall short is the fact that the food industry has made tons of “Vegan Junk Foods” that make people think that simply going vegan will put them in a caloric deficit. It’s another Hail Mary for someone who many have little knowledge on foods with good nutritional value.

Thank the westernized food industry for taking a great idea (if you enjoy eating no animal products) and manipulating  or creating processed versions of these whole foods… declaring them vegan and misleading people into thinking these processed“vegan foods” are going to be the key to their success.

Just to name a few…

  • Coconut milk ice cream
  • Sweet Potato Chips
  • Plant based frozen foods, desserts and snacks (often made of refined flour and added sugar)  

 

Cool Story But Why…

So if you enjoy eliminating all or most animal products and it helps you create a caloric deficit you will lose weight. So it’s again a Hail Mary, especially in this westernized world of easily accessible super hyper partible foods stocked to the rims of our grocery store isle’s.

Remember that the more a machine or factory processes a whole food and manipulates it the less work (calories burned) your body has to do to break it down once you swallow it. Check out this study that concluded that processed foods in comparison to whole foods may decrease post meal calorie burning by nearly 50%.

“Cut out & Avoid Sugar”

Again, I’ll applaud the intent here but it needs more detail and clarification. If they specified that refined sugars should be cut back on I would give this advice a 10/10. But without that little detail and the explanation of what refined sugars are this advice or idea is a Hail Mary.

 

Cool Story But Why…

If you use the figure of 82 grams of sugar consumed by the average adult each day, it should not surprise you that cutting that out would lead to some good weight loss. Consider this: if someone were to consume a standard 2,000 calorie diet (man or woman) each day and you immediately cut all sources of sugar from your standard foods and or drinks, you would reduce your caloric intake by 330 calories each day, assuming you eat the average of 82 grams of sugar each day. Cutting out 330 calories from sugar each day would no doubt translate to about 34 pounds of fat loss each year, or close to three pounds per month. (Assuming 3500 calories= 1 pound of fat)

Where I feel this goes wrong is people hear that fruit has sugar and they start to fear and avoid that, too.

  • One medium apple =19 grams of sugar
  • One medium banana = 12 grams of sugar
  • One medium orange= 17 grams of sugar
  • 1 cup of grapes = 15 grams of sugar

All the above fruits are loaded with fiber, water and have significant chewing resistance (more calories burned)which completely changes what happens to your blood glucose levels when you eat them whole! Fiber slows down the digestion process which prevents that blood sugar “spike” people talk about with refined sugars.

 

What are refined sugars? They start out with raw sugar, which is softened and dissolved, then the components are separated to produce the white, pure sugar most commonly recognized as table sugar (sucrose).

Some studies have shown that fructose can cause harm when consumed in excess. However, there is not enough fructose in fruit to cause concern! They are talking about high fructose corn syrup!

 

“Don’t Eat _____ after _____ O’clock”

They are literally just trying to help you create a calorie deficit by giving you a time cap on eating something. I have heard this phrase be used for fruit and or carbs, in general, the most.

“Drink more water…like ½ bodyweight in oz daily”

Great advice here! I highly suggest everyone drinks more water consistently to not only stay hydrated but eliminate the possibility of your body sending you the “I’m hungry” signal for anything other than its hungry! (Your body can’t articulate which one it needs so it shoots out the “I’m hungry” signal for either  and hopes you choose what it wanted.) I personally drink 1 gallon of water a day comfortably.

Cool Story But Why…

If you drink water before you eat a meal it will act like an appetite superset by making you feel fuller when eating which can lead to you eating less calories at your actual meal (possibly helping you create a caloric deficit to lose weight)

 

“eat Brown rice instead of white rice or Whole grain pasta instead of traditional” or similarly… “Cut out& Avoid White Foods”

Again, I’ll applaud the intent here but it needs more detail and clarification. If they explain that replacing white or refined grains (fast digesting carbs) with whole grains like most brown or “whole grains” I would accept this advice but they don’t so again, it’s a Hail Mary. The problem here is people begin to fear fast digesting carbs like plain white rice or bread and blame America’s obesity epidemic on it.

 

Cool Story But Why…

Whole grains are loaded with fiber which do help keep you fuller longer. They also are full of vitamins and minerals that get striped away when the outer bran (the hard, brown protective layer of a kernel) that gets stripped off to leave behind and reveal the Endosperm “white stuff”. Whole grains do help make maintaining a caloric deficit easier. If something digests faster, you will not stay full for long…. but you will have a fast burst of energy from it. This is why when controlling your caloric intake (most body builders do this) it can be beneficial to time fast digesting carbs around your workout to give you the energy needed to push harder for workout or to properly recover afterwards! **This is why you see bodybuilders eating rice cakes, pop tarts, candy, and white rice fearlessly (Remember they track macros regularly and have a good grasp of how much they are in taking) PS: if anyone says they are not “tracking” and are getting away with it I would probably guess at some point in their life they tracked their food for a long enough period of time to be able to eyeball and hit their desired macros in their sleep at this point so don’t be FOOLED!

 

“Stop doing cardio”

Okay this one is also complicated as upping your expenditure is generally a good idea if you are a sedentary person. BUT IF you are over working out and trying to “out workout” your fork (caloric intake) this is better advice… but not great. If this was clarified to “Limit the amount of cardio you are doing and focus more on your caloric intake” I would give it a 10/10 !

 

Cool Story But Why…

If someone gave you this hope that they can get you to lose weight by stopping all cardio and just maybe focusing on weights, let me be the first to tell you they are just going to cut your calories (whatever amount needed) to put you in a caloric deficit. 

Here is a good visual for people who are try to lose weight by overdoing any sort of workout/cardio…you are trying to shovel snow out of your driveway from a blizzard with a spoon… I highly suggest finding a more optimal way to clear that snow!

To nerd out just a little bit, studies have shown that too much exercise can also lead to a dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. The HPA axis is responsible for the neuroendocrine adaptation component of the stress response aka as your body’s hormone “control center.” It affects the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, and ovaries or testes.

If this axis is dtysfunctioning due to an added “stress”(working out is a stress on the body) it can impact your calorie intake, weight regulation, and body heat.

 

“Eating a Ketogenic Diet”

This is a great option for someone who dislikes carbs (fruits, rice, bread ect). But I always ask people to ask themselves if they can wake up every single day and avoid carbs with a smile on their face. If their answer is no for any single reason ABORT MISSION.

Cool Story But Why…

If a diet requires you to harshly limit a single macronutrient (in this case carbohydrates) and replace them with more of the other two (traditionally fat) which puts you in a caloric deficit, you WILL lose weight. Fat is extremely satiating and this is appealing to a chronic dieter that is used to feeling hungry when trying to diet without guidance.  In this case, because protein can be broken down into glucose as well if you over eat protein while trying to stay in a state of ketosis you might kick yourself out of ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which some of the body’s energy supply comes from ketone bodies in the blood, in contrast to a state of glycolysis in which blood glucose provides energy.

Also In the first few days after starting a keto diet, a person will experience a significant loss of water weight. When carb intake is restricted for a few days, glycogen stores in the muscle are reduced. Glycogenis responsible for water retention, so when its levels fall, so do our water levels.

 

“Change the way you cook your foods”

Good advice for someone who may be consuming tons of extra calories from frying most of their foods: for every 1 T of oil you have 120 calories to advising someone to change to pan frying with a spray oil or even bake their foods could help put them in a caloric deficit depending on how much fried food they are used to intaking.

“Intermittent fasting”

This is an eating style where you eat within a specific time period, and fast the rest of the time. There are different styles of it so do your research and see if this fits your lifestyle!

 

Cool Story But Why…

The moral of the story is: if you limit the window of time that you eat your calories in such way that it puts you in a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. 

Example: if you change nothing but you start skipping a meal like breakfast that may be around 300-500 calories depending on what the rest of your diet looks like, this may put you in a caloric deficit to start losing weight. Again, a textbook example of a Hail Mary.

 

“Use low fat options when possible”

These are a few words of wisdom when trying to quickly suggest cutting back on calories without giving much explanation on how this tip could work. It seems less intimidating to use low fat products rather than giving them up all together. BUT I want to note please read nutrition labels as many of these items usually turn into chemical storms. 

 

Neeks Tip:

Low fat or no fat usually means higher in sugar. Low sugar or low carb usually means high fat.  So you may want to actually make sure you are creating a caloric deficit instead of assuming by tracking your food for a week or two. The sad part is most of these modified versions of the originals are not that much lower in calories because as I explained above to make something more palatable when you remove something you add something else back in.

 

“Eat all protein” 

Honestly, this sounds like a horrible plan. Don’t cut out two macronutrients. This is a HUGE HAIL MARY attempt to make a very large caloric deficit to lose weight.

Cool Story But Why…

When it comes to fat loss, protein is the king of nutrients no doubt. You don’t need to restrict anything to benefit from a higher protein intake. It’s important to note that protein can reduce hunger and boost your metabolism, but you won’t lose weight if you don’t eat fewer calories than you burn (a caloric defict)

Thanks to everyone for submitting responses! If you are reading this and have any other examples of common health tips that I didn’t decode in this post, let me know!

Love,

Neeks

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