For ages, health and nutrition professionals claimed “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that “we must eat on a consistent interval throughout the day to keep our metabolism revved”… but is this actually the case? My answer: Not necessarily.
Intermittent fasting is something that has become popular in the media in the past couple of years and for good reason.
Intermittent fasting is a WAY of eating that focuses on how much time is spent each day or each week eating versus fasting.
Intermittent fasting does not require you to follow any rules around WHAT you eat and instead it focuses majorly on WHEN you eat.
Intermittent fasting can be done a number of different ways, including:
Your meals during your "eating window" can be spaced however you please - it can be 2 large meals with no snacks, 1 large meal with 3 snacks, etc.
People who follow an intermittent fasting eating style claim that this is a very traditional method of food consumption. Historically humans did not have access to food all year long. Throughout the year humans would go through periods of time where there was little to no food and other times of the year (after a kill or a summer of abundant fruit and vegetable growth) where there was a significant amount of food available.
Further research on the benefits of intermittent fasting is still needed, however current research is quite promising. The latest research on intermittent fasting suggests that this style of eating can potentially increase levels of human growth hormone and decrease insulin levels, both of which favor weight loss.
Levels of human growth hormone decrease as we get older (levels are highest in childhood as levels of this hormone are responsible for growth in children). However, some research suggests that if we can increase our levels of human growth hormone as adults we could potentially increase our muscle mass and decrease our body fat. Tip: human growth hormone is produced when we sleep, so make sure your sleep hygiene is on point!
Research also suggests that intermittent fasting can potentially slow the progression of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and aging.
Many people who choose to follow an intermittent fasting style of eating claim that it is easy to follow than a traditional lower calorie diet for weight loss. People following this diet often find that restricting your intake 1-2 days each week and then eating without restriction the remaining days of the week is easier mentally than following a slightly restrictive plan (aimed at weight loss) everyday.
Short answer, no. Eating 5-7 meals a day does not increase your metabolism any more than eating 3 larger meals a day. I typically recommend snacking between meals to clients who otherwise may be tempted to indulge between meals. Say for example, you have a staff meeting at 10:30 am everyday and your co-worker always brings donuts or muffins. This is a situation where it can be extremely helpful to have your own snack available. This way you have a healthier (and typically more filling) snack on hand so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out and you are much less likely to indulge in a treat “just because it’s there”.
It comes down to personal preference and what works best for YOUR body. Some people feel great eating two meals a day, and as long as those two meals include all of the nutrition your body needs and you don’t lack energy throughout the day, that is A-OK with me!
Before you go out and give intermittent fasting a try, I must touch on a couple of things. There are a few groups of people who I would not recommend long periods of fasting.
I wouldn’t recommend intermittent fasting beyond a 12-hour hours for women who are trying to get pregnant, women who are pregnant or women who are struggling with hormonal imbalances and irregular periods.
I would also not suggest intermittent fasting for people living with low thyroid function, particularly Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and people with adrenal fatigue.
And finally, although I am a big supporter of a non-traditional diet for diabetes, please do not try intermittent fasting if you have diabetes and need assistance adjusting your oral medication or insulin dosage.
What I recommend to my clients is to focus on a 12-hour fasting window and for most people, this is quite simple to maintain long-term! For example, if you finish your dinner at 6:30 pm then your first meal the following day should not be before 6:30 am. You can manipulate the hours however you’d like to fit your own schedule but just focus on the 12-hour window of fasting. If a 12-hour window sounds simple, maybe work up to a 14- or 16-hour fasting window.
If you try intermittent fasting and it impacts you negatively, stop. Like I always say, eating must be individualized and one method does not work for EVERYONE.
Do you naturally intermittent fast? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health,
If you saw my post on the Grounded Health Facebook page earlier this week (follow me here), you know that changes in our basal metabolic rate (how many calories our body burns at rest) can make a significant difference in whether or not we gain or lose weight over time. So, if we can increase our basal metabolic rate (BMR), and as a result burn more calories throughout the day, we are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. This is great, but how can we do it? The major way we can increase our BMR is to increase the amount of lean muscle we have BUT we can also engage in activities to increase our brown fat to increase our BMR as well (I know, increase fat to burn calories, sounds backwards, right?).
Today I wanted to talk all about this type of fat - where we can find it and how we can possibly increase the amount we have.
Most of us think of fat as the storage tissue made up of any excess food we consume; however this isn’t necessarily the whole truth. White fat is the type of fat that is used to store the extra calories that our bodies don’t use over time. Brown fat is metabolically active, meaning it actually BURNS calories throughout the day. As little as 2 ounces of brown fat is capable of burning up to several hundred calories per day, which is the equivalent of about 30-minutes of jogging.
So what does this mean? If we can have more brown fat we don’t have to exercise? Not exactly – but it does mean that you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
The major role of brown fat is to generate heat, which is why it is found in higher amounts in newborn babies and in hibernating mammals. As we age, the amount of brown fat we have decreases. It is estimated that most adults have only 50-60 grams of brown fat, which is located mostly around the neck, collarbones and along the spine. In addition to increasing our BMR, higher rates of brown fat are also associated with improved insulin sensitivity, making this area promising for future research in blood sugar management.
Aside from burning calories, exercise also helps us convert white fat to brown fat. One study in the Journal of Disease Models and Mechanisms reported that working out triggers the release of the enzyme irisin in mice, which helps turn white fat into brown fat.
Human studies on exercise and brown fat also appear to be promising, suggesting that exercise increased the conversion of white fat into brown fat in men training on an exercise bike over a 12-week training period.
Literally chilling out can help to increase the activity of brown fat in humans. A published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation had 12 men with lower-than-average amounts of brown fat sit in a 63°F room for 2 hours per day over a 6-week period. The men burned an additional 108 calories in the cold compared to normal indoor temperatures. After the 6-week period, the men burned an extra 289 calories in the cold, causing the researchers to hypothesize that the lower temperatures increased the conversion of white fat to brown.
In another study, subjects took part in their normal daily activities but they slept in a private room where the air temperature was controlled. During the first month of the study, the temperatures in the rooms were set at 24º C, which was considered to be the temperature at which the body did not have to work to either gain or lose heat. For the second month, the temperature was decreased to 19º C, for the third month it was increased back to 24º C and for the final month it was increased again to 27º C.
Throughout the entire study, researchers measured the subjects’ brown fat using a cold-stimulated PET/CT scan. This method of measurement allowed them to detect changes in muscle and fat.
Results of the study showed that the cooler temperature (19º C) increased brown fat activity in the subjects by approximately 30-40% and the warmer temperature (27º C) decreased brown fat activity in the subjects below baseline.
If you want to start incorporating some form of “chilling out” in your life, you can lower your thermostat to the mid-60s or below, as this may be enough to stimulate some brown fat activity.
You could also try exercising in a cooler temperature (62-64°F). During this time make sure your skin is exposed to allow sweat to evaporate to help keep you cool. Refrain from turning up the heat when you’re exercising to increase the amount you sweat. Increasing the temperature when exercising will actually decrease brown fat activity.
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Enjoy an ice bath (I use the word “enjoy” very loosely here) after a tough workout to help with muscle recovery and with brown fat activation!
Eat More Apples
Apple peels contain a compound called ursolic acid, which was responsible for boosting brown fat in mice. Other foods that contain ursolic acid include cranberries, blueberries, plums, and prunes, as well as the herbs oregano, thyme, lavender, holy basil, peppermint leaves. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the results of animal studies cannot be transferred directly to humans but they do warrant further research.
Develop A Healthy Sleep Routine
Getting enough high-quality sleep can help to increase the amount of brown fat we have, as proper melatonin production has an influence on the production of brown fat. Do you have a good sleep routine? Learn more about improving your sleep hygiene here.
Refrain From Eating Too Little
According to a study published in the journal Cell, not only does eating too few calories have many undesirable health benefits but it also prevents white fat from turning brown.
The exact impact these activities have on the amount of brown fat we have is impossible to know at this time, however any increase in brown fat activity will increase your caloric burn at rest.
Are you already engaging in some of the behaviors above? Which ones could you easily incorporate in your life? Leave your answers in the comments below.
Do you have questions that you’d like answered? Click here to ask the RD!
Yours in Health,
Probiotics have been named the future of preventive medicine and disease treatment. Over 100 trillion microbes live in your intestines right now and they are responsible for so many beneficial processes within our bodies, from proper digestion to boosting our immune system.
Probiotics are non-disease causing bacteria that live in our intestines. They produce vitamins (B6, B12 and K2), short chain fatty acids, aid in digestion and absorption of our food (including minerals magnesium, calcium and iron) and help prevent inflammation and infection (fighting off bad bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli).
The more strains (types) of bacteria you have in your gut, the better.
In our intestines there is a constant battle between the good and bad gut bacteria and the key is for the good bacteria to always outnumber the bad bacteria. When there are more bad bacteria than good bacteria in our intestines we have something called gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis can lead to many issues, which we will discuss later.
Two major known benefits of probiotics are digestive health and immune support but research is emerging in the area of probiotics and obesity. We will cover digestive health separately in the next couple of weeks so for today we will just focus on immunity and obesity.
Over 70% of our immune system is housed in our gut. This immune system is called GALT, which stands for gut-associated lymphoid tissue and it works by helping to protect the body from invasion of bad bacteria.
If you’re prone to developing urinary tract infections, eczema or allergies, a good quality probiotic can help. The good gut bacteria form a sort of shield that prevents pathogens from adhering to the intestinal wall, which helps to keep us healthy.
Let’s look at some of the data:
Studies have already demonstrated that the intestinal flora of obese individuals differs from that of thin people. One hypothesis for this relationship is linked to consumption of dietary fibre, suggesting that thin individuals consume more fibre than overweight individuals. Foods containing large amounts of fibre (prebiotics) act as food for good gut bacteria so naturally, if we consume more prebiotics we are going to be able to better support a robust population of good gut bacteria and in turn, starve off the bad. As we discussed last week, a diet high in sugar feeds bad bacteria and starves the good.
Another hypothesis is linked to the relationship between an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria and inflammation. As we discussed last week, inflammation often causes a halt in weight loss and can even promote weight gain through insulin resistance.
A third hypothesis is that our gut bacteria can influence glucose and fat metabolism, which directly impacts our weight and likelihood of becoming obese (1).
“According to Angelo Tremblay, probiotics may act by altering the permeability of the intestinal wall. By keeping certain proinflammatory molecules from entering the bloodstream, they might help prevent the chain reaction that leads to glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.” (2)
The number of human studies linking probiotic intake to obesity is limited at this time, however it is a promising area of research and the relationship will only continue to get clearer.
Remember – not all probiotics are created equal. Probiotics can contain many different strains and number of colony forming units (CFUs). There is no magic number for amounts of CFUs in a probiotic but some researchers believe you need a minimum of 2 billion CFUs for at least a 2 week period in order to get maximum benefits.
On the label you will want to look for
If there are just two words (ex. Bifidobacterium longum) with no strain designation afterwards, it could be any one type of hundreds of bacteria. This is often a red flag when choosing a probiotic because it demonstrates that the company is either unaware of which particular strains exist in the supplement or they do not realize the importance of distinguishing the strain.
You’re going to want to choose a probiotic that is multi-strain. Some of the most popular probiotics in supplements today are:
Lactobacillis acidophilus (this bacteria readily colonizes on the intestinal wall and supports nutrient absorption and assists with digestion)
Bifidobacterium longum (this bacteria helps maintain the integrity of the gut lining – remember, inflammation occurs when foreign particles crosses the gut barrier and enter the bloodstream) *Fun Fact: This is one of the first strains of bacteria to colonize after birth.
Bifidobacterium bifidum (this bacteria is essential for the proper breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and protein)
*Tip: For all you travellers out there – look for a probiotic containing Lactobacillis rhamnosus to help prevent travellers diarrhea.
This is an unfair generalization however when my clients have been on antibiotics, I would estimate that 95% of them had no idea that it would be beneficial to take a probiotic following their course of antibiotics. With the frequency of antibiotic use in the world today, a probiotic protocol following a course of antibiotics has GOT to be put into place.
Recommendation: Consume a serving of fermented foods daily for a good maintenance dose of probiotics. After a course of antibiotics consume a good quality, multi-strain probiotic for at least two weeks after finishing the treatment.
Caution: Probiotics should not be taken by anyone who is immunocompromised. Please consult your physician before taking a probiotic.
Believe it or not, you can actually send a sample to the American Gut Project for a full analysis of your gut microbes through stool analysis. With the population of your gut bacteria playing such a huge role in our health, why not see what's actually going on in there?
Hope you found today's post informative. Keep checking back - over the next few weeks we will go over everything you need to know about housing a robust population of beneficial bacteria!
Yours in Health,