top of page

Protein Basics

We are all familiar with the term “protein.” Most people know that adequate protein intake is important for building muscle, but did you know that proteins are found in most every body tissue? They are responsible for most of the work in cells and they are necessary for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Our protein needs go far beyond making up muscle (although that is very important too!). The structure of your bones, organs, tendons, ligaments, skin, and nails are all made from proteins. Hormones are made from amino acids and transported on proteins. Antibodies that help us fight off illness are made from proteins. The enzymes that control our metabolism and the neurotransmitters that are responsible for thought, movement, mood, and sleep, are all made from proteins/amino acids. In other words, protein is a big deal. Proteins are bigger molecules made from smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that can be combined to make proteins. Nine of these amino acids are what are referred to as essential, meaning that the body cannot make them on its own, but needs to get them from the diet. The nine essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Not to further complicate things, but some of the non-essential amino acids that our body can usually make can be what are considered conditionally essential. This means that these amino acids can become essential only under specific circumstances such as illness or stress. For example, although arginine is considered non-essential, your body can’t make enough to meet demands when fighting certain diseases so during that time, you would need to get it through your diet to keep up with the high demand. Foods rich in protein include animal products like meats, fish, collagen, eggs, yogurt, cheeses as well as plant based products like tofu/soy, algae, lentils, peas, beans, nuts and seeds. What are your favorite ways to get your protein?

Carbohydrate Basics

If you have been following me for some time, you know that generally, I am a fan of a lower carbohydrate dietary approach. This stems from my specialty and years of working in diabetes and metabolism. It might surprise you to learn that I don’t believe that everyone needs to follow a strictly low carbohydrate diet. It all depends on your health status and your goals. That being said, no matter what your dietary needs are, a proper understanding of the macronutrients can help you get a handle on determining the best dietary approach for you. What are macronutrients you ask? Macronutrients are the basic nutritional components. They are carbohydrate, protein, and fat. This is what some people refer to as “macros.” This week, we are discussing the first component: carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include starches (also called complex carbohydrates) sugars (also called simple carbohydrates) and fiber. On a nutrition label, the listed “total carbohydrate” is the sum of all 3 of these types of carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrate , or starch, is found in foods like potatoes, beans, and grains. Once eaten, starch is broken down into sugar. While it takes a bit longer for the body to digest it compared to simple sugar, which is already in sugar form, it eventually breaks down into sugar so the body can use it to make energy. How quickly a complex carbohydrate can be broken down and turned to sugar depends a lot on if it is processed or not. Processed carbohydrates are carbohydrates where the fiber (and often nutritious) part has been removed, leaving just the starch. This in a sense, makes it easier for your body to convert it to sugar as most of the work or processing is already done. This is why eating a piece of bread made from processed wheat flour (white flour) will raise blood sugar much higher and faster than eating whole grain quinoa. Simple carbohydrate , or sugar is found in our diets in two forms; natural sugar and added sugar. Natural sugars are those naturally occurring in foods such as fruit. Added sugars are those added to foods to make them sweeter, such as the sugar added to many flavored yogurts. There are many different names for sugar which can make it difficult to always identify when it has been added to foods. Common names include table sugar, molasses, honey, turbinado, corn syrup, rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, beet sugar and many more! Some food labels use the chemical names for sugars. They can be identified as they end in “-ose.” For example, the sugar in fruit is called fructose, the sugar in milk is lactose. Table sugar is sucrose. If you see a chemical name that ends in “-ose” you are dealing with a form of sugar. Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods and is found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Most dietary fiber passes through the intestines and is not digested but it helps to keep things moving and helps us feel full and satisfied. This makes foods high in fiber, like many vegetables, a great addition for weight loss/weight maintenance. Fiber also serves to feed the microbes in our intestine to keep our gut microbiome healthy. Since fiber is not digested, it does not convert to sugar or raise blood sugar. Because of this fact, many people subtract fiber from the total carbohydrate count when they are tracking. We call this the “net carbohydrate” count. For example, a cup of broccoli has 6 grams of total carbohydrate, but 2 grams of those 6 are fiber. Thus, a cup of broccoli has only 4 grams of “net carbohydrate” or blood sugar impactful carbs. A well formulated nutrition plan will include lots of high fiber, low sugar produce as these foods are low in blood sugar impactful carbohydrates but high in essential nutrients. I support counting net carbohydrates when it comes to whole foods like our example here, however when it comes to processed foods, especially in the low carbohydrate diet space, not only is fiber subtracted, but also things like non-nutritive sweeteners as well. The issue with this is that not all sweeteners are created equal, and some can have blood sugar effects (for a deeper dive on this, see my blog post “How Sweet It Is”) Also, added fibers may not always have the same effects as naturally existing whole food fiber. It’s not to say these foods cannot be enjoyed at times and can have their place in helping keep your nutrition plan sustainable, however a good general rule is to focus on whole foods whenever possible. Let me know if this overview of carbohydrates was helpful and send me your questions!

Back to Basics

One of the things that I have learned over the years is that many of us working in the field of metabolic health take for granted our knowledge of the basics and unfortunately often jump into more advanced nutrition, lifestyle, and fitness concepts/protocols to help our clients achieve their health and fitness goals without ensuring that the right educational foundation has been built. The problem with this is that if I tell you what to do and you don’t really understand the why behind it, while you will get success in the immediate, you will not be set up for long-term success when your circumstances change. You won’t know how to adapt your plan around your new circumstances or needs. This, in my opinion is one of the biggest reasons why so many diet and fitness plans fail in the long run. People follow them, get immediate success, but then when life throws a curveball at them or they stop seeing results, they completely stop, give up or “fall off the wagon.” I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way! I truly believe that knowledge is power and if you are equipped with the knowledge of how AND why when it comes to your health, then you are setting yourself up not only for immediate success, but long-term success. This belief is a cornerstone at Forever Fit Life. I want to equip you for long-term success. It may not be popular. It’s not sexy or play well into our desire for immediate gratification. But taking the time to build a solid foundation means you are ensuring that you will be able to gain control of your health, meet your goals now AND sustain them long-term. Your body is your forever home, I want to help you become Forever Fit! If this resonates with you, I would love to learn how I can help you build your foundation for long-term success for your goals. Comment below, or shoot me a message to start your journey to lose the weight once and for all, minimize or eliminate the need for medication, control blood sugar, increase energy and mental clarity and be empowered! Forever Yours in Health, Emalee P.S. Over the next few weeks, I am going to be releasing short blog posts covering some nutritional basics. Let’s make sure there aren’t any holes in our foundation!

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce muscle loss in older adults - research highlight!

Main Points: Loss of muscle mass is one of the main causes of loss of independence and function in older adults. Evidence shows that supplementing with omega-3 fats can help older adults build muscle and improve function. Did you know that one of the leading causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults is the loss of muscle mass and strength? Factors contributing to this loss of muscle include poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and inflammation. If you remember my post on the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio, then you know that omega-3 fatty acids are involved in many physiological processes and are essential for human health. Some studies show evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are involved in the making of muscle and in muscle function. As a review, omega- 3 fats include: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in plant oils like flaxseed oil. DHA is found in fish and seafood. The human body can convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA, but the process is very inefficient. In this research highlight post, I am discussing the findings of a recent meta-analysis suggesting that omega-3 fats are beneficial in preventing or treating muscle loss associated with aging. The study analyzed data from 10 randomized controlled intervention trials looking at the effects of increased omega-3 fatty acid intake on skeletal muscle mass, muscle strength or performance. More than 550 adults aged 60 years or older were included in the studies. The trials provided omega-3 fatty acids from a variety of sources, including fish oil, flaxseed oil, and healthy dietary patterns that adhered to a low omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Doses ranged from 0.16 to 2.6 grams per day of EPA, and from 0-1.8 grams of DHA. One study provided 14 grams per day of ALA. The studies lasted between 10 and 24 weeks. The participants saw increases in muscle mass of about 11 oz for those taking less than 2 g of omega-3s per day and increases of 1.8 lbs. for those taking at least 2 g per day or more. The studies also showed improvements in physical performance in the omega-3 supplemented groups. These findings suggest that supplemental omega-3 fatty acids improve muscle mass and physical performance in older adults. One of main missions of Forever Fit Life is helping people implement lifestyle changes that will increase health and keep people healthy long-term. Our bodies are our “forever home” while we are on this earth. Building and keeping muscle is one of the most important things that you can do to accomplish this. This study might shed a little light on a simple, yet effective action you can take today to help! Reference: Huang YH, Chiu WC, Hsu YP, Lo YL, Wang YH. Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength and Muscle Performance among the Elderly: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients . 2020;12(12):3739. Published 2020 Dec 4. doi:10.3390/nu12123739

Cooking With Kids!

This week’s blog is a request from a Forever Fit member! If you do not have kids, please share this with friends or family who do! We are going to be talking about strategies for cooking with kids. I personally believe it is important to include kids in the preparation of food as it is a great time to educate them about food, where it comes from, how it is prepared and why. It’s also a time to discuss why certain foods are good for our bodies and why others may not be when consumed in excess. It allows them see and feel the food in its natural form and gives them a vested interest in nutrition. I have learned from experience that when kids get to be hands-on in this process, they are much more likely to be open to trying new foods and eating things that they otherwise would not. I also find this to be a great bonding time with my daughters. It is a fantastic time to work on life skills like following directions, math and learning basic science topics. I must admit that it took me a bit of time to relax into the concept of cooking with my kids. I am a very goal driven person, and I can become so focused on accomplishing things that I sometimes neglect to enjoy the process. Things like cooking and cleaning and exercise are things that I historically enjoy doing alone and are cathartic for me. Throw a couple of kids into the mix and what once was my therapy is now chaos! The best advice I would give to anyone who might have similar tendencies would be to take a step back and think of this as play time with your kids. Play time that will yield huge benefit both for you and your children. So, what are some of the ways that I involve them? Let’s dive in! 1. Recipe planning. When I am planning the meals for the week, I will give my 5-year-old daughter the assignment of picking some of the veggie sides we will have. I will control the situation by being very specific. For example, I might pull up Pinterest and ask her to find a broccoli recipe. I have learned not to ask what she wants to eat with her dinner, you can imagine the answer to that is most definitely not going to be broccoli...but given this guidance, she has so much fun looking at all the pictures of broccoli dishes and picking one out. Even though it may not be her favorite food, being in charge of how it is prepared gives her a sense of control and she looks forward to it. 2. Let them help with food prep (age appropriate of course!). Once we have made our plan and have gone to the grocery store (going to the grocery store with a 5 and a 1-year-old could be a blog post in and of itself!), I like to let them help me with washing and prepping the vegetables. This lets them get hands on with the veggies. We often make an assembly line out of it. My daughter takes a lot of pride in doing her job in the line. Another thing we often do, is I have her make veggie bags for her lunches for that week. This has helped tremendously to increase the likelihood that she eats the veggies and is also a great time to work in some math skills. I might tell her, to put 5 carrots, 4 tomatoes, 5 snap peas and 4 cucumber slices in each baggie, for example. As she is doing this, I am usually doing parts of the meal prep that wouldn’t be age appropriate for her (using knives, handling raw meat etc). To engage the baby, I usually give her a small bowl with steamed versions of the same veggies (in case she decides to eat them) with some play cutlery to pretend with. The more exposure and familiarity with these foods, the messier… uh... I mean the better! ;) 3. Cooking. My kiddos are still a bit young to have them actually cook with heat, so at this point in the food prep, I usually have them stationed at a countertop away from the stove where I am cooking. I have them working on another part of the meal like whisking the ingredients of a sauce or dressing together or arranging veggies on a baking sheet. As they grow, I plan to allow them to do more and more! 4. Serving. This is one that I missed early on, but have learned it can be the most fun for them and the most powerful in getting them to try new things. I have my 5-year-old dish out her food onto her plate and arrange it how she wants. I am always shocked when she puts way more of an item that I didn’t think she would like on her plate! 5. Clean up! Lastly, having the kids help with clean-up is a great way to teach responsibility and respect for effort of the one who made the meal! I also find that my daughter is more interested in leftovers when she helped to pack them up. Let me know what topics you would like to see posts about! What are your favorite tips for getting your kids involved in cooking?

Wait...Insulin can Affect Blood Pressure?

We talk a lot about the effects of insulin on blood sugar, but we don’t often discuss the effects that insulin has on other health markers such as blood pressure. In this week’s blog, I am going to discuss just a couple of the mechanisms of how too much insulin can lead to having high blood pressure and why I believe that a diet that controls insulin will have positive effects for those attempting to control their blood pressure. Aldosterone is a hormone that is released from the adrenal glands. Aldosterone’s job is to help regulate the balance of salt and water in our bodies. It does this by telling the kidneys to hold on to sodium and keep it in the blood rather than let it be eliminated out in the urine. Our bodies need to maintain a tight sodium to water balance in our blood for everything to work properly and so where sodium goes, water follows to keep things at a proper dilution. If there is too much aldosterone released, the kidneys will retain too much sodium and thereby too much water. This keeps the sodium balanced in the blood, but it adds extra volume and thereby pressure inside our blood vessels. Interestingly enough, insulin is known to increase aldosterone levels. If a person has too much insulin chronically, then their aldosterone is being stimulated too much which leads to more sodium and more water in the blood and can result in hypertension (high blood pressure). Another way that too much insulin can contribute to high blood pressure is by its growth stimulating properties. Insulin is an anabolic hormone (meaning growth causing). Insulin signals cells to grow, including endothelial cells. Endothelial cells are the cells that line the innermost layer of our blood vessels. When normal levels of insulin are pumping though our blood, this stimulation is normal and healthy; however, when too much insulin is being pumped through our blood, this intensified stimulation to grow causes the endothelial cells to grow too much, thickening the innermost layer of our blood vessels causing the open area where blood can flow through to narrow and so increases blood pressure. Imagine trying to get a mouthful of water through a wide straw versus a tiny narrow straw and you will get the point. While these are just a couple of the ways that insulin can potentially affect blood pressure, I think that the take home message is that the importance of eating a diet that contributes to high levels of insulin is not good for more than just blood sugar. The best way to lower insulin levels in the blood is through the use of time restricted eating/intermittent fasting and through a low-carbohydrate/low-glycemic diet. Are you interested in learning how to implement a low carbohydrate diet or intermittent fasting into your lifestyle? I would love to help you! Forever Yours in Health, Emalee

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

The main point: When considering how a food will affect your blood sugar and thereby insulin levels, you need to consider, not only the quality of the carbohydrate (unprocessed, whole food) but the amount eaten at one time. By now, most of you know that I believe that considering the affect that the foods you eat have on your blood sugar is important for health. Avoiding foods with added sugars and processed carbohydrate is a good place to start, but like most things when it comes to health, there is more to the story. In short, both the quality and quantity of carbohydrate determines an individual’s glycemic response to a food or meal. What I mean is that while quality is important, the amount we eat also matters when it comes to controlling blood sugar. To better understand this, let’s look at a couple of terms that describe this. These terms are glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL). Classically these concepts are used for those with diabetes, but understanding these terms can help all of us, diabetic or not, decide whether or not to include certain foods in our diets. The GI is a rating system that goes from 1 to 100, with 50 grams of pure glucose (sugar) being scored at 100. Foods are categorized as low (55 or under), medium (under 70), or high (70 or over) based on how they are expected to make someone’s blood sugar levels respond after consumption. The lower a food's glycemic index, the slower blood sugar rises after eating that food. In general, the more processed a food is, the higher its GI, while whole or high-fiber foods will rank lower on the index. This is great but it doesn’t tell you the whole picture of how a given food will actually affect your blood sugar. While GI tells me how fast my BG will go up, it’s not considering the portion that I am eating. An extra-large portion of a low-GI food would still produce a considerable blood sugar spike, while one bite of a high-GI food probably wouldn’t do very much. To understand a food's complete effect on blood sugar, you need to know both how quickly it makes blood sugar rise and how much carbohydrate/sugar per serving it can deliver. This is where the glycemic load (GL) comes into play. GL tells you a more complete picture of what the actual impact a given food will have on your blood sugar. The GL is another rating system that uses the GI of a food as well as the total carbohydrate in the serving. It is calculated by taking the product of a food’s GI and its total available carbohydrate content: glycemic load = [GI × carbohydrate (g)]/100. Foods under 10 are low, under 20 are medium, and 20 or greater are high on the GL scale. In healthy individuals, increases in GL have been shown to predict increased elevations in postprandial (post meal) blood glucose and/or insulin levels. So, what is the takeaway? Referring back to our main point, quality AND quantity matter. I often see people frustrated that they are not losing weight, or their blood sugar is not improving as much as they would like to see when they make healthy changes to their diet. They might start eating whole grains rather than refined grains and whole fruits instead of fruit juices, and while these are commendable changes, unfortunately the amount they consume still matters. This is one of the reasons a low carbohydrate diet is so effective for controlling blood sugar. It essentially does the work of reducing GI and GL for you in that it restricts not only high glycemic carbohydrates, but the total amount of carbohydrate as well. I would love to hear your thoughts and questions! Comment below!

Exercise and Sleep Deprivation

The main point: Exercise may mitigate some of the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation! (cue the confetti!) Findings from a new study published January 2021in Molecular Metabolism suggest that high-intensity exercise compensates for the harmful effects of sleep deprivation. This is music to my tired mama ears! Especially after “springing forward” last night into daylight savings time and losing yet another hour of precious sleep! Sleep is critical for our mental and physical well-being. Sleep deprivation increases our risk of developing many chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, kidney dysfunction, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression. Many of these detrimental effects can be, in part, linked to the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on glucose tolerance (a person’s ability to keep blood sugar regulated) and mitochondrial function (mitochondria are known as the “power-houses” of our cells and are where our energy is produced) . Team this with the fact that more than a third of all adults living in the United States report not getting enough sleep on the regular (defined as less than the 7 hours recommended by the CDC) and we have a metabolic nightmare (pun intended) on our hands. The researchers of this study were especially interested in seeing if since it is known that exercise can improve glucose tolerance and mitochondrial function, could exercise be used as a means to help negate the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on these health factors. The intervention study involved 24 healthy young men between the ages of 18 and 40 years. The study’s investigators placed the men into one of three groups: 1. Normal sleep group (eight hours of sleep per night, for five nights) 2. Sleep restriction group (four hours of sleep per night, for five nights); 3. Sleep restriction plus exercise group (four hours of sleep per night, for five nights plus three high-intensity interval exercise sessions on a cycle ergometer). What did they find? The men who experienced sleep restriction had reduced glucose tolerance and mitochondrial function. They also exhibited reduced amplitude of diurnal rhythms (as measured by normal fluctuations in skin temperature and muscle cell protein synthesis that are expected with a normal circadian rhythm) compared to the group of men who got normal sleep. But the interesting thing is that the men who experienced sleep restriction but also engaged in high-intensity exercise did not exhibit any of these negative effects. These findings demonstrate that high-intensity exercise may counteract the harmful effects of sleep deprivation! I love it when science gives us a “hack” to get around things we cannot control! While getting enough sleep is an absolute must for anyone wanting to improve their health, for some of us (parents of young children, shift workers, etc.) it just isn’t our reality at the moment. I like to say, “do what you can.” If you get the opportunity to get more sleep, then by all means TAKE IT! But on those days that you cannot, make sure you are getting in some exercise. Exercising might be the last thing on your mind when you are tired, but I will tell you from experience, it is a lifeline to having more energy. I suggest to all of my clients who experience poor sleep to at least try and engage in regular exercise as a means to improve their energy and metabolic health. Do you exercise regularly? I would love to help you implement a regular exercise program into your routine! My Forever Fit Tribe membership offers monthly exercise plans complete with a demonstration! Fast and efficient workouts to get you the most benefit in a time efficient manor! All the planning and thinking are done for you, so you can get it in and get back to life with more energy and health!

Tips For Getting a Workout In When You Are *Crazy* Busy

One of the most common questions that I get asked by my clients is “How do you find the time to consistently work out?” Since this question seems to come up often, I figured I would write a blog on the tips that I have found to be key in helping me stay on track with my workouts. Tip 1: Make a commitment to yourself…and keep it! We make and keep commitments to others every day, but why don’t we treat the commitments we make to ourselves the with the same priority? Are there times where I don’t feel like following through on a given commitment that I made to someone or where it has become inconvenient for me because X, Y or Z came up? Yep… much of the time, but I still try and keep my commitment because someone is counting on me to. Why don’t we give ourselves the same respect? I view it as a practice in self-respect to try and keep my commitment to myself and one of those commitments is to work out X number of days a week. Are there times I don’t feel like it, or times it has become inconvenient for various reasons? Yep…but someone (ME!) is counting on me, so I try and keep my commitment. Tip 2: Set yourself up for success! This tip has a few elements. This first is to have a plan. I think the saying goes “Not having a plan is planning for failure” or something along that line. While this is very true, I like to take it a bit further and say, “Not having a REALISTIC plan is planning for failure.” Let’s say my plan is to work out 5 days this week. I could try and go hard and plan to wake up at 5 am every morning and work out before I have to go to work. This might work great for some people, it used to work great for me before I became a mother, but now my mornings (and nights!) look very different than they did before. My current reality is that I often stay up a bit too late finishing work after the kiddos go to sleep and on top of that, the baby still wakes me up at least a couple times during the night. That being said, if I am honest with myself, I know that after a week or two of early morning workouts, I would start to burn out due to utter fatigue. Not accepting this reality would set me up for failure, so I plan to work out at later time many of my days. The next element of setting yourself up for success is to make it as easy as possible to keep your commitment. For example, setting out your workout clothes and shoes or packing them in your gym bag the night before so they are ready to go. This small effort makes it that much easier to follow through. Tip 3: Plan for the worst! As a mom, this one is big. Let’s say I had my plan to work out during my daughter’s nap time. While sometimes this goes smoothly and she sleeps straight though, other times she doesn’t. I used to get frustrated and felt defeated if I had to end my workout early if she woke up, but now I do my best to plan for it! I usually prepare snacks for her and have them ready. I also have her favorite toys ready to go. If she wakes up, I can just bring her into the area where I am working out and she has snacks and toys there to keep her busy while I finish my work out! Tip 4: Be flexibly inflexible! This sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But the truth is that life as a mom of two little ones who also works outside of the home AND runs a business can get a little crazy and being flexible has become a necessity in almost every aspect of my life. There are so many moving parts that have to come together in a day for it all to work and some of those moving parts cannot be controlled. Sometimes when something that I cannot control comes up, my plan has to change but I do my best to still keep my commitment to get a workout in. For example, I may have planned to do a resistance work out in the morning, but my 1-year-old happened to wake up earlier than usual and was just not having it despite my being prepared. I then might have to alter my plan and rather than lifting weights that morning, I might put her in the running stroller and go run sprints with her in tow. I would then just modify my weekly plan to make sure I get the resistance training in on another day. I had to be flexible on what workout I did that day, but I was inflexible on compromising my goal to work out that day. What are your favorite hacks for staying consistent? I would love to hear them! Forever Yours in Health, Emalee

Prioritizing Protein for Health

Key Points: Proteins and their building blocks are responsible for almost all of the work in our cells, and they are necessary for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Proteins are made from smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are 9 “essential” amino acids that we have to get from our diet. Protein needs vary greatly based on age, sex, health status and level of physical activity. Eating protein and resistance exercise independently help stimulate muscle growth but they work even better when combined. Maintaining muscle while aging is one of the most important things you can do to age well and maintain a healthy metabolism. Eating protein with fat may be better than eating protein alone. Protein is key when losing body fat is a goal. Proteins are found in most every body tissue. They are responsible for most of the work in cells and they are necessary for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. This goes beyond making up muscle. The structure of your bones, organs, tendons, ligaments, skin, and nails are all made from proteins. Hormones are made from amino acids and transported on proteins. Antibodies that help us fight off illness are made from proteins. The enzymes that control our metabolism and the neurotransmitters that are responsible for thought, movement, mood, and sleep, are all made from proteins/amino acids. In other words, protein is a big deal. Proteins are bigger molecules made from smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that can be combined to make proteins. Nine of these amino acids are what are referred to as essential, meaning that the body cannot make them on its own, but needs to get them from the diet. A person’s protein needs can vary widely depend on age, sex, health status and level of physical activity. The RDA, which is set at the bare minimum, is 0.8 gm per kilogram of body weight but remember, the goal of the RDA is to recommend what it takes to survive, not thrive. The International Protein Board recommends a minimum of 1.1 gram per kilogram of body weight for general health and recommends more as a person ages plus additional protein if a person exercises or is very active. For fitness, weight loss and healthy aging, expert recommendations range widely from a minimum of 1.1 grams per kilogram all the way up to 2.5 gram per kilogram. It is best to base these calculations off of a person’s ideal body weight or reference weight and not their actual body weight, especially if there is a significant amount of excess weight present. Another important thing to note is that as we age, our ability to assimilate dietary protein into muscle tissue declines and thus protein needs increase over time in order to compensate for this. Maintaining muscle while aging is one of the most important things you can do to age well. There are two ways to stimulate muscle growth (aka muscle protein synthesis). The first is through eating protein and the second is through resistance exercise. Both stimulate the process of new muscle protein synthesis individually but are synergistic when protein consumption follows exercise. In other words, eating protein and resistance exercise independently help stimulate muscle growth but they work even better when combined! Additionally, there is evidence that protein consumed along with fat seems to work better in helping to stimulate muscle growth than consuming protein alone without the fat. When you think about it, this makes sense as most natural whole food sources of protein come with fat (think eggs, meat, dairy, nuts, etc). When weight loss, or I prefer to say fat loss is the goal, protein is very important as it is not only essential for growing and maintaining muscle mass as we have just discussed (which improves metabolism) but it is also an extremely important player in helping people feel full and not overeat. There is a theory called the Protein Leverage Hypothesis. It describes a phenomenon that occurs in animals (with growing evidence that it exists in humans as well) where an animal will continue to eat until enough protein to meet its body’s need has been consumed. The animals will eat and eat, even overeating calories until enough protein is eaten. If high protein foods are given initially, the animal stops eating once their protein threshold is met and do not overeat. While more studies are needed on this in humans, it is worth noting that high protein diets have been shown to be more satiating in many studies. Understanding the importance of and your individual protein needs are key in establishing a healthy nutrition plan. What are your favorite ways to get your protein in? Forever Yours in Health, Emalee

Get Moving! Exercise and Insulin Resistance in Muscle

Key points: During exercise, muscle can directly take up glucose. Exercise can lower insulin resistance by: Increasing glucose (sugar) uptake by the muscle Decreasing liver fat production Lowering inflammation and oxidative stress These positive effects can last 24-48 hours after exercising. Resistance training offers both immediate and long-term benefits to combat insulin resistance by both burning glucose during exercise and building muscle. In the last post, I discussed how insulin resistance starts at the muscle and alluded to exercise as a means to overcome it. Did you know that during exercise, muscle tissue can directly take up glucose independent of insulin? If you remember, in the previous post we reviewed how one of insulin’s jobs is to usher glucose (blood sugar) from the blood stream into body cells to be used as fuel. But this is one of the main problems in insulin resistance, the insulin is not working as well as it should to accomplish this. This sounds dire; however, our bodies are amazing and we now know that while a muscle is actively being worked, it can actually pull glucose (sugar) into the muscle cell to be used for energy without the help of insulin. So, if a person is insulin resistant, they can use exercise to bypass this resistance and get sugar out of the blood and into the muscle. This lowers blood sugar levels and thus insulin levels. Lower insulin levels mean less insulin resistance. In one study, it was found that a single bout of exercise that lasted 45 minutes done before ingesting a high- carbohydrate meal increased muscle glycogen synthesis and decreased liver fat synthesis in young, lean, but insulin-resistant participants. In other words, that single bout of exercise helped the muscles take up more sugar out of the blood and produce less fat in the liver. Another study found that participants that exercised consistently for 3 months had better insulin sensitivity, lower inflammation and lower oxidative stress, even if the participants didn’t lose weight. It is also interesting to note that some studies show that much of the insulin sensitizing effects of exercise can last up to 24-48 hours after. This indicates that exercise should be engaged in regularly to obtain and maintain the most benefit. While all types of exercise (cardio and resistance training) are good and will contribute to helping to reverse or prevent insulin resistance at the muscle, resistance training plays an important role because not only does it help to acutely pull sugar into the muscle at the time of exercise, but resistance training also increases your muscle mass. Muscle is the largest “sink” for blood sugar. The more muscle tissue you have on your body, the greater the capacity you have to take up glucose, thus lowering blood sugar and insulin. Are you convinced yet? Are you itching to get out and go for a walk or go lift something heavy? I hope so, I know I am. What is your favorite way to exercise? Do you want to start an exercise program, but feel a bit lost in what to do? Or, are you bored with your current regimen? Check out the Forever Fit Life Tribe membership for our monthly at-home workout plan that will help you take advantage of both the cardiovascular and muscle building benefits of exercise! Forever yours in health, Emalee

Why We Need to Focus on Muscle

Key points: 50% of Americans are insulin resistant. Insulin resistance starts in the muscle and is associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Excess body fat adds to insulin resistance, and obesity almost always indicates that there is some level of insulin resistance, but is not the origin. Even young, lean people can have insulin resistance, if they are sedentary. Did you know that about 50% of Americans are insulin resistant? Yes! You read that right… FIFTY PERCENT! While I know this and have written about it several times, it always just hits me so hard every time. Maybe it’s because my life’s work has been working with people who deal with the chronic diseases that insulin resistance causes and so I see, on a daily basis, the gravity of what this means. To be honest, it truly makes my heart so heavy. Insulin resistance is a big deal and many of us are walking around with no idea we have it, even if you are good about having routine lab work at your yearly physical. We see that long before blood glucose levels rise to the point that a problem is detected on lab work, insulin resistance sets in and it starts in the muscle cell. I find this fact very interesting as I think that so many of us would guess that it would start at the adipocyte (fat cell). I think we are conditioned to think that it is the accumulation of excess fat that makes us resistant. While yes, excess fat can add to resistance, it is not the origin. The story starts at the muscle cell. This is a huge shift in paradigm, even for healthcare providers. We are very fat focused. We look at the excess body weight as the major problem and assume if you lose the weight, then all is corrected; BUT this is miss-guided. Our focus should be on correcting the underlying problem and this means focusing on muscle. The weight, I venture to say, is a symptom of the underlying insulin resistance and if we focus on improving muscle insulin sensitivity, weight loss will follow. A study conducted by Peterson et al. found that even young and lean individuals can be insulin resistant. All of the participants maintained normal blood sugar levels after being given a high carbohydrate milkshake but in the insulin resistant subjects, it took much higher insulin levels to maintain the normal blood sugar, indicating there was resistance there. Another important finding from this paper was the fate of the ingested sugar. Those with insulin resistance stored significantly less (61% lower) glucose as muscle glycogen, meaning the muscle took up much less of the sugar and further, they had nearly double an increase in how much of the sugar got turned to fat in the liver (which is laying the ground work for developing metabolic syndrome, fatty liver and diabetes)! It is astonishing that these were young, lean men that no one would even think there is anything going awry. The caveat to this story is that the insulin resistant men were sedentary. Lack of exercise seems to be a MAJOR factor in determining muscle insulin resistance. More to come on this in the next post! Stay tuned!
bottom of page