Weight loss and aging: Changes to your exercise routine that make it easier (Part 3)

This is the final part of a 3-part series on weight loss and aging. Part 1 talked about why weight loss is more difficult beyond 40 – metabolism slows down 5% per decade, lean muscle is lost, the hormonal landscape within the body is completely different, and all of the bad eating habits you picked up in your 20’s and 30’s start to catch up with you.

Part 2 discussed a few simple changes to your eating habits that can help overcome weight loss barriers. This article, Part 3, is about your exercise routine.

What follows are some general guidelines about how much you should be exercising, the kind of exercise you should be doing, and the exercise intensity you should strive for.

How much exercise do you need?

With age, exercise needs to compensate for decreased activity levels and a slower metabolism. Considering these two factors, a good goal is to exercise every day for a total of 2-5 hours per week, depending on your current fitness level. If you’re relatively inactive at the moment, start by walking 20 minutes per day and work your way upwards to an hour of exercise per day.

What kind of exercise should you be doing?

Sarcopenia – lean muscle loss with age – is a primary contributor to a slowing metabolism as you get older. Resistance exercise is your best weapon to combat sarcopenia and preserve lean muscle mass as you age.

Resistance exercise is the type of exercise that requires you to move your limbs against resistance. That resistance can take the form of your bodyweight (push ups), elastic bands (bicep curls), weighted bars (barbell bench press), or dumbbells (shoulder press). Resistance exercise should account for 50% of your total exercise.

Here are some good examples of resistance exercises to target your core (muscles in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back), your lower body, and your upper body:

Core exercises

  1. The plank

The plank is an exercise that activates the muscles of your deep inner core: the transverse abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles that support and control your spine and pelvis.

To do a proper plank, start with your hands and knees on the floor. Then lower your elbows to the floor and step your feet back one at a time. Your elbows should be at 90 degrees and shoulder width apart. Your heels all the way up to the top of your head should be a straight line.

  1. The roll out

The roll out targets your entire core, including the ones in your lower back. It can be done with a dedicated roller, round dumbbells, a barbell, or a gym ball.

Kneel on the ground with the roller directly in front of you. Lean forward until the roller is directly beneath your shoulders. Engage your core. Roll forwards as far as you can without your upper body sagging. Then, roll back to the starting position.

Lower body exercises

  1. Body weight squat

The bodyweight squat utilizes the quads, the glutes, the calf muscles, and several muscles of the core.

Start standing straight up with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes turned slightly outward. Slowly bend at the knees and hips to lower your body. Throughout the entire movement your heels should be flat on the floor. Keep moving downwards until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

  1. Stability ball hamstring bridge

The stability ball hamstring bridge primarily targets the glutes and the hamstrings.

Start lying flat on your back with your feet together, resting on the top center of a stability ball. Your knees and hips are bent at about 90 degrees in the resting position. The arms lie flat at your side pointing towards your feet. Keeping your arms on the floor and your back straight, squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off the floor. The aim is to create a straight line from your shoulder down to your knees. The knees stay bent 90 degrees throughout the exercise.

Upper body exercises

  1. The push up

A classic for a good reason. The push up is a multi-joint exercise that encourages core stability. A push up uses the abdominal muscles, the deltoids, the chest muscles, stabilizing muscles in the lower and mid back, the triceps, the forearms, and the biceps.

Start with your feet together and your hands shoulder width apart right beneath the shoulder joint. Your heels to the top of your head should form a straight line. Keeping your core engaged, bend at the elbows to lower your body down towards the ground. Keep going lower until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and return to the top.

  1. The bent over row

The main muscles used during the bent over row are in the back, the latissimus dorsi, and the rhomboids.

A bent over row can be done with dumbbells, a barbell, or elastic bands. Holding the dumbbells with your palms facing down (pronated grip), bend your knees slightly and move your torso forward by bending at the waist. Keep going until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor and your arms hang perpendicular. The back should be completely flat throughout the entire exercise. Keeping the torso and the lower body stationary, lift the dumbbells toward your chest, bending the arms at the elbow. Hold at the top for a brief moment, then slowly lower the weights back towards the floor.

All resistance exercise should be light with a goal of 10-15 repetitions per movement.

***

This concludes our series on weight loss and aging. I hope you found it informational and useful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below or contact me directly. I’d love to hear from you and help you out.

Weight loss and aging: Changes to your diet that make it easier (Part 2)

Losing weight is tough. Add a slowing metabolism, lean muscle loss, and a changing hormonal landscape to the equation and it gets even tougher. Last week, in Part 1 of this series, we went into why weight loss gets more difficult with age.

This week in Part 2, we’re going to discuss how the obstacles associated with age can be overcome with simple changes to your diet.

1) Become a weight loss marathoner

When you’re young, you approach weight loss as a series of sprints. Summer is coming, you lose ten pounds. Your best friend is getting married, you lose ten pounds. But winter rolls around and the shoes come off after the final dance and the weight goes right back on.

Your young body – being the well-oiled, high performance machine that is – responds to this kind of treatment because it can. So, you go through your twenties and most of your thirties learning the bad habits of yoyo dieting.

When you reach the tail end of your thirties, you begin to notice your tried and true diet strategies aren’t working as well as they used to. When you hit 40, they stop working all together.

You can’t be a diet sprinter anymore. After 40, your mindset has to change to that of a marathoner. When you’re older, it’s about doing the little things right day after day. It’s about baby steps. It’s about lifestyle change for the long haul.

2) No more late meals

People used to think that a calorie was a calorie no matter when you consumed it. And that the only thing that mattered for weight loss was calories in versus calories out. Research is changing people’s minds.

In 2013, researchers tested the effect of meal timing on weight loss. 420 people all at the same amount, they slept the same amount, and they exercised the same. The only thing that was different between the two groups in the study was the timing of their major meal of the day. One group ate it before 3 p.m. and the other ate it after 3 p.m. The group eating their major meal before 3 p.m. lost more weight than the group that ate their major meal after 3 p.m.

Another study looked at the effects of meal timing in healthy women. The participants in the study who ate lunch after 4:30 p.m. had a lower basal metabolic rate and glucose tolerance compared to the women in the study who ate their lunch at 1 p.m.

When you eat late – anywhere between dinner and bedtime – food consumed is more likely to be stored as fat.

Why this happens could have something to do with evolution. For our primal ancestors, food was scarce. Those who were able to store energy more efficiently would better be able to survive when food wasn’t available. Storing energy as fat is the most efficient way to store energy. One gram of fat holds 9 kcal of energy. Comparatively, one gram of protein or carbohydrates only holds 4 kcal of energy. These ancestors likely also ate in the evening under the cover and safety of darkness.

Those among our ancestors that ate in the evening and stored most of the food they consumed as fat had an evolutionary advantage, which means they survived to have offspring. We are descended from those offspring and have acquired the traits that made it possible for them to survive.

Another reason why eating late meals is associated with weight gain and difficulty losing weight has to do with the types of food eaten. People tend to crave sweet and salty in the evening, which tend to be higher in calories.

3) Meal quantities should change with age

With increasing age, eat less more frequently.

Large meals overwhelm the digestive system. You feel bloated as your body struggles to process what you just crammed into your stomach and blood sugar goes up and down like a roller coaster, dragging your energy levels and your mood along behind it. The bigger the meal, the bigger the crash afterwards. The bigger the crash, the more you’re going to crave sugary snacks to get you through the day.

As your body ages, the effects of large meals on the body is compounded.

Small meals less often stabilizes your blood sugar – indirectly your mood and energy as well – and maintains fatty acids in the blood at a constant level.

It also makes it easier to get all the nutrients you need in a day. One study conducted at the Queen Margaret’s University College of Edinbugh showed people who ate small meals more frequently on a regular basis ate healthier. The people in the study ate more fruits and vegetables and had higher levels of vitamin C and other nutrients than the participants who stuck to eating the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

4) What you eat matters

As you age, focus on consuming more protein and plants and less saturated fats.

Losing lean muscle is a problem with age, which makes adequate protein consumption to facilitate protein synthesis incredibly important.

Most animal fats are saturated and are solid at room temperature because they have a higher melting point than unsaturated fats. Foods high in saturated fats that should be avoided are products such as cream, cheese, butter, whole milk dairy products, and fatty meats. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are two plant products that are high in saturated fats.

Fats from plants and fish tend to be unsaturated and better for you. These are the ones you want in your diet as you age.

Sources and further reading

Why eating late at night may be particularly bad for you and your diet

Why eating little and often is best

“Weight Loss After 40” – Isagenix podcast

 

Weight loss and aging: Why it’s more difficult to lose weight with age (Part 1)

Maintaining an ideal weight is hard. It takes discipline. It takes dedication. It takes a lot of hard work. And that’s when you’re young.

Unfortunately, it gets even harder with age. By the time you’re blowing out 40 candles on your birthday, biology begins working against your weight loss efforts.

In this article, we’re going to discuss some of the features of aging that make weight loss more difficult. This is Part 1 of a 2 part series that will tell you why weight loss gets harder with age. Part 2 will cover some simple tweaks you can make to your diet and exercise routine that make weight loss over forty possible.

1) The older you are, the slower your metabolism gets

Your metabolism is the sum of all the life-sustaining chemical reactions that occur inside your body. These include the reactions that convert food to energy or building blocks for macromolecules (proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids) and those that lead to the elimination of nitrogenous wastes, which is vital for survival.

In ever day language, the word metabolism is often used as a synonym for metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy used in a given period of time. A day, for example. Metabolic rate is measured in calories. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body uses at rest.

Basal metabolic rate decreases with age by approximately 5% every ten years after 40. If your resting metabolic rate is 1,200 calories per day when you are 40, your resting metabolic rate when your 50 would be about 1,140 calories per day. At 60, your resting metabolic rate would be approximately 1,000 calories per day.

A decreasing basal metabolic rate with age means you could start eating a surplus of calories on a daily basis without any change in your eating habits or activity levels. This could lead to unwanted weight gain. For example, if your average daily intake of calories from your diet was 1,700 calories when you’re 40, you would have a 500 calorie surplus to be used as energy to fuel bodily functions and activities. Eating the same number of daily calories when you’re 50, results in a 560 calorie surplus. When you’re 60, that’s a calorie surplus of 700.

Age Basal Metabolic Rate Calorie Surplus
40 1,200 500
50 1,140 560
60 1,000 700
70 950 750
80 900 800

Based on a daily intake of 1700 calories and a basal metabolic rate of 1,200 at age 40.

2) You lose lean muscle mass with age.

As you get older, muscles decrease in size, muscle fibers begin getting replaced by fat, muscle tissue becomes more fibrotic, muscle metabolism changes, oxidative stress increases, and the neuromuscular junction degenerates. The medical term to describe these changes is sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia occurs at a rate of approximately 0.5-1% per year after the age of 50. Sarcopenia has a significant impact on weight loss with age because lean muscle drives metabolism. The more lean muscle you have the higher your resting metabolic rate is going to be. The higher your resting metabolic rate is, the more calories you’re going to burn and the easier it’s going to be to lose weight.

Sarcopenia is just one of the factors contributing to a slowing metabolism with age.

3) Hormones change with age

For men, testosterone drops as you age. Testosterone is a steroid hormone. When you’re young it plays a key role in the development of the male reproductive organs and promotes secondary sexual characteristics like increased bone and muscle mass and the growth of body hair. After puberty and into adulthood, testosterone is necessary for sperm development, it regulates the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, and it enhances muscle growth.

Decreasing testosterone levels with age in men contribute to decreasing lean muscle mass – which impacts metabolism – and less of a drive be active. Both of these factors can make weight loss more difficult for men in the later decades of life.

For women, with age comes menopause. With menopause comes changes in three hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Estrogen falls to a very low level after menopause. Low levels of this hormone are associated with hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, bone loss, and vaginal dryness – many of the symptoms generally thought of during menopause.

Progesterone production stops after menopause and testosterone levels fall.

Changes in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone have profound effects on the rest of the endocrine system. After the menopause the entire hormone environment is changed. These changes affect metabolism, sleep, and activity, which all impact the ability to lose weight.

4) The consequences of bad eating habits are more pronounced

Life tends to be busier and more active when you’re young. Think about everything you did in high school: gym class during the day, extracurricular sports in the evening, walk home, walk around the mall. You were always moving.

Your twenties weren’t much different. You chase a career to a big city where walking or biking is easier than driving, you take a low paying job that requires you to run around like a chicken on cocaine, and you spend the weekends “out.” Kids may have even appeared in this decade, which makes you reconsider ever having thought you were busy before.

A busy lifestyle when you’re young and have a fresh off the car lot, new car metabolism allows you to get away with a lot. You can eat an entire pizza at 2:00 a.m. You can eat ice cream whenever you crave it. A carb heavy pasta dish isn’t going to affect you at all. And, when you want to lose weight, just about any diet works.

When middle age begins to appear on the horizon, you start slowing down. Weekends are spent with a martini on the porch visiting with your neighbour; you get promoted to a desk job where people are doing the running around for you, and you can afford that nice car and the parking spot downtown that allows you to drive to work.

Because of decreased activity, slower metabolism, sarcopenia, and hormone changes with age, little things in your diet that could be overcome when you were young start to matter once you hit 40. In middle-age, everything – good and bad – starts to count.

**

A slower metabolism, lean muscle loss, hormonal changes, and bad eating habits are the main reasons losing weight after 40 is difficult. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Next week, we’re going to cover exercise and dietary changes you can use to lose weight at any age.

Sources and further reading

“Fighting 40s Flab” – WebMD

“Weight Loss After 40” – Isagenix podcast

How protein can help you bust through weight loss plateaus

Weight loss is difficult, no one is going to deny that.

It can be going well, everything is on track, then out of the blue you can’t lose another pound no matter how hard you try.

You’ve hit a weight loss plateau.

From here, there are two ways you can go. You can give up and regain all the weight you’ve worked so hard to get rid of in the first place.

Or, you can make some adjustments and keep moving towards your goal.

In this article, I want to talk about how protein is your secret weapon for busting through plateaus. We’ll spend some time talking about why it works for this purpose, then go into protein timing, and wrap up with the types of protein you use – cause that’s incredibly important also.

Why protein is effective for weight loss

  • Protein makes you feel fuller for longer

The only thing that matters when you’re trying to lose weight is a negative calorie balance.

A negative calorie balance means you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in. It is a simple idea in theory, but it can be quite difficult because of your body’s reaction to suddenly consuming less food.

Eating less often can make you feel like you’re constantly hungry. And what’s worse, you feel unsatisfied when you finally do eat because you just don’t feel full with the portions of food you have.

Transforming your diet so that a greater proportion of your food comes from protein can help counteract this nasty side-effect of maintaining a negative calorie balance.

This works because protein increases feelings of fullness – otherwise known as satiety. More satiety means that 100 calories of protein is going to make you feel fuller for longer than 100 calories of carbohydrates would.

This property of protein is best exemplified scientifically in a 2016 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The meta-analysis, led by Jaapna Dhillon, screened thousands of scientific studies to determine the evidence supporting or refuting the idea that protein increases satiety. Of the many paper they considered, 5 passed their stringent inclusion criteria and were used for further analysis.

The 5 studies all had a similar experimental design: the participants would fast for a predetermined period, they would come into the lab and be given food with various amounts of protein in it, then they were monitored for how full they felt over time.

Based on the primary analysis of these 5 papers and a secondary analysis of 28 papers, which were also included in the publication, the authors were able to conclude that diets higher in protein led to greater feelings of fullness (i.e. protein is associated with greater satiety).

  • Protein takes more energy to break down than other macronutrients 

Protein can help you maintain a calorie deficit because of increased satiety. If you’re not as hungry you’re going to eat less. If you eat less, you consume fewer calories. Fewer calories in relation to the energy you’re burning = weight loss.

Another reason protein is the macronutrient of choice for calorie deficits is because it takes more energy to digest it than fats or carbohydrates.

The energy used to break down ingested molecules is called the thermic effect of food. For protein, 20-35% of calories are burned during digestion. That’s a pretty substantial portion compared to the 5-15% of calories burned used when digesting carbohydrates and the 0-5% of calories burned when digesting fat.

The thermic effect of food is one component of metabolism. It, alongside resting metabolic rate (the calories required to keep you going in a completely rested state) and the exercise component (the calories you expend performing various activities throughout the day) determine your overall caloric expenditure. Increase any one of these factors and you increase the number of calories burned in a day and increase your chances of creating or maintaining a deficit.

The increased thermic effect of protein is beneficial for weight loss for 2 reasons: 1) More calories required for digestion adds to your daily caloric expenditure, tipping the scales in the direction of expenditure and increasing the deficit. 2) Subtracting the calories required to digest protein ingested decreases the total calories ingested, again tipping the scales in the favor of an increased deficit.

The thermic effect of protein is the property of protein which contributes to it boosting your metabolism.

How to incorporate more protein into your diet and what kind you should use

  • Protein timing for weight loss

The typical American or Canadian tends to consume most of our daily intake of protein later on in the day. Most people have a little bit at breakfast, a little bit at lunch, and then, proportionally, the most at dinner.

This eating strategy is a gross under utilization of the most important macronutrient for weight loss.

The increased satiety and the boost in metabolism experienced with increased protein intake are most effective when they are used as often as possible, and evenly, throughout the day.

That means if you’re trying to lose weight, spread your protein intake out evenly throughout the day. Timing your protein intake in this way will help you eat fewer calories and maintain that essential negative calorie balance.

  • The type of protein matters

There are many different options out there when it comes to protein supplements. Not only do you have to choose from a plethora of brands, you also have to pick what type protein you want.

There’s whey protein, casein protein, egg protein, pea protein, and the list goes on and on and on.

I’m going to make things as simple as possible for you. Pick whey protein.

Whey protein is the best because:

Essential amino acids are amino acids that must be ingested in the diet. The body cannot create them on its own.

BCAAs are essential amino acids. They make up 3 of the 9. “Branched chain” refers to the chemical structure of the amino acid itself.

BCAAs have proven abilities to promote muscle growth, decrease muscle soreness, reduce exercise fatigue, prevent muscle wasting, and benefit people with liver disease. The more of these bad boys you can pack into your diet, the better.

Leucine, in particular, is especially proficient in promoting muscle synthesis.

  • Whey protein has an incredibly high biological value

The biological value is a measure of the absorbed protein from a food that becomes incorporated into the proteins of the body.

Basically, if one protein is ingested and 90% of the amino acids making up that protein become part of protein in your body, it’s going to have a higher biological value than a protein where only 80% of the amino acids making it up are ingested.

Whey protein has the best biological value of proteins available out there in supplements. The whey protein you ingest is all going to be incorporated in your growing muscles.

Conclusion 

Protein is an incredibly effective way to help keep things on track in terms of your weight loss goals. It increases satiety and boosts metabolism, which are two factors that will help you maintain a negative calorie deficit that will result in weight loss.

If you find yourself stuck at a plateau (where you don’t see any movement on the scale for at least 2-3 weeks) try upping the amount of protein you consume in the day. It has worked for many people before and could be the answer to all of your weight loss problems.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used protein to break through a weight loss plateau, I’d love to hear about it!

 

How stress is getting in the way of your weight loss goals

You go to the gym five days a week. You’re doing cardio. You’re weight training. You’re doing yoga. You take all the proper supplements. And… you haven’t dropped a pound.

Sound familiar?

If this sounds at all like you, then this article could put some things in perspective for you and take you beyond the plateau you currently find yourself stuck at.

The culprit that makes it impossible to budge the needle on the scale is stress.

Stress is often the hidden factor, lurking in the shadows, pulling the strings from beyond the veil that is preventing you from making any real progress when it comes to your weight loss goals.

In this article, we’ll go over how stress effects weight gain/loss. And we’ll cover some helpful ways to better manage stress that have worked for me in the past.

Stress and cortisol

When you perceive a situation as stressful, a tiny area at the bottom of your brain which acts as an alarm system (the hypothalamus) fires up. The hypothalamus tells the rest of your body that some serious shit is going down and we need all hands on deck to get the hell out of here.

The alarm signal gets to the rest of the body as the hypothalamus sends signals down to your adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands react to the signal by releasing a surge of hormones that will prime your brain and body to deal with the stressful situation.

The primary stress hormone released by the adrenal glands is cortisol.

Cortisol does two things: 1) it shuts down bodily functions that are nonessential to your immediate survival, and 2) it activates systems that are going to allow maximal physical and mental function for a short period of time.

The functions considered nonessential in the short term are your immune system, digestion, reproduction, and growth.

To be ready for maximal mental and physical exertion, cortisol increases the amount of sugar in the blood stream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose, and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

Increased blood sugar ensures working muscles have the energy they need to function maximally (in the case you have to run away from a life or death situation); enhancing your brain’s use of glucose ensures you’re thinking clearly in case the stressful situation requires some savvy to get out of; and increasing the availability of substances that repairs tissues ensures you can recover quickly if injured.

Cortisol and weight loss

This system has been evolutionarily designed to function in the short term.

It is perfect in situations where you need to make a quick getaway. Say, getting away from a bear that is chasing you, for instance.

The stress response, and its associated cortisol release, is not meant to function in the long term.

Unfortunately, most of the things that activate the stress response nowadays are slow burning and act over a long period of time.

Things like financial stress or pressure at work don’t flair up and go away within twenty minutes. They come and persist for months or even years.

The problem is, they activate the stress response in exactly the same way as a bear attack would.

Basically, you’re living your life like you’re constantly being chased by a bear. And it’s wearing you out.

The physiological response to long term cortisol causes you to change your eating patterns, which causes you to gain weight.

Cortisol increases sugar in the blood stream. In response, beta cells in the pancreas start to produce insulin.

The sequential cortisol insulin spike creates a huge upswing in blood sugar, followed by a drop.

The drop causes you to crave high fat, sugary foods to compensate. This is exactly what Dr. Clifford Roberts of Kings College in the UK observed when he measured the food consumed and dietary restraint of women that gained weight during a stressful time.

38 healthy women in a postgraduate course participated in the study. At the beginning of the semester and 15 weeks later (right before the final exam for the course) the composition of the food they consumed, their body mass index (BMI), their levels of dietary restraint, and their cortisol levels were measured.

Increased cortisol with reduced dietary restraint and increased caloric intake were the main factors explaining increases in BMI.

The researchers also found that increased consumption of carbohydrates and saturated fat contributed to the changes in dietary restraint that resulted in weight gain.

What are some good ways to manage stress?

  • Identify the source of the stress and remove it if possible

Of course, this isn’t always possible. Some regular stressors of daily life, such as work, family, and money, are here and they’re not going anywhere.

Some can be remedied. Fights with siblings or parents, squabbles with friends, a rough patch in your relationship… these can all be identified and dealt with.

  • Sleep!

Ever been so stressed out and overwhelmed by everything in your life, had one good night of sleep, and then found yourself bewildered by how much the stuff bothering you yesterday didn’t bother you at all today?

Sleeping well is your number one ally when it comes to stress management. Create the best conditions possible for good sleep and set aside enough hours in the day to feel rested.

  • Focus on good nutrition

As we’ve learned in this article, stress itself is not going to make you gain weight. It is our behavioral response to stress that makes us gain weight.

Focusing on maintaining good nutrition during stressful periods in life will help manage body weight during these times and also help you better manage the stress itself.

  • Adaptogens

Adaptogens can help your body adjust and prevent some of the damaging effects of stress on your body. Take them daily.

Stress is unavoidable. When it comes to stress and weight loss, there is really only one solution: manage it. Because you can’t get rid of it altogether.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other stress relieving techniques that have really worked for you!

Sources

Increases in weight during chronic stress are partially associated with a switch in food choice towards increased carbohydrate and saturated fat intake

 

How gut bacteria inhibit weight loss and what you can do about it

Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms that live everywhere. And I really mean everywhere.

You can find bacteria in some of the world’s harshest environments: the upper atmosphere, the bottom of the ocean, in volcanoes, and Antarctica.

You can even find them in and on your body.

Bacteria colonize your stomach and intestines; you can find them on the surface of your skin and eyes; and you can even find them in your nose and mouth. Essentially, they’re everywhere.

The bacteria in your gut (your digestive tract) is a feature of human biology that, until recently, hasn’t been given very much thought.

Increased attention from the medical research community have taught us that the bacteria residing in the gut can have pretty important implications for your health. Some research even suggests gut bacteria are involved in weight loss and maintenance.

This article is going to explore the connection between the gut microbiome (an all encompassing word that refers to all the bacteria in your stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, collectively) and weight.

How gut bacteria influence your health

Part of the bacteria’s role in your gut is helping you digest food and turn it into nutrients that your body can use.

Bacteria influence your health through the substances that they make as a response to the food you eat. These substances can cross the barrier separating your gut from the rest of your body. Once they get into your blood stream they can influence your body chemistry and your health.

TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide) is a good example of this biology in action.

When you eat foods like red meat or eggs, bacteria in your gut make a chemical that crosses the barrier between your gut and your blood circulation.

Once that chemical is in your blood, it finds its way to the liver and is turned into a compound called TMAO. TMAO may help cholesterol build up in your blood vessels and contribute to heart conditions like atherosclerosis. Too much TMAO is also linked to chronic kidney disease.

Gut bacteria influence weight

Before we get to how gut bacteria influence weight, let’s quickly talk about how we know gut bacteria can influence weight.

Two studies in particular really highlight the connection.

The first was conducted by a researcher named Dr. Peter Turnbaugh, who now works as an associate professor at University of California San Francisco, but published a paper when he was a trainee in 2006 at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri.

In that study, Turnbaugh and his colleagues had three different types of mice.

The first were mice prone to obesity.

The second were mice prone to be lean.

The third group of mice were “germ free”. This means that they were raised in completely sterile conditions and, therefore, did not have any gut bacteria.

Part of the study was seeing what effect taking the gut bacteria from lean and obese mice had when they transferred them into the third group of mice, which had no gut bacteria.

When the researchers transferred the gut bacteria from lean mice to germ free mice, the mice stayed lean.

No surprising results there.

Interestingly, when the researchers transferred the gut bacteria of the obese mice to the germ free mice, they noticed an increase in total body fat!

There was something about the gut bacteria in the obese mice that transferred the ability to generate body fat to the germ free mice.

The second study linking gut bacteria and weight I’d like to mention was conducted a little more recently in 2013.

This one was published in the journal Science and the lead author was Dr. Vanessa Ridaura – who received her Ph.D. in the same lab at Washington University that Turnbaugh did.

In this study they used gut bacteria from human twins: one of the twins was overweight and the other was classified as lean.

When they put gut bacteria from an overweight twin into a germ free mouse, they found the mouse’s body weight increased and they gained more fat tissue.

These two studies very elegantly suggest a solid link between differences in gut bacteria composition between overweight and lean individuals and an observable effect on weight gain and fat tissue.

How gut bacteria influence weight

Now that we know there is a link between gut bacteria and weight, maybe you’d like to know how that connection works.

The 2006 study by Turnbaugh in mice showed that gut microbiota from obese and lean mice were different with respect to two dominant bacterial divisions: bacteriodetes and firmicutes.

Bacteriodetes is a pretty common phylum. Its species can be found distributed in the environment (the soil, sediments, and sea water) and it is extremely common in the guts and skin of animals.

Firmicutes is a phylum that makes up a large portion of the mouse and human gut microbiome.

What Turnbaugh and his colleagues noticed is that the slight shift in bacterial makeup of gut bacteria in lean and obese mice was associated with an altered capacity for energy harvest: gut bacteria in obese mice got more calories out of digested food than gut bacteria in lean mice.

What this study suggested is that obese mice had a higher caloric intake despite eating a similar amount of food. All because the gut bacteria processed food a little differently.

What this boils down to is:

Gut bacteria influence weight by controlling how many calories you extract from the food you eat.

What can you do to promote good gut bacteria?

Probiotic supplements are a good start. A person’s diet is the most important factor for altering the gut microbiome and you can find probiotic formulas specifically tailored for conventional or vegetarian diets.

Probiotics work by promoting the colonization of the good bacteria in your gut. For a little more help finding the right probiotic supplement, please contact me. I’d love to help you out.

Conclusion

As research advances, more is being learned about links between gut bacteria and the body. We’re learning that the microbiome influences diseases like diabetes, conditions like obesity, and even mental health.

Supplements that promote good gut health are now an important part of healthy living.

Sources and further reading

An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest

Gut Microbiota from Twins Discordant for Obesity Modulate Metabolism in Mice

A step-by-step guide to healthy eating and weight loss for 2019

According to Inc.com, 60% of us make New Year’s resolutions. The most common ones all involve dieting or eating healthier (71%), exercising more (65%), and losing weight (54%).

The unfortunate truth revealed from this survey of 2,000 people: only 8% are successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution and over half of respondents fail their resolution by January 31.

Why do most resolutions fail?

I don’t think it’s because people don’t actually want to succeed, or they lack the discipline or drive.

I think it has more to do with not knowing how to get from point A to point B (point A being where you are now and point B being where you want to be in the future).

Without a definitive plan for success, your chances of failure sky rocket.

Healthy Wheys is a website dedicated to living a happier, healthier life. I want to help you be the best version of you there is.

Considering my goals and the most common New Year’s resolutions, I want to increase your chances of success with you New Year’s resolution this year.

I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide on getting from point A to point B.

What follows is a detailed eating plan that will have you eating healthier and losing weight in 2019.

The science behind everything in this article

The meal plans you’ll find here are based on the science of intermittent fasting in combination with calorie restriction.

A study conducted in 2012 found that intermittent fasting and calorie restriction reduces body weight, decreases fat mass, decreases visceral fat, and improves many measures associated with heart health (i.e. LDL cholesterol measures, heart rate, insulin, and homocysteine).

The plan you’ll find in this article uses the same principles used in this study.

What you’re going to need

  • A good meal replacement shake

Meal replacement shakes are different than protein shakes.

To learn more about them, check out a previous article I wrote.

Meal replacement shakes have a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. They can substitute an entire meal and not leave you feeling hungry and malnourished.

  • Nutritional supplements

A good nutritional supplement provides herbal and plant-based nourishment, contains ingredients that support mental and physical performance, adaptogens that help your body resist and adapt to stress, aids digestion, and boosts metabolism.

For a better idea of what you need here, please contact me.

  • Good sources of protein
    • Hamburger
    • Salmon
    • Grilled chicken
    • Steak
    • Pork chops
    • Meatballs
    • Haddock
    • Tofu
    • Eggs
    • Milk
    • Yogurt
    • Cottage cheese
    • Nuts and seeds

 

  • A supply of good fruits and vegetables
    • Spinach
    • Carrots
    • Broccoli
    • Garlic
    • Brussel sprouts
    • Kale
    • Green peas
    • Asparagus
    • Red cabbage
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Grapefruit
    • Pineapple
    • Avocado
    • Blueberries
    • Apples
    • Pomegranate
    • Mango
    • Strawberries
    • Cranberries

 

What you’re going to do

What follows is designed for a month: it’s a kickstart to healthy eating and weight loss that will get you on the right track. If you stick to it religiously, it will work. Just ask the people who took part in the study from 2012.

Here’s the broad outline of what your month should look like:

month meal calendar

Within the month, here’s what the perfect week looks like:

Day 1:

Wake up – Nutritional supplement

Breakfast – Meal replacement shake

Midmorning snack – yogurt (300g)

Lunch – meal replacement shake

Midafternoon snack – 1 piece of fruit

Dinner – bunless cheeseburger (100g) and 1 cup of spinach with pineapple salsa (50g)

Day 2:

Wake up – Nutritional supplement

Breakfast – Meal replacement shake

Midmorning snack – cottage cheese (200g)

Lunch – meal replacement shake

Midafternoon snack – almonds (25g)

Dinner – salmon (150g), 1 cup of steamed broccoli

Day 3 (Intermittent fasting day):

Wake up – Nutritional supplement

Breakfast – Nutritional supplement

Midmorning snack – 1 hard-boiled egg

Lunch – Nutritional supplement

Midafternoon snack – 1 piece of fruit

Dinner – Nutritional supplement and cottage cheese (200g)

Day 4:

Wake up – Nutritional supplement

Breakfast – Meal replacement shake

Midmorning snack – cashews (25g)

Lunch – meal replacement shake

Midafternoon snack – yogurt (300g)

Dinner – steak (150g) and 1 cup of mushrooms

Day 5:

Wake up – Nutritional supplement

Breakfast – Meal replacement shake

Midmorning snack – 1 piece of fruit

Lunch – meal replacement shake

Midafternoon snack – 1 piece of fruit

Dinner – pork chops (150g) and 1 cup of red cabbage

Day 6:

Wake up – Nutritional supplement

Breakfast – Meal replacement shake

Midmorning snack – yogurt (300g)

Lunch – meal replacement shake

Midafternoon snack – pecans (25g)

Dinner – haddock (340g) and 1 cup of green peas

Day 7:

Wake up – Nutritional supplement

Breakfast – Meal replacement shake

Midmorning snack – 1 hard-boiled egg

Lunch – meal replacement shake

Midafternoon snack – cottage cheese (200g)

Dinner – meatballs (200g) and 1 cup of brussel sprouts

Conclusion

It’s much easier to be disciplined and achieve success when you know exactly what it takes to get there. I want to give you the best chance of succeeding in 2019. I’d hate to see you join the 50% of people that give up on their resolution by January 31. Jump starting your nutrition and weight loss goals with the meal plan I’ve outlined will bring you roaring into 2019 like no other year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources and further reading

10 Top New Year’s Resolutions for Success and Happiness in 2019

Intermittent fasting combined with calorie restriction is effective for weight loss and cardio-protection in obese women