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Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Young woman by the window feeling sad

It’s that time of year again.

In much of the northern hemisphere, temperatures are dropping rapidly, snow is beginning to cover the grounds, salt is blanketing the roads, and heating units are kicking into high-gear. Along with all of that, the days are getting shorter and the skies grayer.

Ok, I’m not much of a cold weather fan.

However, my warm-weather bias aside, this time of year presents a challenge to many that can be far more burdensome than cold weather or salt getting tracked into your house, car, or any other number of places.

Yes, while the bone-chilling temperatures, snow, and ice can most definitely be unwelcome, it is the lack of exposure to natural light due to shorter days, more cloud cover, and decreased intensity of sunlight that can commonly trigger a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder.

Now, while Seasonal Affective Disorder may be more common in some areas than others, we are going to cover some great tips that will help improve your sleep, energy levels, and other factors regardless of where you live, so don’t check out just yet.

That said, the American Psychiatric Association estimates that Seasonal Affective Disorder affects over 10 million Americans each year, with another 10 to 20% of the population suffering from mild SAD, as well as millions more across the globe.

Seasonal affective disorder causes changes to certain hormone levels within our body, typically in response to a change in our light environment and natural day/night cycle.

In addition to general depression, this condition can also decrease sleep, energy, concentration and productivity, and increase appetite and weight.

So, in order to improve both your physical and psychological health this winter, or simply improve sleep and energy, in general, let’s take a look at a few habits you can implement to combat Season Affective Disorder.

 

1 Hour of Exposure

The first thing you can do is to try to get at least 1 hour of natural light every day.

Our light environment, or exposure to natural light, has a tremendous effect on our circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms effect numerous physical and psychological functions within our body.  Everything from when we go to the bathroom, to when we are most coordinated, to when we sleep, and more. The lack of exposure to natural light on a regular basis can cause these circadian rhythms to become misaligned, which puts you at a far higher risk of suffering from seasonal affective disorder and other conditions.

(If you would like to learn more about how circadian rhythms effect your body, you can read my article, Getting in Rhythm)

Getting one hour of natural light on a daily basis will help anchor your circadian rhythms, promoting more normal hormone levels, better sleep, more energy, and more.

If possible, try to get exposure during the middle of the day.  Try going for a walk in the middle of the day, eat lunch outside if the weather permits, or even eat your lunch by a window. If you find this too difficult or circumstances don’t allow for it, try implementing an hour of phototherapy, or light therapy.  These lights mimic that of natural outdoor light, providing the same anchoring effect to your circadian rhythms and can conveniently be done at home or at the office, during work or leisure time.

 

Don’t Send Your Brain the Wrong Signals

Our second piece of advice is to minimize your exposure to blue light after sunset.

Blue light is simply high-energy, short wavelength light, such as that emitted from the sun or your phototherapy devices.

While exposure to this light is excellent during the daytime, most of us are exposing ourselves to the same blue-light into the late of hours of the night through our use of electronic devices, such as computers, smart phones, tablets, and TVs that emit the same intensity of light.

While many consider these activities to be “relaxing,” exposing yourself to this type of light is quite stimulating to the brain and can have some adverse effects.  Exposure to blue light at night, essentially sends the signal to the brain that it’s daytime.  This can delay or suppress the release of a hormone called melatonin.  As a result, it can take longer to get to sleep and you will spend less time in that deep, restorative sleep. Furthermore, chronic suppression of melatonin can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, which is heavily linked to obesity and diabetes, as well as, of course, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Our advice for you is to turn off all electronic devices 30 to, preferably, 60 minutes prior to bed.  This will allow your mind and body to shut down and prepare for a great night of sleep.

Now, since we don’t live in a perfect world, if you need to work or use your computer, download the application, F.lux. This app adjusts the backlight on your computer to mimic the tone of outdoor light throughout the day, emitting bright blue light during the day, and a warm, incandescent orange light in the evening and after dark.

 

Get Nutrition & Exercise Dialed-in

 

In addition to incorporating these two tips of increasing exposure to natural light during the day and minimizing exposure to that same blue-light at night, exercising regularly and working to develop good dietary habits will greatly help you combat the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, while also improving sleep quality and energy.

 

Seek Professional Help

Finally, even though these habits will go a long way to helping you combat and/or avoid experiencing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, if do experience, or are currently experiencing signs of severe depression we highly recommend you seek the help of a mental health professional.

 

So, although millions of people around the world are fighting an on-going battle with diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder, and millions more who go undiagnosed struggle with varying degrees of symptoms, there is still hope that this can truly be the most wonderful time of the year.  By following these simple guidelines, you and your loved ones, who may be suffering from some degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder, can experience improved mood, energy levels, concentration, and productivity, while also getting greater enjoyment out the holidays and the entire winter season.

The Big Fat Question

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Selection of healthy fat sources. Rustic background. Horizontal permission. Top view. Copy space.

What is a good fat?

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked that question… well, I would still probably have student-loans to pay off.

Nevertheless, this is a question I have been asked time after time for as long as I have been in the health and performance industry.

It’s a question many people want to know the answer to because, though it’s far better than it used to be, people seemingly have this pre-conceived notion that fats are bad.

Well, contrary to whatever your current belief is, fats, indeed do not make you fat.  Rather, they are quite an essential part of our diets regardless of what our health and performance goals may be.

So, before I answer that question that is on the minds of everyone who hasn’t already exited out of this link, let’s discuss the importance of dietary fats.

 

Roles of Dietary Fat

 So what roles, exactly, does dietary fat play within our bodies?

Well, there are numerous. But just to name a few…

 

  1. Energy

Fats, not carbohydrates, are truly our bodies’ preferred energy source.  They serve as our largest source of energy, providing for over half of the body’s energy needs.  They help our bodies function both at rest and during low to moderate intensity exercise.

 

  1. Brain Function

Believe it or not, 60% of your brain is made up of fat.  So, as you might expect, fat intake is essential for it to function properly.  Essential Fatty Acids, or fats that can only be obtained through food, play critical roles within the brain, accounting for functions including learning, memory, and mood.

 

  1. Control of inflammation

In my article covering Omega-3 fats, I discussed the many benefits provided by Omega-3 fats.  Among these benefits is ability to fight chronic inflammation which has nasty effects on the body.

 

  1. Vitamin Absorption

Dietary fat is also required for the absorption of certain vitamins within the body, namely, vitamins A, D, E, and K.  A lack of dietary fat will result in deficiency of these vitamins which leads to some undesirable effects.  We will cover those shortly.

 

What happens when we consume too little fat?

So, if fat does all of that stuff, what happens when we don’t eat enough?

I’m glad you asked…

 

  1. Vitamin Deficiencies

As we covered earlier, a lack of fat in the diet can leave the body unable to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Deficiencies of these vitamins can lead to dry skin, slow bone growth, inability of the blood to clot, amongst other negative side-effects.

 

  1. Excessive Appetite

Studies have shown that moderate fat-consumers have fewer hunger pangs and cravings than lower fat consumers.  In addition, those with low fat consumption, consume lower amounts of protein, while consuming far higher amounts of starch.  Lower consumption in both fat and protein may lead to decreased satiety, which in turn can lead to overeating and excessive appetite.

 

  1. Mood Problems

Dietary fats play an important role in the production and balance of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.  A diet lacking in omega-3 fats can lead to depression, mood swings, and an inability to concentrate.

 

So, hopefully it’s obvious that dietary fat is essential for our bodies to function properly.  However, that doesn’t mean you need to go HAM (we’ll go ahead and translate that as “overboard”) with eating fats.  As with most things, balance and moderation are key.

 

Now, not to keep your waiting any longer, let’s get to that burning question.  Let’s discuss what good fats are and how you should incorporate them into your diet.

 

Good vs. Bad

To be completely honest, the answer to our big fat question is quite simple: keep it real.

Seriously, it’s that easy.  If it’s a natural fat, it’s a healthy fat.

Now, before you’re all like, “well that was anti-climactic,” understand that the task of identifying a natural fat from an unnatural fat may be a little harder than one would think due to all of the processing many of our foods go through.  So let’s break it down.

 

Natural Fats

 When we talk about natural fats, we’re speaking of fats found in their natural state within whole, unprocessed foods.   They fall into one of the three categories below:

 

Saturated Fats:

Saturated fats have gotten a bad rap.  For years we have been told that saturated fat causes heart disease.  However, not only is there a complete lack of support to this claim, study after study shows it to be blatantly untrue.

The truth is that saturated fats, in the appropriate amounts, are important for our diet.  They are involved in immune function and hormone regulation, and recent studies have shown they may play a role in cancer prevention by stopping the formation of cancer cells.

Good sources of saturated fats include palm oil, coconut oil, and animal fats from dairy, meat, and eggs.

 

Monounsaturated Fats:

Including monounsaturated fats in your diet can help reduced LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.  These fats also play a role in the maintenance of the body’s cells.

Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, avocados and most nuts.

 

Polyunsaturated Fats:

Like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats can help reduce LDL cholesterol.  These fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fats and are found in peanuts, walnuts, and most oils.

 

Unnatural Fats

Unnatural fats are fats that have been denatured, usually through either chemical or heat processing.  Unnatural fats include the following:

 

Hydrogenated:

Hydrogenated fats are chemically processed saturated fats.  The chemically altered structure of these fats makes them hard for the body to process or metabolize.  These fats work not only to increase LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, but also are shown to lower HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels.

These fats are found in many processed foods and are commonly used at restaurants.

 

Trans-fats:

Trans-fats are fats that have been denatured or chemically altered through heat processing.  As with hydrogenated fats, their chemically altered structure makes them hard for the body to break down.  In addition, they have been shown to raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol.

 

Omega-6 cooking oils:

Omega-6 cooking oils are polyunsaturated fats that have been denatured through chemical processing.  As previously discussed, these are pro-inflammatory fats. These would include many common vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil, and others.

 

Fats and Your Diet

So now that you are aware of the right fats to eat, you need to know how to incorporate them into your diet.

 

Keep it Balanced

When it comes to incorporating fats into your diet, you want a healthy balance of natural saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Ideally this balance would consist of one-third of each of these types of natural fat.  Maintaining a healthy balance of these fats is important for immune function, healthy inflammatory balance, and hormone regulation.

 

Keep it Simple

As important as a good balance is, above all else, keep it simple.  Start small by trying to stick to the examples of natural fats given.  From there make small adjustments, examining your fat intake and asking what you need more of and what you need less of.

Overall, if you commit to getting your fats from whole foods and stray away from processed fats, you’ll be on the right track.

 

 

The “C” Word

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A silenced business man isolated on white

Oh the dreaded C-word…

Those evil carbohydrates…

There’s so much information about carbohydrates out there it’s hard to keep straight.

First, the food pyramid told us to eat a lot of grains.  They were the foundation of our diet.   Then, a few years later, a diet started by some Dr. Atkins guy gained popularity.  He said no more grains, no more carbs.  Goodbye corn flakes, and hello sausage and eggs.

Somewhere in between the two came TV commercials about some points system for foods.  There was also some other program that got Kirstie Alley skinny again… and then again… and then, like, a few more times.

Shortly after that, some South Beach thing took-off.  Then there was all this talk of high-glycemic this, low-glycemic that.  Then everything was all about how gluten is evil.  Now, apparently, we are supposed to eat like cavemen.

It gets kind of confusing, right? My head is spinning just writing all of that.

Well, today I want you to forget all the pyramids, fad diets, and Kirstie Alley.  While many of these programs and diets have good qualities, they are still programs and diets.  No one can stick to them forever. Therefore, since we’re about lasting change, we want to develop habits for life.  So, let’s get into the basics of carbohydrates and how to incorporate them into your diet.

 

You’re in Danger!

The health of North Americans, as a whole, is in serious jeopardy.

This might not be earth-shattering news, but Type II diabetes has become an epidemic.  The American Diabetes Association estimates that in 2012 there were 29.1 million Americans living with diabetes.  They reported that another 80.6 million Americans, 20 years or older, qualified as prediabetic.  To make matters worse, these numbers are still trending the wrong way.

 

Why is this?

 

North Americans’ diets are absolutely packed with sugars and other refined carbohydrates.  In fact, the average North American (yes, that includes you, Greenland) consumes 136 grams of sugar every day. That’s over three times the USDA recommendation. It totals 550 calories from just sugar every freaking day! That’s ¾ of a cup!

Seriously, go to the kitchen, get your measuring cups, and see how much ¾ of a cup is.

 

I’ll wait…

 

So, where are we getting all this sugar?!?

It’s not just from soda and candy bars.  Big-time food manufacturers are adding sugar to seemingly everything.  Dressings, sauces, frozen fruits, breads. . .you name it, it’s probably packing more sugar than you realize.  Here are a few quick examples:

 

Snickers bar = 30 grams of sugar

1 cup (8 oz) orange juice = 30 grams of sugar

1 bagel = 20+ grams of sugar

2 slices of white bread = 12+ grams of sugar

 

Sugar and Your Health

I could extend that list for pages and pages, listing foods that are staples of the North American diet and contain far more sugar than you would expect.  When you take these unexpected sources of sugar and add them to the high amount of sugary drinks and snacks the average person consumes, it’s no wonder we have a widespread health crisis in North America.

Since high-sugar intake is such a widespread issue, it’s important to understand the basics of how sugar affects your body and your health.  So, let’s go back to physiology class for a moment.

Insulin is a hormone our body essentially uses as a key to allow sugars in the blood to enter muscle and fat cells.  When the body is functioning properly, it produces just the right amount of insulin.  However, when a person regularly consumes a high amount of sugar, it can reduce the body’s ability to efficiently handle carbohydrates, and it becomes insulin resistant.

When a person becomes insulin resistant, the body is still producing insulin, but the insulin is not performing its job effectively.  Essentially, the muscle and fat cells become less responsive to insulin, and sugar begins to build up in the blood. When this happens, you can get a few undesirable results.

First, the body increases its insulin response to meals.  Since the muscle and fat cells cannot easily absorb insulin anymore, the body produces more insulin in an attempt to help the sugar enter those cells.  While the blood sugar levels may remain in a healthy range, insulin builds up in the blood.  High insulin levels cause excess body fat in the upper back and “love handle” areas, not to mention obesity, high blood pressure, and bad cholesterol.

When the body can no longer produce enough insulin to keep up with demand, sugar begins to build up in the blood.  This can ultimately lead to prediabetes, diabetes, and other serious health conditions.  One of these is glycation.

Glycation is a condition that results from chronically high blood sugar levels.  With glycation, sugars become bonded to proteins in the blood.  This can have many terrible effects, including premature aging, cancer, damaged vision, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and joint pain.

In short, if you maintain a high sugar intake, you’re going to have a bad time.

 

What to Watch For:

Now you know how sugar affects your body, so its time to take action!

Before we get into how your specific goals will affect your carbohydrate intake, let’s quickly review some of the commonly used synonyms for sugar that you need to avoid.

 

  1. The “-ose” words

Check those nutrition labels and stay away from words that end in “-ose.”  This includes glucose, fructose, maltose, and others.

  1. The sexy names

Beware of things like “organic agave nectar,” “pure cane sugar,” “turbinado,” or “sugar in the raw.”  Food manufacturers use these terms to trick you.  They are fancy names for sugar.  And yes, organic sugar is still sugar.

  1. Other forms of sugar that people think are better for some reason

This essentially falls in line with number two, but, just so it gets said…Honey.  Honey is pretty much entirely sugar.  It’s really not any better.  That goes for fruit nectar, too.

 

Carbohydrates and You:

I must clarify that this section presents general recommendations regarding carbohydrate intake, as is appropriate for either fat loss or muscle gain.  These recommendations are not entirely specific to any specific individual.

 

  1. Carbohydrate Intake for Fat Loss

If your goal is to lose fat, you will likely have the best success following a “carb-controlled diet.” This should not be confused with a low-carb diet.  While you’re carbohydrate intake may very well be reduced following these guidelines, it will not be lowered to that extreme.  Instead, the focus is placed on being more strategic with the type and timing of carbohydrate intake.

 

Carbohydrate Intake For Fat Loss
Simple Sugars/High-Processed Starches Minimally-Processed Starches Vegetables and Fruits
 

When:

Rarely or never

 

Examples:

Sports drinks, sodas, fruit juices, desserts, cereals, carb-rich snacks

 

 

 

When:

Within 2 hours after workout

 

Examples:

Whole-grain breads/pastas, potatoes, oats

 

 

 

When:

Vegetables with each meal

Eat only small amounts of fruit

 

Examples:

Spinach, broccoli, avocado, apples, berries

 

 

  1. Carbohydrate Intake for Muscle Gain and Competitive Athletes

For those looking to add muscle, or for those who are carbohydrate-dependent athletes, the carbohydrate intake and timing will differ considerably from the chart above.  This population will need to consume considerably more carbohydrates to effectively achieve their goal, or maximize their performance.

 

Carbohydrate Intake for Muscle Gain
Simple Sugars/High-Processed Starches Minimally-Processed Starches Vegetables and Fruits Recovery Beverages
 

When:

Immediately after exercise

 

Examples:

Sports drinks, sodas, fruit juices, desserts, cereals, carb-rich snacks

 

When:

Within 3 hours after exercise

 

Examples:

Whole-grain breads/pastas, potatoes, oats

 

 

When:

Vegetables with every meal

 

Examples:

Spinach, broccoli, avocado, apples, berries

 

 

 

When:

During and after exercise

 

Examples:

Sugary, high-protein drinks

 

 

 

 

 

The Take Home Point

I’ve thrown a lot of information at you this lesson, but don’t be overwhelmed.  We will have more specific guidelines down the road, however, for now try to just work on two things regarding your carbohydrate intake.

First, improve the types of carbohydrates in your diet.  Limit or eliminate refined, sugary carbohydrates, eat more vegetables, and select good starches when appropriate.

Second, work on the timing of your carbohydrate intake.  Select the chart that is most appropriate for your goals and follow the guidelines.

 

So, I’ll reiterate…

Don’t concern yourself with fad diets, pyramids, cavemen, or washed-up, overweight celebrities.  For now, just focus on following the two guidelines above.

How Your Body Type Should Influence Your Diet

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men body types diagram with three somatotypes

 

In my most recent posts we discussed energy balance and how you can properly manipulate energy consumption versus expenditure in order to gain or lose weight.

Now, we are going to get a little deeper into the nitty-gritty of where those calories should come from.  Or, in other words, how to optimally breakdown your intake of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) to help you be more efficient in achieving your goals.

 

Effects of Body Type on Nutrient Intake

 

So, what exactly determines how we should optimally breakdown our intake of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins?

A good deal of it comes down to your somatotype, or body type.

Now, it is important to understand that a body type goes far beyond simply how someone looks.  A body type is indicative of how your body will to respond to the intake of different foods, what your hormone profile may look like, or how dominant your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system is.

There are, indeed, many links between the characteristics of someone’s physique and their metabolic activity.

We will discuss how your body type effects when you should eat certain types of foods and how you should fuel yourself around a workout.  However, in this lesson we are going to hone in on how body types determine the optimal breakdown of macronutrients in your diet.

 

What Are These Body Types?

 

It’s worth noting that very few people fall directly into a specific body type.  Instead, many of us fall somewhere in between.

Also, a person’s body type can change over time.  This can happen through a combination of training, nutrition, and stress management, or occur with aging, largely due to hormonal changes.

For example, an endomorph can dedicate themselves to a disciplined training schedule and good dietary habits and wind up being a competitive bodybuilder.  Similarly, a long-time ectomorph can become obese and diabetic if they are inactive and eat like crap, all while they are growing older and older.

(I promise this will make more sense in a moment)

No one is doomed for eternity, but no one gets a completely free-pass forever.

So, even though most of you won’t fall neatly into one of these specific body types, it is important to find which is your default, or your general tendency, as it will help you be a little more specific with your nutrient intake, maximizing your progress toward your goal.  It will provide a solid baseline off which small adjustments can be made.

 

So, what are these body types?

 

3 Main Body Types

 

  1. Ectomorph

Ectomorphs are those who are naturally thin with skinny limbs.  They tend to have an “I-shaped” body.

That friend of yours who eats everything in sight, seemingly without putting on an ounce of fat is going to fall pretty close to this body type.

Ectomorphs have fast metabolic rates and a high tolerance for carbohydrates.  They are naturally more active and have a propensity toward being thyroid and sympathetic (fight or flight) dominant.

 

  1. Mesomorph

Mesomorphs are those who are naturally muscular and athletic.  They tend to have a “V-shaped” body.  Ladies, think Serena Williams.  Fellas, look at Arnold and Stallone.

Bros, that friend of yours who’s yolked out-of-his-mind and looks like he’s been riding the “gains train” since it left the station likely falls pretty darn close to this.

Mesomorphs tend to be moderately tolerant of carbohydrates.  They are commonly testosterone and growth hormone dominant with moderate to high sympathetic (fight or flight) activity.

 

  1. Endomorph

 

Endomorphs have a naturally broad and thick build.  Their body tends to be more “O-shaped.”

That friend of yours who has a extraordinarily hard time losing weight may very well fall close to this category.

Endomorphs are more insulin dominant and have a low carbohydrate tolerance and slower metabolism.  They have a natural tendency to be less active and have lower sympathetic (fight or flight) activity.

 

Eating For Your Body Type

 

Since different body types respond differently to food intake and have different characteristics regarding hormonal and sympathetic (fight or flight) activity, one can use this information to adjust their food intake to help maximize their body composition, health, and performance.

So, let’s take a look at recommendations of food intake for the three different main body types.

There’s a lot of information here, so if you like, simply skip ahead to the appropriate section and save yourself some time.

 

  1. Eating Like an Ectomorph

If you are prioritizing muscle gain, want to maximize performance for endurance competition, or you’re simply the stereotypical, beanpole-looking ectomorph, you’ll likely be best served trying to follow these guidelines.

 

General Recommendations

If you fall into this population, you are likely going to need a higher carbohydrate intake than most due to your body’s high tolerance for carbohydrate and/or its increased demand from training.

In general, keep a moderate amount of protein in your diet while consuming a higher amount of carbohydrate and lower amount of fat.

 

Percentage Breakdown

An ideal breakdown would consist of consuming 25% of your calories from protein, 55% from carbohydrates, and 20% from fats.

 

Portion-Control Guide

Using your hand as a guide for portion control, a typical meal for the average ectomorphic male should look something like this:

  • 2 palm-sized servings of protein-dense foods
  • 2 fist-sized servings of vegetables
  • 3 cupped-handfuls of carbohydrate-dense foods (grains, fruit, etc…)
  • 1 thumb-sized portion of fat-dense foods (nuts, oils, etc…)

Similarly, a typical meal for an average ectomorphic female should look something like this:

  • 1 palm-sized servings of protein-dense foods
  • 1 fist-sized servings of vegetables
  • 2 cupped-handfuls of carbohydrate-dense foods (grains, fruit, etc…)
  • ½ thumb-sized portion of fat-dense foods (nuts, oils, etc…)

 

  1. Eating Like a Mesomorph

For those of you who are prioritizing strength and power performance, are bodybuilders looking for a baseline diet, or are resemble the aforementioned naturally V-shaped, yolked gym-bro, you’ll likely achieve your best results mirroring these guidelines.

 

General Recommendations

Those of you following into one of these demographics likely have a moderate carbohydrate tolerance, requiring a more balanced breakdown of the three macronutrients.

In general, try to keep a fair balance of calorie consumption through carbohydrate, fats, and protein.

 

Percentage Breakdown

An ideal macronutrient breakdown for this type of eating would consist of consuming 30% of your calories from proteins, 40% from carbohydrates, and 30% from fats.

 

Portion-Control Guide

Using your hand as a guide for portion control, a typical meal for the average mesomorphic male should look something like this:

  • 2 palm-sized servings of protein-dense foods
  • 2 fist-sized servings of vegetables
  • 2 cupped-handfuls of carbohydrate-dense foods (grains, fruit, etc…)
  • 2 thumb-sized portion of fat-dense foods (nuts, oils, etc…)

Similarly, a typical meal for an average mesomorphic female should look something like this:

  • 1 palm-sized servings of protein-dense foods
  • 1 fist-sized servings of vegetables
  • 1 cupped-handfuls of carbohydrate-dense foods (grains, fruit, etc…)
  • 1 thumb-sized portion of fat-dense foods (nuts, oils, etc…)

 

  1. Eating Like an Endomorph

If you are one who is prioritizing fat loss, or would classify yourself as having an “O-shaped” body, finding it extremely hard to lose weight and finding it extremely easy to put on body fat, you will likely be able to maximize your desired results by adhering to the following guidelines.

 

General Recommendations

Those of you following in to this group are likely going to need to consume fewer carbohydrates due to your body’s low carbohydrate tolerance and/or decreased demand to achieve your training goal.

In general, consume a diet higher in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrate.

 

Percentage Breakdown

An ideal macronutrient breakdown for this type of eating would consist of consuming 35% of your calories from proteins, 25% from carbohydrates, and 40% from fats.

 

Portion-Control Guide

Using your hand as a guide for portion control, a typical meal for the average endomorphic male should look something like this:

  • 2 palm-sized servings of protein-dense foods
  • 2 fist-sized servings of vegetables
  • 1 cupped-handfuls of carbohydrate-dense foods (grains, fruit, etc…)
  • 3 thumb-sized portion of fat-dense foods (nuts, oils, etc…)

 

Similarly, a typical meal for an average endomorphic female should look something like this:

  • 1 palm-sized servings of protein-dense foods
  • 1 fist-sized servings of vegetables
  • ½ cupped-handfuls of carbohydrate-dense foods (grains, fruit, etc…)
  • 2 thumb-sized portion of fat-dense foods (nuts, oils, etc…)

 

Making Adjustments

 

Now, that you’ve read all of that, I must say that, for now, those of you who are continuing to see great results at this point may not need to make any adjustments based off this lesson.  As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I also want to remind you that simplicity is key, so I don’t want you to beat your head against the wall trying to following these recommendations to a “T.”  Start by simply following the general guidelines, then perhaps progress to the portion-control guidelines.

To paraphrase some bro named Albert Einstein, keep everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Sounds like a pretty smart guy.

 

 

 

X’s and O’s of Weight Gain

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Bodybuilding And Sports Theme: A Thin Man In A White T-shirt And

I expect a vast majority of my reading audience will just automatically skip this article.

Perhaps if there was a time for a deceptive title, this was it.

I’m guessing those of you still with me are either hard-gainers, fitness nerds, or simply love my writing.

Maybe you’re all 3 like myself…

Well, regardless of that, today we are going to cover how to create a positive energy balance in order to gain weight.  As with weight loss, there is a right way and a wrong way to do so.

 Now, once again, before we jump in, let’s take a brief moment to refresh your memory of the concept of energy balance.

 

What is Energy Balance?

 

Energy balance is the relationship between the calories (energy) we consume through food and drink and the calories (energy) we expend through physical activity, as well as the numerous energy-dependent tasks our bodies perform.

 If you consume more calories than you expend, then you have created what is referred to as a positive energy balance.  A positive energy balance will result in weight gain.

If you expend more calories than you consume, then you have created a negative energy balance.  As you may have guessed, a negative energy balance will lead to weight loss.

Finally, if energy consumption and expenditure are equal, it will result in weight maintenance.

Knowing this, let’s take a look at how you can properly create a positive energy balance in order to promote weight gain.

 

Creating a Positive Energy Balance (Weight Gain)

 

Understanding the concept of energy balance, on the surface level, we are left with three potential ways to create a positive energy balance.

  1. Eat more
  2. Exercise less (again, better stated as expend less energy)
  3. Eat more and exercise less

On a deeper and more practical level, we can accomplish this objective in many ways, including:

  • Increasing lean body mass through weight training and nutrition
  • Minimize other forms of exercise
  • Limit non-exercise physical activity
  • Eat more energy dense foods
  • Eat at regular intervals throughout the day
  • Improve nutrient intake around training sessions
  • Sleep 7-9 hours per night
  • Managing stress levels

 

For a number of reasons, I highly recommend you begin to work on these before beginning to make any significant increases to your caloric intake or exercise intensity.  If you need help with any of the above, you may benefit from working with a quality coach.

That said, let’s take a look at where to go once nutrient deficiencies are accounted for, and sleep and stress management are on-point.

 

The Next Steps (Weight Gain)

 

  1. Re-evaluate your exercise intensity

The first step is to re-evaluate your perceived intensity of training.

If you’re seriously looking to add some muscle and pack on some pounds you have to push yourself.  This is the time to take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are truly working as hard as you think you are.

Some of you may be doing fine.  However, for others you may need to bump things up a notch or two.

Keep training smart.  Keep training with purpose.  But, start bringing a bit more grit and intensity.

 

  1. Increase caloric intake

The second step to take in pursuit of a positive energy balance is to increase your caloric intake.

Now, this can be done in several different manners, but we will touch on a couple of simple strategies.

The best place to start is by looking at your peri-workout nutrition.  While we will go into much greater detail in an article I will post in the coming weeks, for those who are struggling to increase their weight, try consuming some source of carbohydrate and protein both before and after your training session.  In addition, try sipping on a carbohydrate beverage throughout your workout.

Again, this will be covered in much more detail later on; however, feel free to get a head-start on this front.

Another option is simply remaining consistent with food selection while increasing quantity.  You can do this by adding in an additional snack or meal during the day or simply increasing your meal portions by roughly 10%.

A third option, which really is somewhat of an extension of the last, is substituting or adding in more calorically-dense foods to your diet.  This can be accomplished by doing something as simple as substituting whole milk for the skim or 2% you’re currently using.  You can add chia seeds or flax seeds to your recovery shakes.  Try adding some peanut or almond butter to your morning oatmeal.  Throw some nuts, avocado, or seeds in with the salad or vegetables you should be eating at every meal.

Essentially, just look for areas within your diet to which you can add more caloric and nutrient-dense foods.

 

  1. Keep exercise to 4-5 hours/week

If, at this point, your progress stagnates again, limit your exercise to 4-5 hours/week.

Because you still need a stimulus for muscle growth, any cuts to training volume should first come from non-weight training exercise.

 

  1. Increase caloric intake… Again

If progress continues to stagnate, look to employ the aforementioned strategies to once again increase your daily caloric intake.

 

  1. Decrease non-weight training exercise and physical activity

If your progress stagnates yet again, then we are in some serious hard-gainer territory now.

Look for any bit of non-weight training exercise or daily physical activity that can be reduced in order to help you create a positive energy balance.

 

  1. Increase caloric intake…One more time

All adjustments from this point forward need to come from further increases in caloric intake.  So, if you haven’t by now, at this point it’s time to take the reins off.  Unleash your inner fat-kid and buy him a one-way ticket for the gains train to Swole City.

 

So, to recap, before anything else, make sure to evaluate your current eating habits, ensuring that your diet is packed with nutrient and calorically-dense foods.  At the same time, make sure you getting an adequate amount of quality sleep and your stress levels are in check.  All of these factors can aid in creating a positive energy balance or increasing muscle mass.

Once these factors have been accounted for, follow the 6 steps listed and watch that needle on your scale start to tick upward.

For those of you wanting to take things a step further, or those of you looking for some straight up knowledge gains, come back next time where we will talk about how to improve health and performance by eating for your body type.