Food for thought: Protein, not as simple as it may seem.

Protein seems to be a buzz topic of late, with implications in lean mass gain and maintenance and also fat mass loss. It has been shown that diets with an appropriate spread and distribution of protein (along with an appropriate training program) can contribute to an increase in myofibrillar protein (aka muscle) and that a higher protein diet may also assist with weight loss. Although protein is often spoken about as a single entity, protein is actually made up of several amino acids, and the type of protein will dictate what amino acids are within that protein. Amino acids are said to be “essential” (EAA) and “non-essential” (NEAA), whereby EAA must be consumed as the body cannot make them, while NEAA are able to be made by the body, and are therefore not “essential” within the diet, although, historically, these terms were coined dependant on nitrogen balance, and therefore adequate growth within the body. However, there is increasing evidence that although NEAA can indeed be made by the body there are conditions in which these amino acids may be required in higher amounts, such as during wound healing. While specific protein fragments known as “bio-active” peptides (formed by hydrolysis either through digestion, food processing or microbial fermentation) have roles within the body, which are beyond that of the intact, parent protein such as immune function, metabolism regulation and potentially supporting the health and performance of connective tissues.


Further reading:

Food doesn’t make you (gain) fat!

Now bare-with me on this one. You’re probably thinking, what on earth is she on about?! Of course what you put into your mouth makes you gain fat, and yes to some extent this is true. But, what about before you put that food into your mouth, what happens in that space? You are making a conscious decision, or acting out a “behaviour”. All too often I see people blaming one food or nutrient for weight gain – right now, I believe the nutrient of the devil is carbohydrate, but back in day it was fat, and I am sure (despite it’s overwhelming popularity right now) protein will at some point come under fire (and believe it or not protein does still contain energy, so theoretically could too contribute to fat gain).

The truth is, that it is not one nutrient or food that is to blame, it is often (but not always) a collection of behaviours, and this is not always over-eating or inadequate exercise either. In fact, under-eating and continuous “yo-yo” dieting can create havoc for your metabolism, and myself, and other Dietitians will often see clients eating next to nothing that struggle with weight.

As a Dietitian, I am often asked to compile meal plans for clients, and in many circumstances, such as when working with athletes can be very useful. They can also be used as a tool to change behaviours and help people get into a routine, however, they are not a quick fix, and still require a change in behaviour, which is the difficult part. If it were the case that simply eliminating one nutrient or food from the diet would lead to sustainable (and healthy) fat/weight loss, then why isn’t everyone doing it?

Some behaviour modification ideas for weight management:

  • Create a conducive environment: in the home and in the office, if you wish to snack, have healthier snack options available such as corn thins (with some ricotta cheese in the fridge), cut up vegetables, fruit, unsalted (portioned) nuts, whey protein powder etc. Stock up on vegetables, tinned legumes and lean meat so they are your options for dinner, and have some healthier “long life” alternatives i.e. tinned veg, frozen veg, wholemeal rice/pasta.
  • Have alternatives to food for stress management i.e. scented candles ( I know its corny, but works for me!), sneakers nearby so that you can go for a walk out in the sun on your lunch break (and soak up some vitamin D), have a stress ball – I have a happy emoticon one on my desk, sip on tea, or find your stress management activity!
  • If you have cake at work for a birthday or a morning tea, enjoy a small slice, but don’t go overboard – there is no point denying yourself, you are better to enjoy that one piece and have a nice healthy lunch then crave it for the remainder of the week.
  • Don’t ever shop hungry or tired, or you will be more likely to buy things that you don’t need.
  • If you know you’ll be hungry by the time you get home from work, have a small snack in the afternoon so that you don’t over-eat at dinner time.
  • Make exercise a priority even when catching up with friends on the weekend – go for a walk PRIOR to going for a coffee or better still, get a takeaway coffee and go for a walk.
  • Remember, it is OK to enjoy ANY food that you like from time to time, but it’s not OK to punish yourself over it, have it enjoy it, and then move on, that way you’ll be less likely to crave it and want (A LOT) something that you’ve told yourself you CAN’T have.


Exploring Food Trends for Weight Loss and Health

Most of you are probably aware by now, that certain food trends fluctuate throughout the media (which can often make a Dietitians job challenging to say the least). One minute the media tells individuals to eat low fat, the next minute, high fat. One minute saturated fat is said to be bad for you, the next minute it is said to be good for you. One minute dairy is said to be good for you, the next minute it is said to be bad for you. No wonder people are confused by it all!

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Achieving Your Optimal Body Weight Without Compromising on Performance

There are various reasons as to why an athlete may desire to ascertain certain body weight and/or composition such as meeting a weight category), optimising performance (i.e. increasing power to weight ratio) or for aesthetic reasons (i.e. ballet, gymnastics etc). Similarly, there are many factors that may influence body mass including genetic predisposition, training level and/or intensity and relative energy cost, diet, behavioural and social factors, tapering for competition and/or periods of injury or illness.

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