Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Woman Suffers Heart Attack on Red Bull Diet

First off, let me say that I do enjoy a Red Bull every now and again - OK I love it - and I know plenty of people who can attest to the same. But don't get me wrong, I've never heard of the "Red Bull Diet" before, and to be frank, I'm worried for anyone who thinks they can survive off of a diet comprised almost entirely of cans of Red Bull! Well, that's exactly what one woman from New Zealand did.

Brooke Robertson, a 23-year-old new mother was concerned with the weight that she had put on during her pregnancy, so she took to drastic measures to lose weight. And lose she did - close to a whopping 100 lbs! Thanks to Red Bull's appetite suppressing action, Brooke downed 10 to 14 cans of Red Bull per day while eating next to no real food, except for the odd handful of dry cereal.

As lovely as this may all sound (After all, who needs vitamins, minerals, or solid food for that matter? I mean - what do we even have teeth for?), Brooke wasn't sleeping, she was trembling, had anxiety attacks, severe cramping and pain in her stomach and bowels, and to cap it - she had a minor heart attack at 23 years old! Happily, Brooke survived, but while she was hospitalized, doctors noticed she was sweating, nauseous and shaking - she was experiencing the typical symptoms of withdrawal.

Nowadays, Brooke manages her weight the healthy way by keeping physically active and practicing nutritionally sound eating habits. Despite being a natural health product that can "promote alertness and wakefulness", too much of a good thing can make it dangerous and even toxic. This is just another prime example of the fact that just about anything in excess isn't good for you, in fact, it might just result in a heart attack!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Muscle is Not a Fat-Burning Furnace Post-Workout: Study

Speaking from personal experience, I think a lot of people assume that since they're active and are burning tons of calories from working out, they can go ahead and indulge a bit here and there. It makes sense, right? Your body is burning all those calories and obviously you'll be hungrier than before. Well, sadly the result is oftentimes "inexplicable" weight gain (or at the very least no change in weight).

The old myth used to be that a pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat, so the more muscle you have (from weight training), the faster your metabolism will be, and you'll burn calories for up to 24 hours post-workout just because muscle is such an awesome fat-burner. While this is still true, new research published in the Journal of Exercise and Sport Science Reviews suggests that the difference in calorie-burn is so minimal (~10 per lb of muscle vs ~2 for fat) that regular exercise isn't likely enough to make a difference in "auto-fat burn" to the average person.

While exercise is critical an essential for optimal physical and mental health (it's good for you for just about every reason imaginable from sleep to heart health to sex), it still holds true that diet actually trumps exercise when it comes to weight loss and maintenance. Yes, moving around and exercising burns calories, but a pound of fat is still worth 3,500 calories, and it's usually easier to cut excess calories out of the diet than to burn all those calories at the gym! Without a healthy, calorie-restricted diet, the weight management effects of exercise will be un-done by consuming back the calories that you've burned off. The rule usually goes that for weight loss, it's 80% about diet, and 20% about exercise. Do both and presto: You'll shed those pounds faster than you think.

While this study has busted the old myth that you'll be a calorie-burning machine after working out, it doesn't take away from the importance of exercise in general, and the basic physiological principles of weight loss. The bottom line is: Don't blow your diet just because you're working out!

Monday, May 25, 2009

'Fat Princess': Funny or Offensive?

Hey, not all princesses have to be skinny, right? Well, even just from it's name alone, the new game for Playstation is causing quite a stir on the internet and in the gaming community alike.

In the unexpectedly violent and gory game of 'capture the flag', the ultimate goal is to capture the enemy's princess and take her back to your own base, however, there's a twist. You see, the princess has quite an insatiable appetite, which is where the 'fat' part comes in to play. In order to make capturing the princess more difficult for the opposing team, the princess' loyal subjects search for magical patches of cakes and treats to feed the princess, fattening her up: Voila! A fat princess. Due to their magical nature, the goodies cause the princess to balloon and become severely overweight, making her very difficult to capture and carry by the enemy. There's even an indicator at the top of the screen which shows how sluggishly the princess is moving as she gets carried away!

The game has stirred a great deal of controversy on the internet, stating that it "furthers inappropriate gender stereotypes and continues in the culture of ridicule that many overweight individuals must suffer through", calling the game 'fat-hating'. Others are saying that it's a refreshing change to see a princess who is not a stereotypical supermodel-skinny type that usually comes to mind.

I'm not really sure where I stand with this one but if there's one lesson learned in terms of nutrition and weight management it's this: being sedentary and consuming copious amounts of cakes and cookies will result in weight gain and, potentially, obesity. In that sense, I don't think the game is necessarily poking fun at overweight individuals, it's simply illustrating (albeit somewhat exaggerating) basic nutritional principles!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Now You Can Get Healthier Via E-mail

It seems that we're regularly flooded with new information regarding diet and exercise: what to eat, what not to eat, reminders to exercise, how long to exercise can all get rather overwhelming.

Well, in order to make getting healthier a bit simpler, some researchers decided to see what effect regular e-mails with health tips about diet and exercise would have on participants' over all health. The study, published in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, involved sending e-mails in a workplace setting using a program called ALIVE! (A Lifestyle Intervention Via E-mail).

The individuals receiving the e-mails got simple, custom-tailored, do-able advice that they could easily fit into their daily lives. In the end, they actually ate more fruits and vegetables, less saturated and trans fats and exercised more than they did before the intervention as well as compared with the control group who did not receive such e-mails. The researchers have concluded that this program appears to be an effective behaviour change strategy to help people get a little bit healthier. Some hypothesized reasons for the program's success included the aspect of support within the workplace, the convenience and the simple information provided.

Hey, sometimes we all need a little boost or reminder that making small changes doesn't have to be so hard, but it can certainly make a big difference on our overall health. Since most of us spend a lot of time at our computers anyways, I think it would be great to incorporate health tips into our lives via our inboxes, especially if they're proven to work!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A NIM Contest Winner Blogs About Her Experience with Our Program

Earlier this month, NIM held a Mother's Day contest on our Facebook page and Debra was the lucky winner. Check out what she had to say about NIM and her prize of 4 days of fresh meals delivered on her blog!

Many thanks to Debra; and to everyone else - keep your eyes peeled for more great prizes to be won on both our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sitting Too Long Ups Mortality Risk: Study

In a typical day, how much time do you spend sitting? Nowadays, there's a pretty good that you spend many hours a day sitting at a desk at work or at home, sitting in a car, bus or train commuting, sitting on your couch watching TV...and the list goes on. Well, according to researchers, all this sitting isn't doing us any favours when it comes to extending our lifespans.

According to a new study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the more time we spend sitting, the more likely we are to die of almost all causes. The researchers sampled 17,013 Canadians with ages ranging from 18 to 90 and determined their daily sitting time, leisure time, physical activity level, smoking status and alcohol consumption. During a 12-year follow-up it was determined that there is a dose-response association between time spent sitting and mortality risk, independent of leisure time physical activity.

The researchers suggest that in addition to all of the recommendations we already have for living healthy lives, such as keeping physically active and eating healthy foods, we should also spend less time sitting! Hey, if you think about it, if our ancestors had spent as much time sitting as we do now, they'd starve and get absolutely nothing accomplished! I'm not suggesting we all revert to living on farms or working the field, but we could most definitely stretch our legs a bit more often, right?

Cereal and Milk Aids Post-Workout Muscle Recovery

Athletes - meet the sports supplement you may have been overlooking: cereal. Yeah, it's not exactly what comes to mind when you think of working out, but new research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has shown that whole-grain cereal plus non-fat milk is just as good as replenishing your muscles' fuel after moderate exercise as compared to some more expensive sports drinks! In fact, it's better...

Researchers out of Texas had 12 trained cyclists undergo a typical exercise session; the athletes cycled for two hours at a comfortable pace and then consumed either a sports-drink or whole grain cereal plus skim milk. The athletes acted as their own controls meaning that they all performed two rounds of exercise and ultimately consumed both 'supplements' after working out. The result? The replenishment of muscle fuel was just as good in both conditions and some aspects of protein synthesis were actually better in the cereal condition.

Not only are cereal and milk a cheaper alternative to stocking up on Gatorade, they also provide vitamins and minerals plus protein and complex carbohydrates which sports drinks just can't compare with. Not to mention the fact that it's actual food as compared with a sugar-electrolyte water mixture!

The researchers went on to say that these results are true not only for athletes, but for amateurs and moderately physically active people who are just trying to stay in shape, too! Despite the fact that this study was funded by General Mills, I still believe there's a grain of truth behind the whole 'cereal for weight loss' craze!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Low-Glycemic Index Breakfasts Increase Fat Burning During Subsequent Exercise

The Glycemic Index has been receiving a lot of media attention lately, and for good reason. In the past 20 years, it's been found that choosing lower-GI foods is not only great for your health, it also do wonders for your waistline and new research out of The Journal of Nutrition is supporting this fact. The researchers of this study have found that when Low-GI foods are consumed at breakfast, a few hours prior to exercising, more fat is burned over all in both sedentary and active individuals. In addition, the participants in the study who consumed Low-GI breakfasts also felt fuller for longer afterwards!

In case you're new to the concept, here's a quick run-down: David Jenkins, MD, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto noticed that different foods containing the same amount of carbohydrates could illicit extraordinarily different responses in blood sugar and insulin levels in diabetic individuals. As a result, he decided to not only find out why this happens, but also to create a system for diabetics and eventually all individuals to follow for optimal health.

Following great amounts of research, the Glycemic index was born - it's a numerical ranking of carb-containing foods based on the speed of their absorption in the bloodstream. High-GI foods are digested and absorbed very quickly, causing a rapid spike in blood sugar, followed by a tell-tale crash, usually responsible for that 3 O'clock slump! Low-GI foods are digested and absorbed more quickly, resulting in stable levels of blood sugar and insulin and giving you more steady and long-lasting energy. Not surprisingly, high-GI foods tend to be the usual suspects: refined sugars and processed grains just to name a few. Low-GI foods include most fruits and veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

Try it out for yourself - discover what all the buzz is about and boost your energy and over all health at the same time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Plate that Helps You Lose Weight?

Here's another one to file under "crazy but true". Imagine this: a plate that takes the guesswork out of portion control and actually helps you slim down and slenderize. According to the makers of the "Diet Plate", it provides a “visual management of your daily intake of food" by showing you exactly how much and where to place the different components of your meal.

One obvious downfall to this system is the creators' claim that you can eat essentially whatever you like without considering carbs, fat, protein or even calories. If anyone thinks that all they have to do is fit their foods into the appropriate slots on the plate and they will lose weight, they're dead wrong- it obviously depends on what foods are being consumed and how they're being cooked!

One great feature of this product is the fact that it teaches total beginners "portion control 101" which is an essential life skill, especially these days with horrendously large portion sizes being offered up left and right. The plates come in men's, women's and children's sizes (complete with pictures of wizards on them), too! Before long, portion control will be as easy as knowing your ABC's. Plus, I love the large section for 'veggies' and the fact that it reminds users to include the different food groups into their diets in sensible portions.

All this and the fact that the plates are totally cute? I'd buy one just for fun!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Weigh-in Plus Support Program Maintains Weight Loss: Study

Go figure - a simple bi-weekly weigh in plus encouraging support can yield the same weight maintenance effects as a more pricey program including exercise classes and dietitians according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal!

In the study, 200 women were randomly assigned to either an intensive support program involving dietitians and exercise specialists, or a more simple, less expensive nurse-led program which included weigh-ins and encouragement over the phone. The researchers found that participants in both groups reduced their weight, fat mass, BMI, waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, and levels of glucose and insulin.

In addition, the attendance rate of women being weighed-in in the nurse-led condition was outstanding; the same cannot be said for the other group's attendance to exercise sessions. Over all, however, there was no difference in weight maintenance between groups.

According to the researchers, "Many participants reported that the weigh-ins and the enthusiastic support provided by the nurse on those occasions and on the telephone were key determinants of their success,". Hey, if the results were the same and both the participants and nurses were enthusiastic about the program, then it sounds like a good deal to me!

This is some great news if you're hoping to keep those pounds off without dropping too much cash, especially in these tough economic times.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The High Heel Workout: Not a Joke

Ladies: Have you ever noticed that the moment you don a pair of sky-high heels, you not only feel that much sexier, but you instantly feel those calf muscles tighten up? What better way to showcase a pair of toned legs than to slip your feet into a pair of Jimmy Choos? Well, Florida-based trainer Rosalind Neilen decided to take her love for high heels one step further by marrying them with her passion for exercise. The "High Heel Workout" was born.

According to Rosalind, the first 10 minutes help you get acquainted with your heels so that you feel comfortable even just walking in them. She encourages her students to move around and get in the groove of the music so that they can get a feel for what's to come next. After that, she introduces some simple squats and dance moves, all in done in your stilettos, to prepare for another 20 minutes of intense leg work. The intense leg work, fortunately, is done sans stilettos.

Ladies, if you're anything like me and completely and utterly lack any coordination in high heels, you can attest to the fact that those suckers can get you wobbling about and feeling muscles that you haven't used in a while. Keeping upright (i.e. not falling down) in heels requires engaging your core muscles for balance, working on your posture, and most obviously using your leg muscles.

Regardless of whether or not this workout delivers results comparable to your typical routine, you can rest assured that your confidence in heels will be improved and your legs will look luscious. Isn't it just the icing on the cake when you can show off your hard earned rockin' bod in style and confidence after working your butt off? I think so!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rinsing Your Mouth with Carb-Containing Liquids Can Rev Up Your Workout

Wouldnt it be great if you could work out harder than usual and like it better too? Well, according to a new study published in the Journal of Physiology, it might be easier than you think! English researchers have found that simply swishing some carbohydrate-containing liquids around your mouth may be enough to give you a mental boost and improve the intensity and duration of exercise.

Participants in the study were endurance-trained athletes who rinsed their mouths with solutions containing either glucose or maltodextrin (both sugars), or saccharin, an artificial sweetener. Their exercise endurance was then tested by completing a cycle time trial to see if the solutions made any difference. In addition, all participants underwent an fMRI brain scan to identify any changes in brain activity in response to the solutions.

Not only did the athletes complete the cycle time trials more quickly when they swished with the sugar-containing solutions, but their fMRI's also indicated that the reward and motor control regions were activated in their brains. This means that the athletes were able to work harder while feeling fewer negative effects of exercise while they were training. This was not found in participants who swished with artificially-sweetened solutions, leading the researchers to believe that there may be receptors in the mouth that activate specific brain regions in response to carbohydrates before they are even swallowed.

While working out, we lose a lot of water and electrolytes through sweating and hard breathing, so another bonus of these carbohydrate-containing beverages is their ability to rehydrate and cool our bodies. A word of caution is in order, however, since most mainstream sports drinks pack hundreds of calories and artificial ingredients which essentially replace the calories that you've just burned while busting your butt working out! A better idea: try making your own sports-drink (lots of recipes are available online) which can do the exact same thing as your standard-issue gatorade or powerade, with a lot less sugar and calories, and not to mention food-colouring!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More Proof that Magic Diet Pills Don't Exist

And another one bites the dust! Say farewell to Hydroxy Cut, a very popular and widely consumed thermogenic fat burner and energy enhancing weight loss supplement.

In the US, the FDA has declared that there are some serious health risks associated with taking Hydroxy Cut such as serious cases of jaundice, elevated liver enzymes and liver damage requiring transplant. In light of this, Health Canada has released a statement and is reviewing the safety of Hydroxy Cut products in Canada. As a natural health product (NHP), Hydroxy Cut was sold over the counter and did not require a prescription to be purchased, so anyone could buy it.

In Canada, as an NHP, Hydroxy Cut is governed by the Natural Health Products Regulations, which attempt to increase the safety of natural health products for consumers, and attempt to ensure that they are used correctly. Labels must be clear and understandable when it comes to information on treatment, dosage and health warnings, as well as pre-market review and assessment in order to reasonably ensure that natural health products that are safe, effective, and of the highest quality. At first pass, I automatically assumed that the individuals with the reported cases of liver injury were taking crazy high doses of this stuff, but in actuality, they took the amount as stated on the label!

NHP's undergo a mandatory pre-market review to ensure that what is on the label is what is actually in the bottle, and that health claims are supported by appropriate levels of evidence. Natural health products can also make a full range of health claims, which are not allowed in the case of food and drugs, including claims about risk reduction, structure-function and treatment-prevention if there is enough evidence to back these claims.

I'm not sure as to exactly how or why Hydroxy Cut was able to fall through the cracks when it comes to safety, but I suppose it happens every now and then. Realistically, if anyone is going to put anything in their body, they should do adequate research to make sure that it's relatively safe for them to take and understand what exactly the effects of the product on the body are; any effects of diet pills are seen only in combination with diet and exercise. If a label has a long list of fine-printed ingredients, be weary! Read labels closely and critically - always keeping in mind that magic diet pills don't exist!