Get Cultured: Probiotics can Help You Lose Weight & Stay Healthy

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From Greek to Icelandic Skyr, yogurt is everywhere. Choose the right kind, one packed with probiotics and protein, and yogurt can help you trim your waistline while supporting overall health at the same time.

In this article, I’m covering:
• How gut bacteria influence your weight and health
• Probiotic-rich foods for health & healthy weight

Your Gut Bacteria Influence Your Weight & Health

There is an entire community of over one trillion microbes (bacteria) taking up valuable real estate in your gut. Some are good, some are bad and the rest are neutral. The good guys are key players for digestive and immune functioning (remember about 70% of your immune system is located in your gut). They have many other functions as well:
bacteria, probiotics and body weight

Research studies show lean and obese people have a different makeup of bacteria in their gut. In addition, lean individuals have a greater diversity of bacteria in their gut. Diversity is important –  think of bacteria like a team of people each one has a different job and they work better together than in isolation.

If an obese person loses weight their overall makeup of bacteria more closely resemble’s a lean person’s gut. Greater weight loss = even greater the changes in gut bacteria. Also, changing bacteria seems to influence weight, though scientists know less about the influence of altering gut bacteria and changing body weight. Lean mice transplanted with bacteria from obese mice experienced a 60% increase in body fat without changing their food intake (calories in) or physical activity (calories out). The authors of this study believe the change in gut bacteria resulted in an increased absorption of some carbohydrates, increase in the production of fat and increase in fat storage. Authors from another study, this one examining human twins, also found a connection between types of bacteria in the gut and body weight, particularly visceral fat – deep layers of fat that coat the organs and are tied to higher risk of certain chronic diseases such as heart disease. The authors of this study believe, like the study in mice, obese individuals may be absorbing more calories from the food they eat.

Probiotic-Rich Foods for Health & Healthy Weight

How did they swap out bacteria in studies? Poop transplants. This isn’t exactly something you should try at home. But there’s another, easier way to keep your gut healthy. Get cultured by picking up foods that contain healthy bacteria including yogurt (with live and active cultures), kefir (drinkable yogurt, it’s so good!), miso soup, homemade sauerkraut, and tempeh (made from soy, this has a nutty taste). There might be something special about yogurt – a meta-analysis (a study that combined the results of other studies) looked at dairy intake and weight changes over time. They found greater yogurt intake was associated with lower body weight. Plus the protein in Greek yogurt seems to help people feel full so they eat less at their next meal. Also, feed the bacteria by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, particularly onions, greens, beans, legumes, berries and bananas, to get enough prebiotics (food) to support their growth.

 

References
Benno Y. Mitsuoka T. Development of intestinal microflora in human and animals. Bifidobacteria Microflora 1986; 5:13-25.

Quigley EMM, Quera R. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: Roles of Antibiotics, Prebiotics, and Probiotics. Gastroenterology 2006;130:S78-S90.

O’Hara AM, Shanahan F. The gut flora as a forgotten organ. EMBO Rep 2006;7:688-93.

Ramakrishna B. The normal bacterial flora of the human intestine and its regulation. J Clin Gastroenterology 2007;41:S2-S6.

Douglas LC, Sanders ME. Probiotics and prebiotics in dietetics practice. J Am Diet Assoc 2008;108:510-521.

Million M, Maraninchi M, Henry M et al. Obesity-associated gut microbiota is enriched in Lactobacillus reuteri and depleted in Bifidobacterium animalis and Methanobrevibacter smithii. Int J Obesity 2012;36:817-825.

Hempel S, Newberry SJ, Maher AR, Wang Z et al. Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA 2012;307(18):1959-1969.

An Introduction to Probiotics. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/

Marik PE. Colonic flora, probiotics, obesity and diabetes. Front Endocrinol 2012;3:87.

Bäckhed F, Ding H, Wang T, Hooper LV, Koh GY, Nagy A, Semenkovich CF, Gordon JI. The gut microbiota as an environmental factor that regulates fat storage. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004;101:15718-23.

Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein S, Gordon JI. Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature 2006;444(7122):1022-3.

Kalliomäki M, Collado MC, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Early differences in fecal microbiota composition in children may predict overweight. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(3):534-8.

Yang YX, He M, Hu G, Wei J, Pages P, Yang XH, Bourdu-Naturel S. Effect of a fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173010 on Chinese constipated women. World J Gastroenterol 2008;14(40):6237-43.

Yaeshima T et al. Effect of yogurt containing Bifidobacterium longum BB536 on the intestinal environment, fecal characteristics and defecation frequency: a comparison with standard yogurt. Bioscience Microflora 1997;16:73-77.

Hempel S et al. Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea
A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA 2012;307;1959-1969.

Semova I, Carten JD, Stombaugh J et al. Microbiota Regulate Intestinal Absorption and Metabolism of Fatty Acids in the Zebrafish. Cell Host & Microbe 2012;12:277.

Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G, Schwedhelm C, Kalle-Uhlmann T, Missbach B, Knuppel S, Boeing H. Consumption of Dairy Products in Relation to Changes in Anthropometric Variables in Adult Populations: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies. PLoS One 2016; 11(6): e0157461.

Electrolytes That Will Help You Stay Hydrated & Perform Better

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tennis athleteElectrolytes are minerals that help you stay hydrated, regulate nerve functioning, and influence muscle contraction and relaxation. Any electrolyte disturbance can potentially hinder athletic performance and may lead to muscle weakness, muscle twitching, dehydration, and cramping.

Sodium and chloride (together they make table salt) are the major electrolytes lost through sweat followed by smaller amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Sodium is the primary electrolyte that needs replacing during exercise. In a healthy individual, blood potassium is well regulated. Also, supplemental potassium in high doses can be very dangerous therefore, while some electrolyte replacement products provide a tiny bit of potassium, this isn’t an essential ingredient.

Sweat sodium losses vary tremendously between athletes with reported losses ranging from the amount in a “pinch” of salt (0.2 grams of sodium) per liter (1 liter = 4.23 cups) of sweat to over 12.5 grams of sodium per liter (12.5 grams of sodium is the amount in 5.4 teaspoons of salt) of sweat. Sweat sodium losses are dependent on an athlete’s dietary sodium intake, sweat rate, adaptation to heat, and rehydration source (and how much sodium their during exercise beverage contains).

Hydrating with water alone can help prevent over-heating, though sodium helps your body hold onto the fluid you drink. In fact, relying solely on water and drinking tons of water (let’s say you only rehydrate with water during a four hour marathon) can dilute blood sodium levels and contribute to hyponatremia (dangerously low blood sodium that can result in muscle weakness spasms or cramps,  headache or confusion, low energy and at worst, brain swelling, seizure and coma). Drink tons of water after exercise to rehydrate and you’ll pee a good bit of it right back out. Popular sports drinks typically provide varying amounts of electrolytes though some athletes may need to add sodium to their sports drink to fully replace sodium lost through sweat.

If you find that you need more sodium, start by adding 50 – 100 mg for every 8 oz. of fluid. So for instance, mix ½ packet Gatorlytes into a 32 oz. bottle of Gatorade or PowerAde (or similar sports drink).

Electrolyte Comparison Chart

Product, Rating, Description Bottom Line
Gatorlytes   ****
1 packet; powder
– Mix in any amount of water or other beverages
– No calories– Sodium: 780 mg
– Potassium: 400 mg
– Magnesium: 40 mg
Easily mixes into any beverage; good amount of sodium and you can use part of a package if you want a partial serving.

 

Generation UCAN Hydrate  **
1 packet; powder
– Mix in 16 – 20 oz. water
– No calories
-Lemon lime flavor
-Sweetened with Stevia -Sodium: 300 mg
-Potassium: 100 mg
-Magnesium: 50 mg
-Calcium: 15 mg
Already flavored so this can only be mixed with water. Best for the very light sweater – one who doesn’t sweat much or lose much sodium through sweat.

 

Not for serious athletes.

Hammer Endurolytes   *
2 electrolyte capsules
-Swallow capsules or open & mix in a drink
-Contains glycine to help neutralize the salty taste

-Sodium: 80 mg
-Potassium: 50 mg
-Magnesium: 50 mg
-Calcium: 100 mg

Low in sodium for an electrolyte product. Many athletes would need several capsules.

 

-Xylitol is a common ingredient in Hammer products, which like all sugar alcohols, has the potential cause GI problems

Infinit Nutrition :Speed < 3 hours  ****
1 packet :Speed < 3 hours
– 230 calories
– 55 g carbohydrate from maltodextrin and dextrose

-Sodium: 325 mg
-Potassium: 94 mg
-Magnesium: 5 mg
-Calcium: 3 mg

Good for the athlete who is looking for a sports drink with sodium.

 

Many athletes, especially those who are heavy sweaters or salty sweaters, will need to add additional sodium.

Klean Electrolytes   *
1 electrolyte capsuleThey recommend taking 1 – 3 capsules, depending on sweat rate, weight, and activity duration.

-Sodium: 40 mg
-Potassium: 25 mg
-Magnesium: 25 mg
-Calcium: 25 mg

Relatively low in sodium for an electrolyte supplement.
MyProtein  ****
-flavored Electrolyte powder

-Chloride: 320 mg
-Sodium: 210 mg

This is table salt (exact same ratio of chloride and sodium) with potassium sulfate, calcium di phosphate and magnesium added (it isn’t clear how much is added).
NUUN   *
Electrolyte tablets (12 per tube)
Comes in 3 drink options:1 NUUN Active Hydration Tablet
-Sodium: 360 mg
-Potassium: 100 mg
-Magnesium: 25 mg
-Calcium: 13 mg

NUUN All Day Hydration
– Sodium: 60 mg
– Potassium: 200 mg
– Magnesium: 20 mg
– Calcium: 0 mg

NUUN U Natural Hydration
– Sodium: 180 mg
– Potassium: 77 mg
– Magnesium: 20 mg
– Calcium: 0 mg

NUUN Active Hydration contains sorbitol which is a sugar alcohol that may cause GI (stomach) distress (sorbitol is one of the 2 worst ones for stomach uspet)

 

NUUN’s U natural hydration uses Stevia instead of sorbitol

 

 

Skratch Exercise Hydration mix   ***

Electrolyte mix that can be added into any drink
– 80 calories; 20 grams carbohydrate
– Uses fruit
– No artificial flavors or colors

1 scoop (20 gm) Lemons and Limes Skratch exercise hydration mix:

-Sodium: 240 mg
-Potassium: 40 mg
-Magnesium: 24 mg
-Calcium: 10 mg

As a powder this can be modified to fit a person’s individual needs. It contains carbohydrate though and therefore it may deliver too many carbs at a time when combined with a sports drink or other calorie-containing beverage. Too many carbs at a time = stomach upset.
The Right Stuff   ***

20 ml liquid electrolyte replacement designed as a pre-exercise hyperhydrator (to expand plasma volume via sodium fluid load)

-Liquid form
-Sweetened with Splenda

-Sodium: 1,780 mg
-Chloride: 1,379 mg
-Citrate: 2,953 mg

Good option for “heavy sweaters” or athletes exercising in hot and humid environments (due to its high sodium content). However, there is nothing to suggest The Right Stuff is better than other electrolyte products when equating for sodium content or, in the case of rehydration, other factors that may contribute to fluid balance including macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs).

The research listed on their website is less than impressive since most studies compared The Right Stuff against low and no sodium conditions (the studies were not designed to truly test The Right Stuff but instead make the product look good).
In one well-designed study, that included seven total beverages. Two contained the same amount of sodium, beverages 3 & 4 (The Right Stuff). Oddly beverage 3 is missing from the results data. Also, The Right Stuff didn’t fare better than a lower sodium beverage for improving hydration status after dehydration (technically termed hypohydration). Reference below:

Greenleaf et al. Vascular Uptake of Rehydration Fluids in Hypohydrated Men at Rest and Exercise. NASA Technical Memorandum. August 1992.

Post Workout Nutrition – what do you really need?

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Are you confused about what to consume post workout? RD-to-be Sara Shipley breaks down the basics and provides excellent suggestions for post workout nutrition:

We’ve heard it all before: “You need protein after a workout!”

But why? And how much? Will two scoops of any protein powder in your morning smoothie cover all of your bases? Maybe, but here’s what else you need to know about properly refueling and repairing your muscles so you can get back to your life and get ready for tomorrow’s workout.

After strenuous activity our muscle tissue is damaged (this is normal) and our glycogen (carbohydrate stored in our muscle) is depleted. And, depending on how much fluid you consumed while exercising, you may also need to replace a good amount of fluid lost through sweat (and possibly electrolytes too). The right combination of protein, carbohydrate and fluids consumed post-workout will help your muscles recover faster with less soreness and fatigue. Here’s a breakdown on how much you should take:

Protein will help your muscles repair and build new muscle tissue (especially after a bout of resistance training). You can consume protein rich foods or sports supplements for convenience. However, you should aim for a minimum of 25 grams after resistance training (lifting weights for instance) and at least 10 grams after endurance training. If you are choosing food-based sources of protein opt for lean, high quality protein such as egg whites, skinless chicken, turkey breast, 1% cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt.

Carbohydrate is the fuel that powers your workouts. Your body’s stores of carbohydrate, in the form of glycogen, last about 2 hours (less if you are exercising very intensely). And, we now that athletic performance suffers when our carbohydrate stores become depleted. Therefore, carbs post-workout are vital to replacing glycogen stores. Aim for at least 60-75 grams or more. Bagels, pretzels and pasta are all good bets. If you aren’t hungry, try liquid carbs in the form of a sports drink or flavored milk.

Hydration and electrolytes are lost through sweat. And, drinking during your workout may seem like a no brainer, but sometimes you can’t quite makeup for your fluid losses through sweat. If your workout was intense, you need to replace electrolytes (primarily sodium) lost through sweat as well (especially if you are a salty sweater as evidenced by white salt crystals on your face, ears or neck). Sports drinks are a great way to re-hydrate or you can opt for other hydrating beverages (water, juice, milk) consumed in combination with salty foods.

Another thought to consider: post-workout inflammation. Some inflammation is good but too much inflammation may slow the recovery process. So, choose foods that may help combat inflammation including tart cherry juice (or eat cherries), mango, fresh pineapple whey protein and deeply colored fruits and vegetables.

Some of my favorite post-workout foods:

  • chocolate milk
  • eggs on a toasted whole wheat English muffin, with a sprinkle of cheese
  • cottage cheese with sliced cherry tomatoes and whole grain pretzels
  • Greek yogurt with blueberries and whole grain granola
  • soup with grilled cheese (bonus – great for replacing sodium!)
  • skinless grilled chicken and wholegrain brown rice
  • whole grain pita filled with hummus, grilled veggies and a dollop of plain yogurt, paired with a large glass of milk
  • Clif or Luna bar
  • Sports drink
  • Smoothie made with whey protein, any mix of berries, skim milk and ice (you can also add mango or pineapple)