These powerful compounds may help prevent CVD and cancer and boost cognitive function. Many dietitians are well aware of the benefits fruits and vegetables provide, but few may know the actual names and types of the disease-fighting compounds they contain that are so important for good health.
Chocolate—Is it a bad food for athletes, an addictive drug, and the instigator of dietary disasters? Or is it a health food, dieter’s weight loss aid, and effective recovery food for tired, hungry athletes?
I vote for the latter! Personally and professionally, I like to think of chocolate (in moderation, of course) as one of life’s pleasures. Here is some research that might be of interest to active people who love chocolate.
Chocolate Cake—or Breakfast?
Chocolate cake for breakfast enhances weight loss. Really? Yes, according to researcher Prof. Daniela Jacubowicz (1). The subjects were 193 obese, non-diabetic adults who ate either a 300-calorie low carbohydrate breakfast or a 600-calorie breakfast that included protein plus chocolate cake (or another sweet dessert). Both groups were instructed to eat the same amount of total calories: 1,400 for the women and 1,600 for the men. In the first 16 weeks, both groups lost an average of 33 pounds per person. But in the second half of the study, the no-cake group had poor compliance and regained an average of 22 pounds per person while the cake-eaters continued to lose another 15 pounds each. By 32-weeks, the cake eaters had lost about 40 pounds more than their peers.
Prof. Jacubowicz noticed that those who had cake for breakfast had fewer cravings for carbohydrates and sweets later in the day. By frontloading their calories, they were less hungry and less likely to stray from their food plans. They had curbed their cravings for sweets and treats, in comparison to the group that ate the smaller breakfast.
So what does this research mean for you?
- Eat a satisfying breakfast that leaves you content. Do not stop eating breakfast just because you think you should.
- If you want a treat, such as chocolate cake, enjoy it earlier in the day, as opposed to indulging at 9:00 p.m. when you are tired, too hungry, and lack the mental energy needed to stop yourself from overeating. Think of it as having dessert after breakfast instead of after dinner.
- Even on a weight reduction diet, you should eat what you truly want to eat, without deprivation of your favorite foods. Otherwise, you’ll end up doing “last chance” eating. (You know, “I just blew my diet by eating cake, so I might as well keep eating it because this is my last chance before my diet starts again…”)
Note: Even people with diabetes can substitute chocolate cake for grains at a meal without creating blood glucose problems. Just eat the cake instead of—not in addition to—the grains!(2)
Dark Chocolate—A “Health Food”?
It’s not a secret: a candy bar contains primarily nutrient-poor calories from sugar and fat. For example, a Hershey’s Bar (43 g) contains 210 calories—of which 46% are from sugar, 55% from fat. Hence, you want to enjoy milk chocolate in moderation, not in binges….
However, less-processed dark chocolate can be considered a healthier choice. Chocolate is made from cocoa, a plant that is a rich source of health-protective phytochemicals (just like you’d get from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). Two tablespoons natural cocoa power (the kind used in baking) offers the antioxidant power of 3/4 cup blueberries or 1.5 glasses red wine. Unfortunately, dark chocolate has a slightly bitter taste and most people prefer the sweeter milk chocolate, a poorer source of phytochemicals. (We need to raise our children on dark chocolate, so they will they learn to prefer it!)
Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids, health-protective compounds found in many plant foods including tea, apples, and onions. Epidemiological surveys of large groups of people indicate those who regularly enjoy chocolate consume more of these health-protective flavonoids than non-chocolate eaters. This reduces their risk of heart disease. For example, in the Netherlands, elderly men who routinely ate chocolate-containing products reduced their risk of heart disease by 50% and their risk of dying from other causes by 47%.(3) Maybe a daily (preferably dark) chocolate fix can be a good idea?
Chocolate Milk—for Recovery?
If you’ve just had a killer workout and want to rapidly refuel and repair your muscles, boost your blood sugar, and replace sweat losses—as well as reward yourself with a tasty treat—reach for some low fat chocolate milk! Research indicates refueling with chocolate (or any flavored) milk enhances recovery of both fluids and muscles better than the standard carb-only, sugar-based sports drink.(4)
Anyone responsible for stocking the recovery food table for tired, thirsty athletes who want to rapidly refuel after a hard workout will tell you chocolate milk is an all-time favorite. Weight-conscious female athletes, in particular, let themselves enjoy this treat “guilt-free” and meanwhile boost their intake of nutrient commonly missing in their diet, such as high quality protein, riboflavin, calcium, and vitamin D. What a positive change from their embattled relationship with chocolate! This is good.
But shouldn’t we be staying away from sugary foods? The World Health Organization recommends a limit of 10% of calories from refined sugar per day; that’s about 200 to 300 sugar-calories for most athletes. Getting sugar from chocolate milk is nutritionally preferable than from sports drinks. Milk’s high quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and a host of other important nutrients is far better than sugar water with a dash of salt!
For those of you who happen to read the Boston Globe (3/13/12), you might have caught my answer to a healthwriter’s criticism of USA Swimming for choosing chocolate milk as a sponsor. My response: “Kudos to USA Swimming for choosing to be sponsored by a whole food as opposed to an engineered sports food. To have role-model athletes touting low fat chocolate milk is preferable to the alternative of them touting sports drinks. I only wish more “real food” companies would do the research needed to counter the influential engineered sports food industry.”
The bottom line
By no means is chocolate the key to a healthy sports diet, nor is eating lots of dark chocolate preferable to snacking on apples and bananas. We all need to eat chocolate in moderation so it does not crowd-out other nutrient dense foods. But chocolate can be balanced into an overall wholesome sports diet and add pleasure to the day—even if you are dieting to lose weight. For chocolate lovers, deprivation of chocolate may create more problems than it solves.
From The Athlete’s Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD, April 2012
Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners, and soccer players offer additional information. They are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com and sportsnutritionworkshop.com.
1. Jakubowicz D, O Froy, J Wainstein, M Boaz. Meal timing and composition influence ghrelin levels, appetite scores and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults. Steroids 77(4): 323-331, 2012.
2. Peters, AL, MB Davidson, K Eisneberg. Effect of isocaloric substitution of chocolate cake for potato in type I diabetic patients. Diabetes Care 13(8):888-92, 1990.
3. Buijsse B, Feskens EJ, Kok FJ, Kromhout D. Cocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Arch Intern Med. 27;166(4):411-7, 2006.
4. Lunn WR, Pasiakos SM, Colletto MR, Karfonta KE, Carbone JW, Anderson JM, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk & endurance exercise recovery: protein balance, glycogen and performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 44(4):682-91,2012.
If you are among the few skinny folks who have a hard time bulking up, you may be feeling frustrated you can’t do something as simple as gain a few pounds. For underweight athletes, the struggle to bulk up is equal to that of overfat people who yearn to trim down. Clearly, genetics plays a powerful role in why some athletes have so much trouble gaining weight (and keeping it on).
Soy: It’s a high-quality source of protein, containing all of the essential amino acids; it’s packed with vitamins and minerals; it has fiber (both soluble and insoluble), omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, no cholesterol, and very little saturated fat compared with meat. It’s been touted for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer, and there’s clinical evidence to back up these assertions.
Why Can’t I Simply Lose a Few Pounds? Dieting Myths and Gender Differences
Despite their apparent leanness, too many active people are discontent with their body fat. All too often, I hear seemingly lean athletes express extreme frustration with their inability to lose undesired bumps and bulges:
Am I the only runner who has ever gained weight when training for a marathon???
For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin. Why can’t I simply lose a few pounds?
Clearly, weight loss is not simple and often includes debunking a few myths. Perhaps this article will offer some insights that will lead to success with your weight loss efforts.
Myth #1: You must exercise in order to lose body fat.
To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create that deficit by 1) exercising, which improves your overall health and fitness, or 2) eating fewer calories.
Even injured athletes can lose fat, despite a lack of exercise. The complaint “I gained weight when I was injured because I couldn’t exercise” could more correctly be stated “I gained weight because I mindlessly overate for comfort and fun.”
Adding on exercise does not equate to losing body fat. In a 16-week study, untrained women (ages 18 to 34) built up to 40 minutes of hard cardio or weight lifting three days a week. They were told to not change their diet, and they saw no changes in body fatness(1). Creating a calorie deficit by eating less food seems to be more effective than simply adding on exercise to try to lose weight.
Athletes who complain they “eat like a bird” but fail to lose body fat may simply be under-reporting their food intake. A survey of female marathoners indicated the fatter runners under-reported their food intake more than the leaner ones. Were they oblivious to how much they actually consumed?(2) Or were they too sedentary in the non-exercise hours of their day?
Myth #2: If you train for a marathon or triathlon, surely your body fat will melt away.
Wishful thinking. If you are an endurance athlete who complains, “For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin,” take a look at your 24-hour energy expenditure. Do you put most of your energy into exercising, but then tend to be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from your tough workouts? Male endurance athletes who reported a seemingly low calorie intake did less spontaneous activity than their peers in the non-exercise parts of their day(4). You need to keep taking the stairs instead of the elevators, no matter how much you train. Again, you should eat according to your whole day’s activity level, not according to how hard you trained that day.
Myth #3: The more you exercise, the more fat you will lose.
Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get and 1) the more you will eat, or 2) the more you believe you “deserve” to eat for having survived the killer workout. Unfortunately, rewarding yourself with a 600-calorie cinnamon roll can quickly erase in a few minutes the 600-calorie deficit you generated during your workout.
The effects of exercise on weight loss are complex and unclear—and depend on the 24-hour picture. We know among people (ages 56-78) who participated in a vigorous walking program, their daily energy needs remained about the same despite adding an hour of exercise. How could that be? The participants napped more and were 62% less active the rest of their day(3). Be sure to pay attention to your whole day’s activity level. One hour of exercise does not compensate for a sedentary lifestyle
Myth #4: You should exercise six days a week to lose weight.
Research suggests exercising four times a week might be better for weight control than six times a week. A study with sedentary women (ages 60 to 74) who built up to exercising for 40 minutes of cardio and weights suggests those who did four workouts a week burned about 225 additional calories in the other parts of their day because they felt energized. The group that trained six times a week complained the workouts not only took up too much time, but also left them feeling tired and droopy. They burned about 200 fewer calories in the non-exercise parts of their day(5). Yes, they were ages 60 to 74, but the info might also relate to you?
Myth #5: Couples who exercise together, lose fat together.
Not always. In a 16-month study looking at exercise for weight loss, the men lost 11.5 pounds and the women maintained weight, even though they did the same amount of exercise(6). In another study, men who did an 18-month marathon training program reported eating about 500 more calories per day and lost about five pounds of fat. The women reported eating only 60 more calories, despite having added on 50 miles per week of running. They lost only two pounds(7).
What’s going on here? Well, a husband who adds on exercise will lose more weight than his wife if he’s heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout. But, speaking in terms of evolution, Nature seems protective of women’s role as child bearer, and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient. Obesity researchers at NY’s Columbia University suggest a pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500-calorie deficit(8). No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then do men….
The Bottom Line
If you are exercising to lose weight, I encourage you to separate exercise and weight. Yes, you should exercise for health, fitness, stress relief, and most importantly, for enjoyment. (After all, the E in exercise stands for enjoyment!) If you exercise primarily to burn off calories, exercise will become punishment for having excess body fat. You’ll eventually quit exercising—and that’s a bad idea.
Instead of focusing on exercise as the key to fat loss, pay more attention to your calorie intake. Knocking off just 100 calories a day from your evening snacks can theoretically result in 10 pounds a year of fat loss. One less cookie a day seems simpler than hours of sweating…?
Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels casual and competitive athletes in her private practice in the Boston-area (617-795-1875). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Food Guide for Marathoners and Cyclist’s Food Guide all offer additional weight management information. The books are available via www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com.
- Poehlman, E., W. Denino, T. Beckett, K. Kinsman, I. Dionne, R. Dvorak, P. Andes. Effects of endurance and resistance training on total daily energy expenditure in young women: a controlled randomized trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 87(3):1004-9, 2002.
- Edwards, J, A. Lindeman, A. Mikesky, and J. Stager. Energy balance in highly trained female endurance runners. Med Sci Sports Exer 25:1398-404, 1993.
- Goran, M. and E. Poehlman. Endurance training does not enhance total energy expenditure in healthy elderly persons. Am J Physiol 263:E950-7, 1992.
- Thompson, J., M. Manore, J. Skinner, E. Ravussin, M. Spraul. Daily energy expenditure in male endurance athletes with differing energy intakes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 27::347-54, 1995.
- Hunter, G., C. Bickel, G. Fisher, W. Neumeier, J. McCarthy. Combined Aerobic/Strength Training and Energy Expenditure in Older Women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Jan 30. [Epub ahead of print]
- Donnelly, E., J. Hill, D. Jacobsen, et al. Effects of a 16-month randomized controlled exercise trial on body weight and composition in young, overweight men and women: the Midwest Exercise Trial. Arch Intern Med 163:1343-50, 2003.
- Janssen, C., C. Graef, W. Saris. Food intake and body composition in novice athletes during a training period to run a marathon. Int J Sports Med, 10:S17-21,1989.
- Pietrobelli, A., D. Allison, S. Heshka, et al. Sexual dimorphism in the energy content of weight change. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 26:1339-48, 2002.
In 2011, a 52-year-old runner and yoga enthusiast walked into the office of Monica Loghin, a neuro-oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, complaining of numbness and weakness in her lower limbs and difficulty controlling her bladder.
Despite recent published reports suggesting that omega-3 supplements lack the cardiovascular health benefits they once claimed and could be associated with various health risks, many people continue to use them. According to the 2014 ConsumerLab.com survey of 10,000 supplement users, fish/marine oil supplements still were popular, with 67.2% of respondents using them.
.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A new study published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) and exercise more effective at relieving neck pain than pain medication. The research reinforces the use of conservative care options as a first line of defense against pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
“Doctors of chiropractic have long cautioned against the overuse of medication to treat musculoskeletal pain”
The study divided participants into three groups that received either SMT from a doctor of chiropractic (DC), pain medication (over-the-counter pain relievers, narcotics and muscle relaxants) or exercise recommendations. After 12 weeks, about 57 percent of those who met with DCs and 48 percent who exercised reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to 33 percent of the people in the medication group. After one year, approximately 53 percent of the drug-free groups still reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain; compared to just 38 percent pain reduction among those who took medication.
The study also found that despite experiencing limited pain relief, people in the drug group continued using a higher amount of medication more frequently throughout the follow-up period. This finding underscores concerns raised in an April 2011 government report that indicated prescription drug abuse in the U.S. has reached crisis level.
“Doctors of chiropractic have long cautioned against the overuse of medication to treat musculoskeletal pain,” said ACA President Keith Overland, DC. “We continue to promote drug-free, conservative interventions for neck pain patients before referral for medical management that may result in side effects. Patients deserve to know that there are natural, drug-free options when it comes to pain relief.”
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA), based in Arlington, Va., is the largest professional association in the United States representing doctors of chiropractic. ACA promotes the highest standards of patient care and ethics, and supports research that contributes to the health and well-being of millions of chiropractic patients. Visit www.acatoday.org.
There are numerous conditions that benefit from a well-balanced diet and, though more research is needed, there appear to be potential benefits for Fibromyalgia too. At the very least, well-balanced nutrition will give you more energy and help you to feel better overall.