Fat or Carbs?

there are some major fat and carbs at the salty donut!

Here’s your weekly dose of clarity in the confusing world of health and wellness. Sweat Nation's goal is to provide tips and advice to help you live a more fulfilled, healthier life.

Is the fountain of youth filled with wine?

In the past week, there has been a flurry of research that does everything but alleviate the confusion that hobbles the health and wellness world. A recent presentation by Dr. Claudia Kawas has people now believing that drinking alcohol is a proven approach to life expansion. Take that greens smoothies! Let's take a look and see what we come up with...

Kawas overseas the “90+” study, which examines people that live longer than 90 years old. She presented on findings that were associated with longer life, and -- not surprisingly -- topping the list!!! exercise helps you live longer. But so was having a nice drinky winky of alcohol. This if course leads to headlines like "Drinking Alcohol Could Be the Key to Living Past 90." While that would be awesome, we can’t conclude that alcohol will help you live longer. [Although, that doesn’t mean you shouldn't partake from time to time, either.]

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. This is not a published study, meaning it hasn’t been peer-reviewed. This means it still has some big hurdles to overcome before we can say it's an established theory.

  2. No one is saying this is cause and effect. As in, if you have a "drank!", you’ll live longer. This is “observational research.” It’d be like doing a study of New England and finding that people who watch football are also really happy, and then concluding, “watching football causes more happiness.” Conduct the same study in Miami, and I’m sure dolphins fans would find a different result. When it’s observational, there are many factors that could be influencing the outcome.

  3. LOTS of research has been conducted to determine if alcohol is good or bad. Some research says it’ll cause cancer, other research suggests that it can be good for cardiovascular health. Most research does converges on drinking a lot is not very good. More research needs to be done.

  4. The poison is in the dose. No research can show -- with absolute certainty -- that any amount of alcohol is a problem. I've been enjoying a nice mezcal lately from time to time, and it’s something we help Sweat Nation clients understand. Research does not show benefits if you have more than 1-2 drinks per day. And even the daily habit might be pushing it (even for red wine lovers). It’s all about moderation. Drinking more than that is associated with a host of issues -- everything from weight gain and diabetes to a decline in life expectancy.

Another thing to consider? A reason why drinking might be associated with a longer life is that drinking usually occurs in social situations. And we’ve seen -- from research and Blue Zones -- the social connection is connected to longer life span. So whether it’s with booze or not, make sure you surround yourself with awesome friends as you age.

And now for the main event! Whose worse, carbs or fat?

A recent study from Stanford aimed to answer the age-old question: are carbs making you fat -- or is fat making you fat?

The year-long study reviewed more than 600 participants and found that….

[Strategic Silence...]

It’s neither. Both low-fat and low-carb diets can be equally effective for weight loss. [The low-carb group lost a total of 1.5 pounds more over 12 months. That equals an additional .125 pounds/month, which isn’t exactly significant.]

Examine.com which is a very reputable site that likes to dig into these subjects has a great review, which essentially boils down to understanding that when you control for calories and protein (that is, make sure you prioritize protein and eat few enough calories to actually lose weight), then either approach works. As we’ve said in the past, despite its popularity, something like the ketogenic diet (where you get rid of almost all carbs), or that crazy Twinkie diet that a professor experimented with is not more effective for fat loss.

Here’s where it gets interesting. From the lead researcher:

We did not “prescribe” a specific caloric restriction. We focused on reducing foods high in fats or foods high in carbs, and we advised the participants that they needed to find the lowest level of fat or carb intake they could achieve while not feeling hungry. We explained that if what they were doing left them feeling hungry, then when they achieved their weight-loss goal or the study ended, they would likely go off their diet and back to what they were eating before, and so the weight would likely come back on.

This is a very similar approach we take with Sweat Nation clients. Do not start with the extreme of either removing all carbs or all fat. In fact, the researchers started by putting all of the participants on a super-low carb or super-low fat routine (just 20g). What happened? It wasn’t sustainable, which is a recipe for failure because we know sustainable diets are the ones that work.

So here’s your approach: make a choice, are you a carb eater or a fat eater? If you like carbs, don’t start by eliminating them. Begin with fats. Remove some fats and see if you’re hungry. If not, follow that approach for 1-2 weeks. If you lose weight, great. Don’t change anything. Then once you stop losing weight, remove a little more fat and test again. Remember that this study was for weight loss which is what many say they want. It may be a different approach for health optimization which is another topic to cover.

The problem with most weight loss plans is that they back you into a corner too prematurely. They have you restrict so much that -- at some point -- you will hit a plateau. And when that happens, you need to make another change. But, if you drop calories too low, or did something extreme like removing carbs -- you make it very difficult to make small adjustments that keep fat melting off your body. Instead, play the long game. Make changes that don’t make you miserable, and you’ll probably see bigger changes without going crazy (some participants lost up to 60 pounds with this approach). And if you need help figuring out what to do, Sweat Nation can help.

The sweet tooth solution

I’ll admit that I have a bit of a sweet tooth. A cookie has found its way to me from time to time. Eating sugar is not an immediate death sentence, but overeating can certainly be a catalyst towards big issues. Lots of people struggle with sugar intake, but the best solution might be the one you least consider.

Research from England found that improving sleep can help reduce the amount of sugar you eat (and reduce the total calories you eat on a daily basis). Here’s the interesting thing about the study: they didn’t focus on changing sugar intake. They took people who slept less than 7 hours per night, gave them tips on how to improve sleep quality (avoiding caffeine before bed, following the same schedule every night, limiting screen time, etc.), and that was it. On average, those who received the sleep hygiene tips slept anywhere from 50 minutes to 1.5 hours more than they did prior to being educated. And they ate -- on average -- 10 grams less of sugar per day (and dropped 170 calories per day). Not too bad for a non-diet approach.

What’s happening here? Research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also depressing what makes you feel full (the hormone leptin) and stimulating what makes you feel hungry (the hormone ghrelin).

Lack of sleep also pushes you in the direction of the foods you know you shouldn’t eat. A study published in Nature Communications found that just one night of sleep deprivation was enough to impair activity in your frontal lobe, which controls complex decision-making. Which might explain why your late-night eats end up as a gallon of ice cream into of a bowl of broccoli.

Keep on making your dream a reality...Here's to your wealth and health.

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