Why I Don’t Trust Dietitians, Part 1: Calories

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Why I Don’t Trust Dietitians

I got into a conversation with a woman on the golf course the other day, and after finding out that I am a trainer, she started asking a few questions.  She was 53, 5’3″, 154 lb.  (I know, I was hoping she was going to be 153 lbs. as well), and showing signs of insulin resistance and pre-diabetes.  She said she had been to see a dietitian, lost weight pretty quickly for about 6 weeks then it all stopped.

I said, “Let me guess, she had you on under 1300 calories per day, 60% carbohydrates, lots of whole grains, and doing 40-60 minutes of cardio 3-4x per week?”

“How’d you know?” she asked.

I am no dietitian, but I’ve heard this story over and over and over. The recommendations are as follows: starve yourself, eat the way Big Ag wants you to, and break your body down on a treadmill.  Not quite a winning combination.  We are going to tackle each of the health fallacies contained in the dietitians recommendations on their own: Calories, Carbohydrates, Cereals, and Cardio


Today, we cover Calories.

The old adage for losing weight is that “you must burn more calories than you take in.”  Yeah.  duh.  That’s like saying you have to lose weight in order to lose weight.  If the only goal is a lower number on the scale, let’s just amputate a leg and be done with it.  

Can we agree that simply ‘weighing less’ should not be the only focus?  Let’s think about what we REALLY want.  What do you want?

You want to look better!

You want less fat, better looking arms, to feel better in a dress, to like yourself more. You want to BE BETTER.  What you may not know is that eating right and exercising means better sleep, better mood, fewer and less intense mood swings, better digestions, better neurological function, better memory, better relationships, less depression (or “the glooms”), more energy, quicker healing, fewer colds, fewer aches and pains, more optimism, lowered risk of all kinds of diseases, and overall better quality of life.

Basically, there is no good reason not to eat good and exercise.


Side Note:

Just because there isn’t a good reason not to eat good, doesn’t mean life doesn’t ‘happen.’ Obviously, in a perfect world, we would all be able to have chiseled abs, but the world is somewhat less than perfect. Don’t beat yourself up about any bad choices made in the past or about bad choices you make in the future.

Can we just make a commitment to each other that over the next 24 hours, we will make one choice that is ‘better’ than we would have made before?


Getting Down to Business

If there is one think I want to get across in this article, it is that your body NEEDS calories to carry out its’ myriad functions.  Remember that list of things above that will get better when you eat right and exercise?  Yeah, all those things require calories to function properly.

Before we go any further I need to you understand that calories are not the enemy.  We need calories, and lots of them, to function and perform the best our bodies can.

When Good Calories Go Bad

Human bodies are wildly successful at surviving. If they weren’t we wouldn’t be here. Millions of years of winning at evolution has brought us to this point, so keep that in mind as we move forward.

If you constantly starve yourself (think 300-500 or more calories less than your body wants) that survival mode will kick in, and your thyroid, which controls most metabolism, will figure it out and decided that if we’re going to be getting fewer calories, we need to use fewer calories!

Let’s survive.

If we’re trying to make our bodies better (and not just ‘less’), then this is bad news. So you may be eating all good calories, but if you’re not getting enough of them, it will start to have negative effects on your body. Basically, all the things your body does (like digesting foods, creating hormones, fixing damage, thinking, etc.) will be given fewer resources to carry out their jobs (1).

If we’re constantly starving ourselves, we may end up with less body, but we won’t necessarily have a better body.

Hormones Make Your Decisions For You

When you take in 1000 calories, the hormonal status of your body makes the decision about where those calories go, ‘who’ get’s them, and how they are used. So instead of just giving everyone fewer resources to work with, let’s make better decisions about how those resources are used.

Let’s use our calories to build muscle, digest food well, and fix damage, rather than using those calories to create fat stores.

To do this, you simply have to eat foods that have the correct effect on your hormonal status. Basically, eat a ‘Grain Free, Whole Foods diet’ (2). Eat real food (Not “Not Food”) and plenty of it. Let’s start thinking of Calories as a much needed fuel for our body’s activity and not like a necessary evil.


Before you go, answer me this in the comments: What is one decision you can make today that will be better than yesterday?


Eating For Your Hormones Part IV: Somatotropin

This is part four in a series on “Eating For Your Hormones.” It is scientifically shown that metabolism is hormonally controlled, so making dietary choices with your hormones in mind can dramatically increase the results you see and dramatically increase your likelihood of success in getting healthy and fit. Check out Part I: Insulin, Part II: Cortisol, and Part III: Leptin to get up to speed.

You don’t want to miss the next installment, so make sure you the Facebook Page, on Twitter,
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70 Years old and ripped. It’s not by accident.

Ripped at 70? Really?

What’s the difference between this guy and your fat grandfather who can hardly get himself up off the toilet? It can be argued that there are a lot of differences, but if you ask me, they are all intricately related and one of the main differentiating factors is their hormonal profile.

Of course, genetics will play a part in this, but the main determinants in hormonal profile are due to behavior (diet, exercise, sleep, sex, sunlight exposure, etc.). It has been discovered that virtually every process in your body is controlled by your hormones, so the size and density of your muscles, the amount of bodyfat you have, and your mental status, among other things, are all controlled by hormones.

The good news: We know how most of these hormones work, and you can control them.

Somato-WHO-pin?

Somatotropin, also known as Human Growth Hormone (HGH), has been shown to be one of the most, if not THE most powerful fat burning hormone around. Not only this but its’ anti-aging properties are what allow that 70 year old dude to look decades younger. Plus, it is genetically related to Placental Lactogen, chorionic somatomammotropin, and prolactin which are all extremely important in fetal growth promotion and lactation (all good, life-giving, things!)

Human Growth Hormone is what’s known as a “peptide hormone,” meaning that it is basically a protein that is used as a messenger to allow communication between the brain of other tissues of the body. It is produced in the pituitary gland, but controlled by the hypothalamus. Some of the benefits of Somatotropin include:

  • Lipolysis – working together with other beneficial hormones, Somatotropin supports the enzymes in the metabolic pathways that use fat as fuel. (1) Remember, you want to be a fat burner, right?
  • Anabolism – Sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass) has been indicated in the pathophysiology (disease progression) of insulin resistance, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, CHD, and CVD, as well being a large determinant of survival in instances of cancers and other degenerative diseases. (2) The bottom line: You want more muscle mass (even if you’re a dainty lady and don’t want to look like a man – don’t worry because you don’t have enough testosterone to look like a man. Why The Ladies Should LIft Heavy, Too.)
  • Immune Function – By supporting and encouraging the growth, in both size and density, of bones, where immune cells are “born,” Human Growth Hormone indirectly bolsters the immune system. (3, 4)
  • Stabilizing Cholesterol and Triglyceride levels – Since Somatotropin, along with a number of other hormones, are in direct control of fat metabolism, keeping your HGH level up serves to keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels where the need to be.
  • Reverses Atherosclerosis – “clogged arteries,” so hot right now. It seems that just about everyone in the universe dies of a heart attack, except for these people, them, these guys, or even those guys. Keeping your HGH levels where they need to be seems to help out with that. (5) I would think that mechanism would be –> proper fat metabolism –> Less inflammation –> nowhere for cholesterol to get lodged in the walls of arteries.

MOAR HGH!

Now, having learning that Somatotropin is a good thing, and that we want more of it, we have a conundrum. Our Human Growth Hormone levels fall as we age (for sedentary adults with a poor diet), and unless is is purposely bolstered. In most people, a 60 year old will have half the Somatotropin as a 25 year old, and an 80 year old will only have 10% as much as the 60 year old!

You’re not going to notice a drop in your HGH levels, nor have any of the “symptoms” of other hormonal decreases, like hot flashes or trouble sleeping. The slow, steady decline of HGH, causes a ripple effect in your hormones and has been shown as one of the root causes of the physical deterioration that we call aging. (6)

Some of the effects of aging that can be attributed to decreasing levels of Human Growth Hormone are:

  1. more body fat
  2. less muscle mass
  3. changes in skin tone (“splotches” and discolorations)
  4. decrease in bone density
  5. decreasing organ size – smaller liver, kidneys, pancreas, and brain!(7) – yeah, I know, this is completely crazy. If you think about it, this means that along with lower HGH, the tissues that secrete your other hormones start to shrink too! Talk about a double whammy.
  6. Okay. So, that’s all the bad news. Now, for the good news:

    Low HGH is Preventable AND Reversible!

    **BOOM BOOM** :::tada!::: (fireworks and confetti)

    Assuming you’re like most people and don’t have a real hormonal imbalance disease that MUST be treated medically, then there are easy ways to fix this problem we call aging (to a point… While this is kinda like the fountain of youth, it’s not quite the fountain of youth.)

    There are both natural and unnatural ways to go about upping your somatotropin levels. I bet you can guess which ones I like better. You can get HGH supplementation, and you’ll see many of the positive effects early on, but the long term effects of exogenous (made outside the body) hormone therapy are not well understood. It kinda looks like they might give you cancer, make you crazy, leave you broke, and destroy your body’s ability to make your own hormones. <--- Tweet This!

    I don’t suggest hormone therapy. I DO suggest naturally enhancing your body’s ability to synthesize and secrete hormones for itself. Here are a few of the things that stimulate Somatotropin release:

    1. Other Hormones – As we know, all these pesky hormones are related, so there are a lot that stimulate HGH release. The main ones are the sex hormones, Testosterone and Estrogen. Also, having low levels of insulin appears to increase HGH. The most likely scenario is that low/normal blood sugar means low insulin and high HGH.
    2. Deep Sleep – The majority of Human Growth Hormone that is released is released while you’re sleeping. So more/better sleep = more HGH, mmmkay? I have a hypothesis that is why I get super, duper, ‘toddler’s face in the spaghetti’ kind of sleepy after a super high intensity workout.
    3. Niacin (Vitamin B3) – This is not very “paleo,” as you would, literally, have to eat 15-45 lbs. of beef liver to get the amount of Niacin that would lead to an increase in HGH. Can you imagine eating a 5 gallon bucket of beef liver? I mean, come on. But pills work just fine!
    4. Fasting – The mechanism is probably related to the effect of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) on HGH secretion. This is why Intermittent Fasting is so freaking great for muscle growth, fat loss, and a bunch of other favorable adaptations.
    5. Hard Exercise – If you know me, you know I like the hard workouts (but remember how damn sleepy they make me!) As always, I suggest short, high intensity, compound movements with weights.

    Much time could be spent on each of these points, but, as this is the “Eating For Your Hormones” series, I’ll focus on the diet. The few lenses we’ll look through are general diet, pre and post-workout meals, and diet + sleep.

    Eating, Hormonally Speaking

    1. General Diet Guidelines

    I’ve said before that you have to stop viewing your meals as an isolated jam session and see them in the larger context of the hormonal changes that follow. Most people will be able to use their diet like a switch to turn Human Growth Hormone on and off, so let’s turn it on!

    • Up Your Testosterone or Estrogen – I think you know who you are…The sex hormone levels and Human Growth Hormone levels are directly correlated, so if we can up one we can up the other. So, pick one:
    • Keep Your Blood Sugar Low – Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) has been shown to markedly increase HGH. In fact,
      In normal subjects, hypoglycemia produces an abrupt and sustained rise in levels of human growth hormone in plasma. This effect is independent of insulin, glucagon, or epinephrine. Prolonged fasting is accompanied by a rise in the hormone level in plasma. Measurement of this hormone after induced hypoglycemia is a specific test for pituitary somatotropic function.(8)

      If we want to keep blood sugar low, then we need to eat like we want to keep blood sugar low. This means no grains, no sugar, no “low-fat” dairy, and no processed carbs except on Cheat Day!

    • Fast from time to time – You’ve probably heard about intermittent fasting, and may have thought it was a faddish type diet, but there really is some science behind the purported benefits. Among other things, fasting induces hypoglycemia, and, as mentioned above, this is a very good thing! So while I generally suggest eating breakfast, skipping a meal, and giving yourself a 16-20 hour fast can do wonders!

    2. Eating Around Your Workouts

    I’d say there’s not necessarily one right way to eat pre-workout, but there sure are some wrong ways. And they’re probably not what you think. Like I’ve said before, we need to look at a pre-workout meal (like all meals), not as an isolated event in time, but as a starting point of a hormonal cascade that can serve to:

    • store or burn fat
    • boost or suppress your immune system
    • raise or lower a wide variety of hormones

    If you recall, high carbohydrate intake increases insulin secretion, increasing fat storage and shifting metabolism away from burning fat for fuel, in favor of burning sugar. This is a bad thing when the goal for most people when working out is either to lose fat or gain muscle.

    Growth Hormone is inversely related to Insulin. So when insulin is high, growth hormone is low. There is also some evidence to suggest that eating a high fat meal just prior to working out can have a negative effect on Growth Hormone production. (9)

    Most likely, this is because one of the jobs of Somatotropin is to release free fatty acids into the bloodstream to be used elsewhere. Why would you need these fatty acids released if you’ve just consumed a bunch of fat?


    Side Note: My hypothesis is that if you are a fat burner instead of a sugar burner, then a high fat meal will not have the same negative effect on post workout growth hormone levels.

    Depending on where your metabolic gauge is set, different foods can have different effects on fat burning/fat storage and many other processed


    With these things in mind, there are 2 ways that I would suggest you eat before a workout. Either:

    1. A high protein meal – This gives your body the available amino acids to build new muscle fibers and inhibits the catabolic effect of weight lifting because your body doesn’t need to take amino acids from your muscles.
    2. Workout Fasted – There is plenty of evidence coming out that workout out on an empty stomach may be the way to see the greatest effect from your exercise.

    If this intermittent fasting thing sounds good to you, take a look at Eat Stop Eat, by Brad Pillon.

    Eat Stop Eat is very newbie friendly, yet well referenced and scientifically accurate. This is the only book on the market with a substantial collection of research on intermittent fasting. It is a good, enjoyable read and extremely well written.

    This book covers topics pertaining to intermittent fasting and metabolism, health, body composition, hormonal effects and much more – and comes highly recommended from me!


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    Sources

    1. Martin LG, et al. “Effect of androgen on growth hormone secretion and growth in boys with short stature.” Acta Endocrinol (Copenh). 1979 Jun;91(2):201-12.

    2. Robert R Wolfe. “The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease” Am J Clin Nutr September 2006 vol. 84 no. 3 475-482

    3. Prakasam G, et al. “Effects of growth hormone and testosterone on cortical bone formation and bone density in aged orchiectomized rats.” Bone. 1999 May;24(5):491-7.

    4. Crist DM, Kraner JC. “Supplemental growth hormone increases the tumor cytotoxic activity of natural killer cells in healthy adults with normal growth hormone secretion.” Metabolism. 1990 Dec;39(12):1320-4

    5. Dawson-Hughes B, et al. “Regulation of growth hormone and somatomedin-C secretion in postmenopausal women: effect of physiological estrogen replacement.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1986 Aug;63(2):424-32.

    6. Rudman, D. “Growth hormone, body composition, and aging.” J Am Geriatr Soc. 1985 Nov;33(11):800-7.

    7. Rudman D, et al. “Effects of human growth hormone on body composition in elderly men.” Horm Res. 1991;36 Suppl 1:73-81.

    8. Ross, Jesse. “Hypoglycemia: A Potent Stimulus to Secretion of Growth Hormone” Science 31 May 1963:
    Vol. 140 no. 3570 pp. 987-988

    9. Cappon, J.P. “Acute effects of high fat and high glucose meals on the growth hormone response to exercise.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism June 1, 1993 vol. 76 no. 6 1418-1422

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