Articles Tagged with: nutrition for health and fitness
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Exercise for weight loss – is this the best strategy?

Scientific observations across many years, thousands of individuals engaging in regular exercise, and a European fitness industry worth more than €26 billion serve as a clear indicator of the great benefits that being active can do for the human body. However, we must be honest about the fact that exercise for weight loss is not the cure-all panacea that it is often portrayed to be.

The elephant in the fitness room

Perhaps the biggest ‘elephant in the room’ in relation to exercise and fitness is its impact upon body fat storage! Exercise interventions for burning up body fat are often promoted as the answer in almost every magazine, blog and exercise video. It is even a major component of many government strategies for overcoming obesity and the world’s ballooning waistlines. It seems that no matter what, exercise attracts all the attention when it comes to answers for weight loss. There is plenty of ongoing debate over dietary factors in terms of how they impact weight loss, but exercise appears to rarely get questioned?

One of the aspects of weight loss that muddies the waters is that most people do not apply a single change when they try to lose weight and lower their body fat. Weight management usually results from a series of combined changes to an individual’s daily practices. There are many different strategies in the scientific literature that could be applied alongside exercise to help achieve weight loss such as:

  • A low calorie, low fat, or low carbohydrate diet
  • Increasing protein in the diet
  • A high fibre diet
  • Reducing sugar intake
  • Removing processed food
  • Improving sleep
  • Reducing stress and increasing relaxation
  • Detoxification protocols
  • Increasing activities of daily living
  • Using weight management supplementation
  • Lifestyle behaviour changes
  • Increasing public/group accountability
  • Alcohol reduction etc. etc. etc.
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It is rare that purely exercise, with no other associated change in behaviour, is the strategy of choice to drive a decrease in body fat. Perhaps that is a good thing too! The scientific evidence does not indicate that exercise alone is an effective option.

Exercise for weight loss evidence

If you put aside all other ways and focus upon exercise alone as the sole strategy for reducing body weight, it is lacking in punch. Don’t get me wrong it does have a positive effect, but the effect is fairly small! Certainly, nothing like what is proposed across the internet or modern social media channels. In 2006 an independent group of scientists representing the renowned Cochrane Collaboration published a meta-analysis (Shaw 2006) that looked at this very issue…by asking the question, ‘how effective is exercise for managing overweight and obesity?’ The research reviewed studies that only utilised the gold scientific standard of randomised controlled trials (RCT). These RCT’s looked at time periods between 3 to 12 months in duration comparing different bodyweight control methodology. Here are the facts which summarise their scientific findings on the matter up to 2005:

  • General exercise as a lone strategy provided weight loss between 0.5 – 4.0 kg
  • Low-intensity exercise as a lone strategy provided weight loss between 0.0 – 6.3 kg
  • High-intensity exercise as a lone strategy provided weight loss between 1.3 – 8.9 kg
  • Applying diet as a lone strategy provided weight loss between 2.8 – 13.6 kg
  • When diet was combined with exercise it provided weight loss between 3.4 – 17.4 kg
  • Diet combined with high-intensity exercise provided weight loss between 6.4 – 19.6 kg

Out of the 6 different strategy options looked at above, it is clear that a general exercise programme is the least effective of all the methods applied. High-intensity exercise as a lone strategy does improve things and appears to be about twice as effective as general exercise. However, all three lone exercise strategies fall short of lone dietary or combined exercise and dietary strategies. The authors of this study provided some very good summary statements which help to bring in a few other considerations than just the factual weight loss ranges shown above:

  • These findings are consistent with previous reviews (Miller 1997;McTigue 2003Douketis 2005) that demonstrate only modest (less than five kg) weight loss with exercise alone as a weight loss intervention, and improved weight loss with diet and exercise compared with exercise alone.
  • The results of this study support the hypothesis that vigorous activity is more effective than moderate or light intensity exercise in stimulating weight loss…However, high-intensity exercise was only significantly better than low-intensity exercise at inducing weight loss when undertaken without dietary change. When diet was also modified, exercise intensity did not significantly increase the degree of weight loss.
  • Both low calorie and low-fat diets were used as comparison dietary interventions across clinical trials. Both were more effective at facilitating weight loss than exercise alone. This is consistent with the findings of other studies that also demonstrate dietary modification is superior to exercise in obtaining weight loss in overweight and obese adults (Curioni 2005Hansen 2005).

Exercise is beneficial

You may be thinking that exercise to drive weight management is not very helpful and that a diet alone would be best to lose weight? Well, there are other benefits that should not be overlooked in relation to applying exercise as part of a weight-loss strategy. These ‘additional’ benefits certainly warrant the inclusion of exercise in the battle of the bulge. The study authors state:

  • Positive effects on CVD risk factors were demonstrated with exercise interventions in overweight and obese adults in this study. Those who participated in exercise interventions alone reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and fasting serum glucose. They also increased HDL levels. The changes that were statistically significant compared with no treatment were changes in diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL and glucose… These changes were independent of significant weight loss. Weight loss does not appear to uniformly improve cardiovascular risk factors, particularly if 5% or less bodyweight reduction (Douketis 2005).
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Conclusion

In short, exercise imparts considerable benefits to the cardiovascular system that help reduce heart disease and diabetes risk, even in the face of minimal weight reduction. There are also many other benefits from exercise that would literally take a textbook to fully explain. We are not discounting exercise at all. But we need to be honest about its fat burning capacity as a sole strategy – it just is not that powerful! So the real take-home messages of this weight loss science blog are simply:

  1. Weight loss is best achieved through carefully planned dietary modification combined with the appropriate application of higher intensity exercise methods
  2. Exercise is very effective at reducing heart disease and metabolic health risk factors regardless of weight management and as such is a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle
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Find out more about our courses, especially the Nutrition for Health and Fitness certificate.

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Protein problems? Food and Powders revealed (Video)

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In the quest for bigger muscles, increased sporting performance and greater nutrient density many people turn to protein-rich foods and powdered protein shakes. With the widespread knowledge that protein is necessary for muscular development, it has been one of the mainstays of sports nutrition for many years. However, there are still a few concepts or protein problems that dominate our choices, and sometimes these may not be based on a full understanding of the truth. This short video will lay down the foundational components behind protein consumption. Watch right to the end to get the 2 simple, but essential factors. After the video please continue reading the rest of the blog below the video.

Protein problems: Convenience

Often the increasing pace of life and lack of time to spend on cooking good food has caused athletes and recreational exercisers alike to seek out a convenient source of protein that can quickly and simply meet this need. This marketing niche has been dominated for some years by manufacturers of protein shakes and bars. While it is true that powdered shakes and bars provide a solution for quick and convenient protein, it is just not as simple as gulping down a shake and here comes bulging biceps and rippling pectorals! If only our protein problems could be resolved with such basic solutions.

The protein supplement market is overflowing with hundreds of different brands all claiming to be the best with a ‘proven’ track-record for achieving the most effective results. The sort of benefits and claims promoted tend to focus on protein density, product quality, ease of digestion, higher bioavailability, increased recovery, faster muscle growth and increased tissue density. It is quite likely that even the most committed bodybuilder, athlete or keen exerciser realises that some of the advertising used may push the boundaries of accuracy to some degree. If that is the case then what really makes a good protein powder and what should be avoided?

Protein problems: Protein sources

There are several different types of protein used within most brands. Animal-based protein powders are usually based on dairy derivatives such as whey or casein, or from egg white albumin due to its high protein content. Plant-based protein powders are usually derived from pea, soy, hemp, or rice. These proteins vary in their biological value (BV) – which is the amount of consumed protein that is absorbed and incorporated into your cells (Also discussed in the video above). To dive even deeper into our protein problems, most protein powders also have strengths and weaknesses. Consider the following:

Rice protein (BV 83%) – Hypo-allergenic, gluten-free, neutral taste, economical. 100% plant-based. May be derived from genetically modified rice.

Egg protein (BV 100%) – Fat-free, concentrated amounts of essential amino acids. May upset stomach in some people. Should be completely avoided in those with egg allergies.

Milk protein (includes whey (BV 100%), casein (BV 77%), calcium caseinate, and milk protein blends) – May enhance immunity, high in BCAAs, contains lactose, highly studied. May cause digestive upset or other symptoms in people sensitive to whey, casein, and/or lactose. Should be completely avoided in those with dairy allergies.

Pea protein (BV 65) – No saturated fat or cholesterol, highly digestible, hypo-allergenic, economical. Rich in lysine, arginine and glutamine. 100% plant-based. Low biological value compared to other plant proteins, thus larger consumption required.

Hemp seed protein – Provides omega-3 fats, most forms provide fibre, free of trypsin inhibitors, can get in raw form, high in the amino acids, arginine and histidine (commonly low in many protein foods). 100% plant-based. Biological value (the amount absorbed) generally reported being lower than most other protein powder sources.

Soy protein (BV 74%) – May have benefits for cardiovascular disease, contains some anti-nutrients that affect absorption, may be derived from genetically modified soy, high in disruptive phytoestrogens. 100% plant-based.

Whey protein

The most commonly used by far is still whey protein derived from milk, though the popularity of pea protein (derived from yellow split peas) seems to be on the increase with significant financial growth in this market being reported over the last 5 years. Whey is the liquid portion of milk left behind when the curds are separated in the process of making cheese or Greek yoghurt. Before the creation of protein shakes, whey liquid was an unwanted by-product of cheese manufacturer and was often disposed of in animal feeds, perhaps to the benefit of the livestock!

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Whey liquid is a highly bio-available source of proteins, rich in branched-chain amino acids that are easily digested and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This is one of the main reasons why it has been promoted so heavily for muscle growth and development. The problem is that whey protein only constitutes about 1% of whole milk. Whey proteins are in solution within the liquid water that is separated from the curds. This means that to get a significant amount of whey protein a large volume of bitter-tasting, whey liquid would need to be ingested, perhaps more than anyone would be prepared to take in a day. A quick thought at this point is if it is only present naturally in milk in very small concentrations why seek to ingest it much larger volumes? The problem of accessing large amounts of whey is the problem that the protein manufacturers have solved by concentrating and drying these sparse proteins into a concentrated powder, making it easy to ingest 20g or 30g of whey in one simple drink. Approximately 2 litres of milk would need to be consumed in order to get the same volume of whey. So how is it done? What manufacturing processes have been used to extract such a beneficial, elusive protein from milk for the convenience of the muscle seeking public?

Protein problems: Processing

There are several different techniques used to make protein powder that impact our protein problems yet further. They involve various separating, filtering and concentrating processes to remove the elements that are not wanted and keep the fractions of liquid that contain the sought after whey protein. Whilst it is unlikely all methods are used to make a single brand of powder the following processing options are available for use by the protein manufacturer:

  • Ultrafiltration, microfiltration, cross-flow filtration and diafiltration
  • Ion exchange
  • Hydrolysation
  • Spray drying
  • Freeze drying

(To more fully understand the industrial process you may wish to review this article on Healthcloud or if you really are inspired to geek-out on this issue then you can review the full process explained in the Dairy Processing Handbook).

A selection of the above processing methods are used to produce virtually all varieties of whey protein on the market today including whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates or hydrolysed whey proteins. Each of these processes places the fragile whey proteins at potential risk of physical change. Each process, bar freeze-drying, exposes the whey to heat and pressure alone or both together at the same time. This can denature the whey protein molecules, which means it changes the proteins specific shape and structure. The higher and longer the heat is applied the greater the structural denaturation of the whey molecules will likely be.

Some of the processing methods listed above use acidic chemicals, electrical current and enzymatic actions to separate out the whey proteins. These will also impact the whey proteins altering them from their natural form. Denatured proteins can still be utilised by the body, but there is evidence that that may have reduced benefit, are digested more slowly, and for some may even cause digestive distress altering the internal environment of the gut, which can be expressed within the body as bloating, gut irritation, flatulence or loose stools. Any protein powder or bar that causes any of these unwelcome side effects should be avoided as it may be a potential sign of low quality, less effective product. It may also be a sign of low-level digestive problems that may need to be more carefully addressed to return the gut to good health.

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Protein problems: Cold processing

Some consumers may seek to overcome one of the common protein problems of protein denaturation by purchasing ‘cold processed’ powders. The term implies that heat is not used in the processing of the whey liquid. This is simply not true. ‘Cold processed’ is a patented term that indicates the powder has been produced with temperatures that do not exceed 50°C. This temperature was chosen because proteins become denatured more rapidly at temperatures above 55°C. Cold processing at these lower temperatures legally only needs to refer to the various filtering stages and does not mean that pasteurisation of the original milk has not occurred. Pasteurisation is a process that happens back within the jurisdiction of the original dairy that the whey liquid was sourced from. Milk is flash heated to 72-75°C for up to 15-20 seconds and then cooled. Pasteurisation will occur before the whey is separated from the curds. This means that some proteins will already be denatured before the filtering stages even begin. But does denaturing protein actually diminish the effectiveness of the shake in supporting muscle growth and repair?

Protein problems: Results

We must still acknowledge that scientific research into most varieties of protein supplements for muscle growth does indeed show a positive result. Many of these studies compare the result of people taking a protein supplement to those who take no enhancing supplement. Differences in body weight have been observed across 12-18 weeks of supplementation and training that range from virtually nothing up to 4kg of lean mass. This suggests that taking a protein shake may not necessarily guarantee muscle growth, but is fairly likely to help in some way if the only change in diet was to take the protein powder. Interestingly scientific research that compares the results of taking regular whey protein to other sources of food protein is significantly more difficult to find. There are a few studies that provide an insight into how effective whey is in relation to results obtained using other proteins.

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In comparisons to casein protein (the curds), whey has been found to be absorbed quicker in the intestine, but casein ultimately stimulated more long-term muscle growth. This information has changed many protein formulations and it becoming more common to find whey and casein blends on the market today. Hang on a minute! Whey and casein blends? Isn’t that how nature packaged it, to begin with – funnily enough, we call that milk!

Other areas of research into the volume of protein needed to stimulate muscle development have suggested that even active individuals probably get enough protein from a varied, whole-food diet and that extra supplementation is not essential but may provide benefit. Of course, this is not usually supported by the protein powder manufacturers who have invested large amounts of their own money to prove otherwise. Many individuals want to support muscle tissue in the most convenient way without the lengthy effort of addressing dietary change. There is no doubt drinking a shake 3 times a day is a simpler solution that trying to ensure the daily diet is on point.

Whey and casein powders tend to be quite bitter and unpalatable on their own so often other ingredients are added to improve taste, texture, flavour, blend-ability and colour. Keep an eye out for less desirable artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame K to name a few. Read the label and be discerning in your choices. There are many grades of protein powder on the market. If you are determined to use a protein shake, what quality of product should you be looking?

Protein recommendations

  • Only purchase cold-processed, pure whey protein concentrates – they may not contain as high a level of pure protein as isolates, but have been subjected to fewer stages of processing and are less likely to have suffered as much denaturation
  • Try to determine the quality of the original milk the whey powder was manufactured from – organic, grass-fed milk is best as it will not have pesticide, hormonal or antibiotic residues and if processed carefully may possibly have better overall nutrient value
  • Avoid protein powders that contain added sugars, undesirable artificial sweeteners, bulking agents, emulsifiers, preservatives, colours and flavours whether ‘natural’ or artificial
  • If you prefer a plant-based powder, such as rice or pea protein, then buy organic varieties and increase the volume slightly to compensate for the relatively lower biological value e.g. If the BV is 80%, then increase the serving size to 125% of the stated dose which will then, following digestion, overcome the 20% non-absorbed protein.

Conclusion

Perhaps the most important final thought is that supplementing with protein powder will likely have little benefit if the total diet is not of good quality in the first place. Always include adequate amounts of high quality, naturally occurring foods that are rich in protein at every meal such as eggs, fish, meat, poultry, game, nuts, seeds, and protein-rich pulses and legumes. Protein powders are, after all, a supplement, not a protein replacement.

Do you want to learn more about nutrition? Get qualified with our excellent online course, the Nutrition for Health and Fitness Certificate from Nordic Fitness Education.

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Is sugar bad? The sweet and the sour

A subject within nutrition that continues to catch people out in their efforts to switch over to a better diet is sugar consumption, the addictive sweet taste with the possibility for sour after effects. It is a debate that has continued for years…is sugar bad? It is very common to find people seeking a ‘healthy’ option to sweeten their food – some magic elixir that will allow us to enjoy the taste, but not pay any potential consequences. This is not going to be a blog about artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin. To put it bluntly, they are not really a healthy alternative to sugar. They have their own set of concerns and we do not advise their intake. This blog is going to focus on nutritive sweeteners such as sugar, syrups and other foods used to add a sweet taste to our diet. we will also investigate whether there is a ‘healthy’ sugar option for the diet.

Sugar consumption

Getting straight to the key point, have you heard people refer to fruit as containing ‘healthy’ sugar? This illustrates one of the great points of confusion around the human diet. If something is natural and especially if it is plant-based there is an underlying assumption that it is therefore healthy and good for us. The majority of the world’s sugar production (170 million tonnes in 2016) is drawn from 2 naturally occurring plants, sugar cane and sugar beets. Whilst the sugars are drawn out of the plants through industrial processing, that does not change the compounds that existed in these plants already. In fact, there are many plants that actually have naturally higher levels of sugar and are much sweeter to taste than cane and beets. Most popular fruits are a classic example of this. In fact, many popular fruits today have been selectively bred to increase their sweetness (sweeter foods sell better) and as a result, contain more sucrose than the same fruits did just 30 years ago. The key consideration is why would the sugar in commonly consumed fruit be any healthier than the sugar found in cane or beets? Is it a different compound? Simply put, it is the same compound – sugar through and through! Now before you shout blasphemy, let’s acknowledge that whole fruit will also have some fibre, vitamins and minerals contained within it as well, but does this somehow negate the potentially damaging effects of the sugar component? Certainly, this should at least be questioned in the naturally occurring, higher sugar fruits like dates, raisins, prunes, figs, grapes, mango, pomegranate, bananas, cherries and passionfruit. It is no coincidence that several of these same high-sugar fruits are also the best-selling varieties in the supermarkets! More sugar, more sales. Simple formula, but it works.

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The chemical structure of sucrose (sugar)

Sugar chemistry

Typical white, refined sugar is scientifically called ‘sucrose’ which is a combination of the basic units glucose and fructose in an approximately 50:50 ratio. Regardless of the source of the sugar, white table sugar, golden syrup, honey, fruit concentrate or whole fruit, the chemistry of the sugar is the same; it is still a blend of glucose and fructose. Glucose and fructose are composed of the same molecular elements as well. They both have 6 carbons, 12 hydrogen and 6 oxygen atoms. However, they do look a little different. Glucose is a 6 carbon hexagonal ring and fructose a 5 carbon pentagonal ring. These different shapes mean that the body has to metabolize them differently. We will get into that in a moment. 

Over the years these 2 molecules have developed different reputations in relation to health. Glucose has taken the brunt of abuse for disrupting our blood glucose levels, driving up insulin and playing a primary role in the causation of obesity and diabetes. Fructose has historically been branded as healthy because it is known as the fruit sugar. These half-truths have created several pervasive myths around the impact of certain foods on our health.

Glycaemic index

Glucose is the compound that serves as the basis of comparison for every other food listed on the Glycaemic Index. The glycaemic index argument is often cited for justifying the ‘is sugar bad’ case. Glucose is traditionally given a value of 100 and then other foods are tested and have their rate of absorption compared to glucose and given a respective value. Years ago when glycaemic index reached the awareness of the general public it was pointed out that fructose had a very low glycaemic index and therefore must be helpful in maintaining lower blood glucose levels. It was also promoted at the time as being diabetic ‘friendly’. That tag has quickly faded away as research has shown that fructose actually makes insulin resistance, the problem that underlies the diabetic condition, even worse!

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Following digestion, glucose is absorbed directly through the gut lining into the bloodstream to be shipped around for use in body cells, especially the brain and nervous system. The majority of glucose that reaches the liver is converted into a perfectly safe storage form called glycogen. Glycogen is used to boost blood glucose when levels have dropped and food is not consumed. Following digestion, fructose is not delivered directly into the bloodstream. It is passed up a direct blood vessel between the intestine and the liver called the hepatic portal vein. Fructose metabolism is then managed by the liver and passes through different processes prior to being released into the blood again. It is this transport via the liver that gives fructose its low glycaemic index because it takes longer to impact on the blood. The delayed-release into the bloodstream does not make it ‘healthier’ just because it takes longer to influence wider circulation. Using glycaemic index to gauge the supposed ‘healthiness’ of sugar is therefore of little beneficial value. 

Fructose

Whilst glucose has a very effective system for ensuring it enters the cells quickly without too many negative effects (it is controlled by insulin), fructose is a more complicated beast. There are several key concerns with the way fructose is managed within the body.

  • Significant amounts of fructose delivered to the liver cannot be metabolized by the cells and get converted to triglycerides (fat molecules that travel in the bloodstream).
  • Fructose alters liver enzyme function increasing liver insulin resistance (diabetic tendencies) leading to higher blood insulin and greater visceral fat storage (around the major organs).
  • Fructose undergoes the Maillard (browning) reaction 7 times faster than glucose, suggesting it may increase cellular glycation (sugars binding with proteins), ageing processes and cancer formation.
  • High fructose intake has been shown to have many similar effects on the liver as alcohol and maybe a contributory factor in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Dr. Robert Lustig refers to fructose as the ‘…same poison as alcohol but without the buzz!’ Unlike alcohol, fructose is not metabolized in the brain and as such does not have the same deleterious effects on behaviour. 

Healthy sugar?

In deciding ‘Is sugar bad’ we also need to weigh up the nutritive sweeteners that typically carry a more healthy reputation. Well, you decide. Agave syrup (or ‘nectar’ as it is often called to make it sound better), even the organic variety, is normally between 70-95% fructose. Agave ‘nectar’ does not harbour a sweet liquid within the plant in these sugar concentrations, through industrial processing and exposure to enzymes the naturally balanced glucose-fructose blend is significantly altered to favour fructose and increase sweetness. Bearing in mind that the health-damaging reputation of industrial high fructose corn syrup (the sweetener of choice for the soft drinks industry) has been built on a 55% fructose blend, it doesn’t really bode too well for Agave. All the negative effects listed above will clearly be enhanced with richer doses of fructose being sent to the liver down the portal vein. Another option often used in health food bars and in ‘supposedly healthier’ tinned fruit is ‘fruit concentrate’ or fruit juice. This is exactly what the name suggests, the juice of a given fruit with the water boiled off so as to concentrate the sugars within. This will damage most of the vitamin content leaving primarily a concentrated source of sugar behind. In fact, it is not uncommon to find the most used juice concentrates are from apples, grapes and pears as these have some of the highest naturally occurring fructose content and taste even sweeter as fructose has 70% more sweetness than typical sucrose.

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Simple squeezed fruit juice may not be concentrated, but it still allows for an increased intake of sugar compared to eating a whole piece of fruit. For example, a single apple has a glycaemic index of 40 and a glycaemic load of 6, whereas a glass of pure apple juice has a GI of 44 and a GL of 13 – more than double the volume of sugar within a comparative sized ‘portion’ of fruit. Glycaemic load (GL) refers to the volume or amount of total carbohydrate factored against its glycaemic index. A similar story of raised GL is found with most fruit juices when compared to whole fruit. Therefore, on this basis, it becomes difficult to see how pure fruit juice can be considered as beneficial to health as eating whole fruit. Twice the sugar in a single portion will only increase any possible negative impacts on the body and if it is apple, mango or grape juice you will get a hard liver-hitting dose of fructose as well! The fibre in whole fruit helps to bind and slow the impact of sugar on the body and provides beneficial bulk to the waste products within the digestive tract. 

Summary – Is sugar bad?

So what does all this boil down to? Is sugar bad after all? Sugar from any source is still sugar – it is sucrose, glucose and fructose. An important component of this discussion is the amount of sugar, the regular total daily amount of sugar that is consumed. The devil is in the dose! The body is a resilient organism, it can cope with high sugar intake now and again, once in a while. But sugar eaten in excess amounts, on a regular basis, over long periods of time will likely alter blood chemistry, overtax the liver and lead to potential chronic health problems. Science is steadily showing that processing foods to increase the fructose content has and is leading us further down the road of dysfunction and disease. Added, industrially refined sugars and syrups are having a detrimental effect on our health. Globally, the top 10 sugar-consuming nations range from 90g to 126g per person per day! This is shocking when you consider the World Health Organisation recommendation is to reduce added sugars to a maximum of 5% of daily calories. For a male consuming 2500 kcal/day, this amounts to 31g of sugar, and for females, on 2000 kcal/day, this is 25g of sugar as a maximum. This recommended volume of sugar is exceeded by just a single can or bottle of the majority of commonly available sports/energy drinks. We need to reduce our consumption of sugar-sweetened products…period!

Choosing to consume fruit juice doubles our sugar intake compared to eating whole fruit. Even modern breeding of sweeter fruits with higher glucose and fructose contents may yet prove to be another means of ingesting larger amounts of sugar! This is not to say that eating high-quality fresh fruit cannot be part of a ‘good’ diet. Of course, it can, but it is best eaten when it is fresh and whole and in moderate amounts. Up to 2 whole fruit portions, a day would be a suitable, average goal, maybe a little more in summer months, a little less in winter months, as would have been the case prior to high-speed global transportation of food.

But what about the all-important vitamins and minerals I hear you say? Firstly, all naturally occurring foods, from any source, plant or animal, contribute to our vitamin and mineral intake. It is not just fruits. To ensure adequate micro-nutrient consumption it would be best that we place greater focus on a wider variety of food types, especially a broad and plentiful supply of seasonal vegetables to draw in our needed vitamins, minerals and fibre. It may not be quite as convenient as fruit, but it will support greater health in the long-term. 

Do you want to learn more about nutrition? Get qualified with our excellent online course, the Nutrition for Health and Fitness Certificate from Nordic Fitness Education.

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Professional limits to Nutritional Advice?

The modern-day Personal Trainer (PT) is becoming a much more holistic practitioner, it is true. Many PT’s now offer more than just fitness training advice and programming. It is not uncommon to find strength and conditioning, boot camp services, sports specific training, sports massage therapy, posture and corrective exercise, stress management, lifestyle coaching and more as other commonly offered additional services. But perhaps the most naturally occurring second string to a PT’s repertoire is providing nutritional advice and guidance to support exercise and fitness objectives. Understanding your professional limits to nutritional advice is important to ensure avoidance of liability for giving unqualified direction to ta client.

Whilst it is clear that any appropriately certified fitness professional will likely have learned some nutritional advice within their qualification, that knowledge and skillset still come with professional boundaries. Fitness instructors will usually have covered the very basics of principle-based nutrition and will likely need to restrict their advice to client’s / members to include only the type of general guidance given within population-wide government dietary guidelines, such as the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations.

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Most good quality Personal Trainer certifications will usually cover nutrition in greater depth and widen the scope of practice to provide more informed nutritional advice. It is essential that PT’s understand the range and limits to nutritional advice that they can offer client’s to remain within their professional boundaries.

The following Advise and Avoid guidelines may serve to keep PT’s rooted within the professional limits of a typical personal training certification.

4 Advisory steps:

  1. Advise on the general volume of food intake, the quality of meals, and the ingredients or foods items consumed
  2. Advise on meal timings and hydration needs, especially in relation to exercise and activity
  3. Advise on basic, food-based nutritional adjustments to support sensible weight management
  4. Advise on basic, food-based nutritional adjustments to support an increase in lean muscle tissue

4 Avoid steps

  1. Avoid offering nutritional advice in direct opposition to nationally accepted dietary guidelines
  2. Avoid offering nutritional advice to treat any medical condition or to address ill-health in any form
  3. Avoid offering specific guidance on nutritional or sports supplementation for any purpose
  4. Avoid directing a client to adhere to a fixed or strict dietary regime that you are not fully qualified to do so

There is still plenty of scope for a PT to provide an excellent nutrition service within those professional boundaries. Nutritional advice can provide a range of supportive and desirable products/services that appeal to client’s and can make a business profitable. Be creative and find ways to help your client’s move forward in their dietary habits.

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So does this mean that a PT or fitness professional cannot offer higher level nutritional services? No, of course not, but it will require you to increase your level of qualification and expand your nutritional skill set to offer a more specific level of assistance. By widening your skills through further qualification, your professional boundaries also widen and increase your potential scope of professional practice. Whatever your formal qualification level, be sure you operate within the recognised limits to nutritional advice that the scope of your certification allows.

Could you benefit from strengthening your fitness-related nutrition knowledge by helping clients manage their weight, improve their exercise nutrition or build muscle tissue? Enrol in the Nutrition for Health and Fitness Certificate from Nordic Fitness Education. 

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