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Diet Review: Should You Try Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss?

Intermittent fasting is a popular diet trend of the moment. What is it, how do you do it, and should you be intermittent fasting for weight loss?

intermittent fasting for weight loss - Daisybeet

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a popular diet and style of eating that involves periods of eating and abstaining from eating. There are several styles of IF, but in general, a person will eat whatever they want within a constricted timeframe, and fast during the rest of the time.

Many people try intermittent fasting for weight loss. Supporters claim that IF creates metabolic changes that make it a more effective tool for weight loss than traditional caloric restriction. Is it easier to lose weight on IF because of metabolic changes in your body? Read on to find out.

Styles of intermittent fasting

There are several intermittent fasting schedules people may choose to follow. The most common involve alternate day fasting, modified fasting regimens, and time-restricted feeding (1).

  • Alternate Day Fasting: This style combines fasting days when nothing is consumed, and feeding days, when you can eat and drink whatever you want.
  • Modified Fasting Regimen: Similar to alternate day fasting, a modified fasting regimen involves days where you eat and drink whatever you want. But, instead of completely fasting on fasting days, you severely restrict your intake to 20-25% of your energy needs.
  • Time-Restricted Feeding: During time-restricted feeding, you eat food every day but within a predetermined time restraint. Therefore, you are fasting from ~12-21 hours each day.

What are the weight loss benefits?

Proponents of IF proclaim it has several health benefits including weight loss. Some think that IF causes increased fat loss due to lower levels of insulin in the body during fasting. Insulin is a hormone that helps our cells store energy from food. The pancreas releases insulin in response to eating food.

Support for IF says if we fast long enough, we don’t produce insulin to store food as energy. Therefore, we turn to stored energy in the form of fat, making IF more efficient for weight loss than traditional caloric restriction. Human studies have found IF can be a successful tool for weight loss (2, 3, 4, 5). But, is IF more effective for weight loss than traditional caloric restriction?

Caloric restriction for weight loss simply means you are consuming less energy than your body needs to maintain its current weight. You need to create a caloric deficit to lose weight. One pound of weight loss = cutting 3500 calories. This rule of thumb is the scientifically accepted number for weight loss.

Should you try intermittent fasting for weight loss?

Taken as a whole, IF and weight loss research can be widely attributed to the fact that IF causes a caloric deficit, and therefore produces weight loss (1, 2, 6, 7). If you’re losing weight doing intermittent fasting, it’s because you’ve created a caloric deficit.

Overall, the research supports a recommendation that intermittent fasting is a viable alternative to caloric restriction, but it is not superior. For weight loss, it doesn’t matter what time you eat, as long as you are eating less than your body needs so it burns stored energy.

It all comes down to lifestyle! Everybody is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. If your schedule allows for fasting, and you are able to do so without feeling hungry, tired, or low energy, go for it. But, if you know you need breakfast to be productive during the day, traditional caloric restriction is probably better for you.

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Nutrition Myths, Busted: The Sugar Edition

Nutrition Myths, Busted: think sugar is addicting? Is the sugar in fruit bad your you? Does sugar cause diabetes? Read on to learn what the science has to say!

Sugar. We know too much of it is bad for our health. Too much sugar can cause weight gain (1), increase cardiovascular disease risk (2), and displaces nutrient-rich foods in the diet. Sugar is readily available in our food system in the form of snack foods, beverages, packaged desserts, yogurt, ketchup, candy…the list goes on!

The USA recommends Americans consume no more than 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day, or less than 10% of daily calorie needs (3). But, the average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar per day (4)!

We can all agree that we should limit our sugar intake for good health. But, there are some nutrition myths regarding sugar floating around. Learn what the recent research says about sugar!

Myth #1: All sugar is bad for you, even the sugar in fruit.

Sugar nutrition myths, busted - Daisybeet

First, let’s clarify something. All sugar, regardless of what kind, is ultimately broken down into simple sugars. A majority of the sugar we digest is broken down into glucose, and some of it is converted to fructose. So, no matter if you eat a cinnamon bun, an apple, or a literal spoonful of sugar, it all gets broken down into the same thing. Ultimately, your body will use or store the glucose from fruit and a pastry the same way.

That being said, the sugar you consume with fruit comes with a lot of other beneficial nutrients! First, fruit is full of vitamins and minerals our bodies need, such as vitamins A, C, folate, and potassium. Also, fruit is a good source of fiber. The fiber in fruit fills us up, but it also slows down digestion. Therefore, the sugar within fruit is broken down and released into the bloodstream more slowly, preventing a rapid spike in blood sugar.

Fruit can absolutely be part of a healthy diet. The current dietary guidelines recommend about 2 cups of fresh fruit per day. Make sure to keep the skin on, because that is where the fiber lives! Choose fruit over processed foods, like cookies and sugary cereals, to avoid consuming too much added sugar.

Enjoy 2-3 servings of fruit per day to get important vitamins, minerals, and fiber in your diet. Regardless of where it comes from, all sugar is broken down by the body into simple sugars to be used for energy or stored as glycogen or fat. Excess added sugar is where we get in trouble, because it displaces more nutrient-rich foods in the diet.

Myth #2: Sugar is just as addicting as drugs.

Many of us have seen headlines comparing sugar to cocaine, heroine, and other highly addictive drugs. But is sugar addicting, just like these commonly abused drugs?

The idea that sugar is addicting is based on the premise of how the brain responds to sugar. When we eat sugar, the pleasure center in the brain lights up. Dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, levels surge. What else also activates the reward center and triggers dopamine release? Highly addictive drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and opiates (5).

But, sugar is different from these drugs. First, our bodies naturally will crave and enjoy sugar, because sugar = energy for our cells and brain. We are rewarded with feeling good when we eat sugar, because we need some to function!

A recent review of the literature about sugar addiction showed key differences between drug addiction and sugar (6). Rats given sugar or cocaine would seek cocaine despite negative consequences, which was not observed with sugar. Also, when presented with environmental stimuli associated with sugar or cocaine, rats who previously had cocaine displayed patterns of habitual drug seeking. This review concluded that there is little evidence to support sugar as an addictive substance.

While sugar activates the same reward center in our brains as drugs, there is little evidence to show it is an addictive substance. Our bodies need sugar in the form of glucose for energy, so eating sugar makes us feel good.

Myth #3: Eating too much sugar causes Type 2 Diabetes.

Glucose and insulin have a close relationship. Insulin is a blood sugar regulating hormone. When we eat sugar, our bodies break it down into glucose, and it travels to the blood. This triggers the pancreas to release insulin, which allows glucose to enter our cells. This process lowers our blood sugar levels to normal after we eat.

Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to metabolize and regulate blood sugar levels. A person with type 2 diabetes will either not respond properly to insulin, or not produce enough insulin. So, they struggle with maintaining a safe and stable blood sugar level. A normal fasting blood sugar level is <100 mg/dL, but someone with diabetes may have a much higher level, because they aren’t able to move the sugar from their blood to their cells.

A common misconception about type 2 diabetes is that eating sugar causes it. When you think about it, this idea kind of makes sense. You have too much sugar in your blood, so you must be eating too much sugar. That’s why it is so important to have a grasp on sugar digestion, absorption, and insulin regulation.

What really causes type 2 diabetes?

Some risk factors include: overweight/obesity, genetics, age, race, physical inactivity, or other conditions like PCOS or gestational diabetes (7). Poor diet also may elevate risk of Type 2 Diabetes, which includes an excess of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. But whether or not you develop a disease is complicated and individualized, so no one risk factor determines your destiny.

There are several risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes, but specifically eating too much sugar is not one of them. To reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, manage your weight in a healthy way, exercise, and eat a balanced diet that limits saturated fats and added sugar.

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Detox Nutrition Myths, Busted

What’s the deal with detoxing? Does it really work? Read on to separate detox nutrition myths from the facts!

Detox nutrition myths busted - Daisybeet

We’ve all seen and heard about detox diets, teas, and nutrition trends. Celebrities endorse detox products all the time, and it can be tempting to buy into the miracle results they seem to produce. But, just like all things nutrition, the facts are a bit more complicated than what meets the eye.

Today, I’m breaking down three detox nutrition myths that are popular today. Read on to get the facts about juice cleanses, detox teas, and water fasting for detox!

Myth #1: I can do a juice cleanse to detox my body after eating like crap.

Detox nutrition myth - juice cleanse

Juice cleanses are one of the most popular experiences related to detox culture. A juice cleanse is a type of detox diet where someone consumes only fruit and vegetable juices without eating solid foods, for a temporary period of days to weeks. Some of the main reasons people go on a juice cleanse are to lose weight, eliminate toxins, reduce inflammation, and detoxify the body.

But how does detoxifying the body actually work? Do we need to eliminate solid foods to do so? The resounding answer is no. Our bodies are extremely efficient at detoxifying themselves. The liver and kidneys are extraordinary organs that remove toxins from our bodies.

How the liver and kidneys detoxify the body

  • First, the liver prevents toxins from entering the bloodstream. Detoxifying alcohol, waste products, drugs, and other toxins is actually one of the major functions of the liver (1).
  • The kidneys are constantly filtering our blood. They eliminate toxins when we urinate. The kidneys eliminate drugs and waste products formed in the body (2).

Juice cleanse drinks may contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals, but they unfortunately do not boost they body’s ability to naturally detoxify itself. Furthermore, juice cleanses often lack other important nutrients including fiber, protein, calcium, and healthy fats. In order to keep our bodies functioning optimally, we need to have a balanced diet from all food groups!

Supporting liver and kidney health

The good news is, we can do a lot to protect our liver and kidneys, so they can continue to do their job detoxifying our bodies. We want to keep our blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in check, because these health issues may contribute to poor liver or kidney function (3). Here are some foods to include in your diet to support your liver and kidneys:

  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Nuts
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Myth #2: Detox teas can help me lose weight and get rid of toxins and bloat.

Detox nutrition myths - Detox teas

Detox teas are a little newer to the scene than juice cleanses, and have several celebrity endorsers. Detox teas are herbal teas that claim to detoxify the body. Many are used in the hopes of producing weight loss, laxative effects, or liver cleansing. They commonly contain ingredients like ginger, dandelion root, milk thistle, and turmeric.

Detox teas differ from juice cleanses because they are used in addition to solid food. You don’t abstain from eating, you just drink several servings of detox tea throughout the day for the effects.

Detox teas may lead to weight loss, but it’s not because your body is detoxifying itself and eliminating toxins causing you to retain weight. Many of these teas contain laxative ingredients like senna and cascara. So, you’re probably not properly absorbing the food you are eating and going to the bathroom a lot more than usual.

Health benefits of tea

Detox teas are not a miracle product that will produce weight loss, better health, and whole body detox. But, I encourage you to include tea in your diet for several health benefits!

  • Tea (and coffee) support liver and kidney health, because they are both high in antioxidants. Keep your liver and kidneys in tip top shape to ensure your body is detoxifying efficiently.
  • The antioxidants in tea are also linked reduced incidence of heart attack, as well as lowering bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raising good HDL cholesterol (4).
  • Several herbal teas contain anti-inflammatory properties, especially if they contain ingredients like ginger, turmeric, hibiscus, and rooibos.

Myth #3: Water fasting can completely clean out and detox my system.

Water fasting has been around for centuries, but is a relatively new trend in the wellness world. During water fasting, you abstain from eating or drinking anything but water for a period of time. Water fasts usually last five to 40 days. There are water fasting centers you can go to complete a water fast under medical supervision.

Some limited research has shown water fasting can promote weight loss and reduced blood pressure (5). It also may reduce oxidative stress. It may stimulate autophagy, a process by which the body breaks down and recycles old cells. But, prolonged water fasting is an extreme and unnecessary measure that can be dangerous.

Negative effects of water fasting

Water fasting may negatively impact the kidneys (6). Water fasting can cause fainting from a sudden drop in blood pressure. You are also at risk of lean muscle loss, which is the metabolically active tissue in our bodies. It also may cause heartburn, because your stomach continues to produce acid even in the absence of food (7). Prolonged fasting also negatively impacts our metabolism, because our body becomes extremely efficient at holding on to calories.

In lieu of water fasting, make healthy changes to your diet! Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to fuel your cells. Avoid excess processed foods, added sugars, and alcohol, which all provide few nutrients for our bodies to use.

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Weight Loss Nutrition Myths, Busted

In this edition of ‘Nutrition Myths Busted’, we are talking weight loss. From carbs to calories to skipping meals, get the most up to date research here!

weight loss nutrition myths

Since starting my nutrition private practice this year, almost every single one of my clients has wanted to lose weight. With that goal comes a flood of questions. Should they try Whole30? What about keto? How about meal replacement shakes?

After I say my part about weight loss, balanced meal planning, and macronutrient needs, my clients are sometimes a little underwhelmed. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, magic pill, or specific diet that guarantees weight loss fast.

The good news is, weight loss is possible and attainable. Just like most changes in life, weight loss is built on the culmination of healthy habits. Make small, sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle, and you will see results! It takes a little patience because healthy weight loss is slow and steady, but you absolutely can be successful at weight loss.

Today, I’m breaking down three weight loss nutrition myths I hear and read over and over. I’m covering carbohydrates, calories, and skipping meals and how they all relate to weight loss. Read on for the science-backed details!

Weight Loss Myth 1: Carbs make you fat.

Spring pasta dish - weight loss nutrition myths

Back in the 1990s, the low-fat craze took over in America. But now, things have shifted, and low-carb diets are all the rage. From paleo to keto, many of today’s hottest diets promote low carbohydrate intake.

For reference, the Dietary Guidelines recommend 45-65% of our diets come from carbohydrates, or about 225-325 grams of carbs per day. The ketogenic diet (which was developed for people with epilepsy) recommends just 50 grams per day.

The research shows that in the short term, low carb diets might be slightly more effective for weight loss than other diets (1). When I say slightly, I mean the difference of 2-3 pounds over 12 months. A difference this small is negligible for those with a significant amount of weight to lose. Furthermore, research shows that adherence to very low carb ketogenic diets is nearly nonexistent after 6 months.

What all this tell us is that low carb diets may jumpstart weight loss in the short term, but after a year of dieting, the difference is inconsequential. Also, low carb diets, especially the ketogenic diet, are not sustainable long term. When considering a diet, ask yourself if you think you’ll be eating this way when you’re 85. If the answer is no, it’s probably not a sustainable pattern of eating that will produce long term results.

Furthermore, when you eliminate carbs, you are eliminating super important vitamins, minerals, and fiber! A high fiber diet is actually extremely conducive to weight loss, because it fills you up on fewer calories. The takeaway here is to choose whole grain, complex, fiber-rich carbs to promote weight loss while still meeting your micronutrient needs. Check out this post for to learn more about fiber-rich foods!

Weight Loss Myth 2: I can eat whatever I want and lose weight, as long as I stay under my calorie goal.

Cookie dough fudge - weight loss nutrition myths

I think a lot of us have experience with counting calories. When we have a specific number in mind about how much we should eat every day, this can quickly become the most important driving factor of our food choices. We choose 100-calorie packs over satiating nuts for a snack because they are lower in calories. But, there is so much more to a calorie than the number, and the quality of your calories matters.

Not all calories are created equal

The calories in our food have different effects on metabolism when the food is actually digested and absorbed (2). For instance, an apple and a slice of white bread have roughly the same number of calories. But, the apple has 4 grams of fiber, whereas the white bread has none. The fiber in the apple will slow the digestive process, keeping us full for longer, and avoiding a quick spike in blood sugar. The white bread breaks down quickly, so the sugars rapidly absorb into our blood.

When we choose meals and snacks that have a balance fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats, our bodies digest them more slowly, we have a more stable blood sugar curve, and we feel fuller for longer. The benefits of fiber in particular are extra notable, because we don’t even digest it! It passes through our digestive tract, feeds the good bacteria in our guts, or gets exits our bodies. When we feel full, we eat less overall, which ultimately leads to weight loss.

Of course, consuming an excess of ANY macronutrient will be stored as fat. But, we can prevent eating in excess in the first place by choosing balanced meals, never restricting ourselves too much, and practicing mindfulness while eating.

The best foods for sustainable weight loss are not low calorie foods, but whole, unprocessed foods from all food groups because they metabolize more efficiently, keep us full, and help prevent overeating in the first place.

Weight Loss Myth 3: Skipping meals will help me lose weight.

Skipping meals may work for short term weight loss, but it is absolutely not sustainable or healthy for the long term. In fact, it might actually disrupt your metabolism. Metabolism is all the chemical processes that happen inside our bodies that keep us alive. It encompasses burning calories and fat for energy, and using energy to rebuild tissues.

One study found that there was no difference in body weight after 1 year between breakfast eaters and breakfast skippers (3). Also, the breakfast eaters had higher intakes of important nutrients, like thiamin, niacin, and folate.

Another study looked at breakfast skipping, dinner skipping, and eating a conventional 3 meals per day (4). After the breakfast skipping trial, post-meal insulin levels and fat oxidation increased. This may signify changes in metabolism that could lead to increases in inflammation and difficulty managing glucose levels in the long term. This increases risk of Type 2 Diabetes and weight gain.

Skipping meals and it’s effect on metabolism

We can rev up our metabolism to a degree every time we eat. Protein and fiber-rich foods have high thermic effects, because they take longer to digest and absorb than refined carbs and fat (5). This means it takes more calories to digest protein and fiber than other foods. Skipping meals has the opposite effect on metabolism. Our bodies are very smart, and will go into “starvation mode” when they are severely calorie restricted. We become accustomed to burning less calories to perform necessary functions and hold on tight the the calories we DO get (6).

While skipping meals may induce weight loss via a calorie deficit early on, it is not sustainable and may damage our metabolism, which makes it even harder to lose weight in the long term.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this weight loss nutrition myths post! To summarize, there is no quick fix for weight loss if you want it to last long term. Small changes that work within your lifestyle will lead to weight loss success, along with a well-balanced diet that includes fiber-rich carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat. Check out my last ‘Nutrition Myths, Busted’ post here!

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Nutrition Myths, Busted: The Protein Edition

Today, I’m breaking down four nutrition myths in regards to all things protein! Read on to learn what the science has to say on plant-based protein, soy, and protein supplements.

Nutrition is a relatively new and emerging science. There is a ton of fresh information out there regarding nutrition, food, and wellness. There are also many people who deem themselves “experts” in this space who love to give advice on what you should be eating. Because of this, it can be overwhelming and confusing to dig through information to find answers to your nutrition questions. Lucky for you, that’s my job as a registered dietitian!

In the very first post of my Nutrition Myths series, I’m delving into myths surrounding all things protein. Raise your hand if you’ve heard any of these statements: Plant-based diets don’t provide enough protein. You need protein supplements after a workout. Soy protein may cause breast cancer. Collagen supplementation will improve your hair, skin, and nails. As an RD, I know I’ve heard my fair share, plus many more like them. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of these four myths, and break down the facts.

#1 – Plant-based diets don’t provide enough protein.

Greek Quinoa Salad/Plant Based Protein - nutrition myths

A balanced, well-planned vegan or vegetarian diet absolutely can provide enough protein. The key here is balanced. If you follow a plant-based diet, make sure to include plenty of plant-based protein sources in your meals and snacks daily! Some of my favorites include quinoa, legumes, and tofu.

Protein needs do vary individually, based on many factors including age, activity level, and preexisting health conditions. That said, many of us get more than enough protein each day without even trying! In general, an adequate amount of protein is 0.8-1.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day. For a 130 pound woman, that equates to 47-71 grams of protein per day. A vegan could easily hit this range by eating 1 cup of beans, 1 cup of lentils, 1 cup of quinoa, and 1 cup of tofu in a day!

Verdict: A well-planned, balanced plant-based diet provides enough protein from food sources, including legumes, beans, nuts, and soy products.

#2 – You need protein supplements after you work out.

protein powders - nutrition myths

I’m not the only one who has seen people waltzing around the gym with their shaker bottle filled with a protein drink. Protein supplements come in all different varieties these days. There’s whey protein and casein protein from milk, as well as many vegan varieties from peas, hemp, rice, and soy.

But, are these protein supplements necessary after a workout, or any time, for that matter? For a majority of people who work out regularly, the answer is no. While you should be eating a meal or snack that contains protein within an hour of exercising, choose food first before supplements to refuel. One cup of Greek yogurt, a two-egg omelet, or a 3 oz of salmon are all perfect options, as they provide 15 grams or more or protein!

Verdict: There is no need to take protein supplements for the average person who works out up to an hour a day. Protein rich foods provide enough high quality protein to support muscle repair and growth.

#3 – Soy protein heightens breast cancer risk.

Edamame - Nutrition Myths

Soy is one of the most controversial foods of our time. Soy foods include tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy protein isolate. It is low in saturated fat, contains fiber, protein, and important nutrients like calcium, iron, and potassium. Soy also contains phytochemical compounds, called isoflavones.

Soy isoflavones are phytoestrogens, which means they have a very similar structure to the hormone estrogen that our bodies produce. The skepticism revolving soy protein is largely due to these compounds and their potential effect on the body as promoting hormonal cancers, especially breast cancer. In the past, we thought that soy isoflavones bind to estrogen receptors in the same way as the estrogen hormone. We now know that they bind differently, and have different functions than estrogen (1).

The research has shown that soy consumption does not increase risk of breast cancer. Lifelong soy consumption may in fact lower the risk of breast cancer! Studies that looked at Asian women who eat soy throughout their lives have found this connection (2).

While moderate amounts of soy foods in the diet have no effect of breast cancer risk (and may decrease risk), the same cannot be said for soy protein supplements. These supplements are much higher in isoflavones than tofu, tempeh, or edamame. Right now, there is not enough research to show whether these supplements have any effect on breast cancer risk. For now, I recommend taking them in moderation, like all things in our diets.

Verdict: Moderate consumption of soy foods are safe and may actually help reduce breast cancer risk in certain populations.

#4 – Collagen supplementation will improve your hair, skin, and nails.

Collagen protein powder - nutrition myths

Collagen is one of the trendiest food products on the market these days. It’s touted for improving nail strength, hair length, reducing wrinkles, and eliminating joint pain. But what is it? Collagen is connective body tissue protein – think bones, skin. tendons and ligaments. It’s the most abundant protein in the body, making up about 30%. The collagen supplements we ingest are made from cooking the tendons, ligaments, skin, and bones of animals, then drying them into a powder form (3).

Why Collagen?

Collagen contains 19 amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. In particular, collagen includes glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. It is difficult to obtain the amino acid hydroxyproline from other protein sources. The thought is that collagen supplements, which contain hard-to-get hydroxyproline, will lead to higher endogenous collagen production. Increased collagen production is thought to improve hair, skin, and nails, as well as joint pain.

How it all Breaks Down

Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose what the amino acids do in our bodies. When we take a collagen supplement, the protein is broken down into single amino acids (or very small chains) when it is digested and absorbed. The individual amino acids may not be used for collagen production at all! Just like “spot training” doesn’t work to tone specific areas of your body, the body will prioritize where the amino acids are needed. We cannot alter this process by taking collagen supplements.

While some studies have shown beneficial results of collagen supplements on skin health and joint pain (4, 5, 6), there are no long term studies to support these results. It’s also important to note that many of the current studies have limitations, such as small sample size. Also, be sure to look at who is funding the studies you read – they are often funded by the collagen industry, which poses a conflict of interest.

Verdict: There is not enough research to show collagen supplements support endogenous collagen production, and the amino acids from collagen supplements will be used as the body needs.

I hope you guys loved reading this post about protein nutrition myths! I would love to hear what myths are on your mind, so I can break them down in another Nutrition Myths post in the future.

Let me know if you love this Nutrition Myths post by leaving a comment below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

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https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323093.php

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/whey-protein-101

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Why This Registered Dietitian Loves the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet has been studied extensively as one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world. Read on to find out why!

Greek quinoa salad

One of the oldest diets in the world is back with lots of media attention this year, and just as good as ever. It originated well before “dieting” was even a thing, and has been studied extensively as one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world. It’s a diet where you don’t have to count calories or macros, don’t have to drink detox green juice, and you can eat CARBS! Enter the Mediterranean Diet, one of my favorite patterns of eating.

What makes the Mediterranean diet so great and well loved by health professionals? Firstly, this diet is widely touted for its researched health benefits. It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. Some research also shows an association between the Mediterranean diet and reduced risk of certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

A Lifestyle, Not a Diet

The Mediterranean diet is not so much a “diet”, rather it is a lifestyle pattern of eating. When we hear the word “diet”, we often consider it a quick fix. We’ll “go on a diet” when we want to lose weight for a beach vacation, slim down for a big event, or get back on track after a few months of indulgent eating.

Diets are typically seen as a variance from our norm, and are so restrictive that we cannot realistically keep up with them for more than a few months. They often eliminate whole food groups which contain necessary nutrients our bodies need. Many of us get trapped in the cycle of “yo-yo dieting” – trying the latest fad diet, inevitably falling off the wagon, then trying to pick up another fad diet a few months later when we still don’t see results.

This is why diets don’t work. In order to see long term results, the way you eat must be a sustainable pattern you can seamlessly incorporate into your lifestyle. The Mediterranean diet is the perfect place to start if you are trying to make a lasting dietary lifestyle change!

Why The Mediterranean Diet Works

  • It’s not restrictive. You can enjoy foods from ALL food groups (including wine)! This means you are getting important nutrients other diets are lacking, like fiber, omega-3s, vitamins and minerals.
  • It emphasizes fresh, whole foods. The Mediterranean diet encourages you to eat lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins and healthy fats. When combined into a balanced meal, these foods keep us full and satisfied.
  • It’s simple an inexpensive. You won’t be required to purchase expensive, fancy superfoods, powders or supplements on this diet. It encourages eating some of the most humble, inexpensive foods you can buy in the grocery store, like grains and lentils.
  • It incorporates joy and pleasure into eating. The Mediterranean diet encourages being social and present while enjoying our meals. It is good practice to turn off our screens, put on some soothing music and enjoy a meal together with friends and family. Lifestyle changes become so much easier when our support system is involved!
Greek quinoa salad - the mediterranean diet

What to Eat on The Mediterranean Diet

So, what will you eat when following a Mediterranean diet? The bulk of your meals will come from vegetables, fruits and whole grains. You’ll choose legumes, nuts, fish and seafood as your main sources of protein, followed by poultry and eggs, and choosing red meat occasionally. Season your foods with fresh herbs, spices, lemon juice, olive oil and vinegar. Consume dairy like plain yogurt and cheese in moderation daily. Water is your drink of choice, and enjoy a glass of red wine in moderation!

As you can see, there are very little foods you avoid by following this eating pattern. Compare that to Keto, the Atkin’s Diet, Whole30, etc. Easy, right? The Mediterranean diet largely takes the guesswork out of eating well. When your plate is filled with veggies, whole grains, and legumes, it’s hard to get it wrong!

Mediterranean Diet Recipes to Try

Here are some of my favorite, simple Mediterranean Diet recipes. Give one a try for dinner tonight!

Greek quinoa salad
Halloumi salad
Pasta salad with roasted vegetables and tuna - the mediterranean diet
Shrimp scampi zoodles and noodles the Mediterranean diet
the Almond Eater Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini Boats
The Mediterranean Dish Zucchini Salad

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What to Eat Before and After A Workout

As a Registered Dietitian, I am often questioned what to eat before and after a workout. This post outlines everything you need to know about properly fueling your body for athletic performance, and how to replenish after you’ve put in the work.

Hiking for Exericse

Nutrition is one piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle, but so is exercise. No matter what activity you choose to do, it’s important to just move your body in any way that makes you feel good.

The current physical activity guidelines for healthy adults are 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity (1). At the very least, we should be moving our butts for 30 minutes, five days per week for health benefits!

Proper nutrition is essential to help our bodies reach peak performance during exercise and to replenish afterwards. I recommend choosing real, whole foods over supplements whenever possible, because they are more filling, more satisfying, and taste better! Eating properly before and after a workout will make your workouts more effective, help prevent fatigue and injury, and allow you to continue pushing yourself to reach new fitness goals.

What to Eat Before a Workout

There are a few things to consider regarding pre-workout nutrition. First, we need to think about the macronutrient composition of our meal. It’s also important to consider the timing of our pre-workout meal or snack to prevent cramping or bloating during exercise.

Macronutrients: Carbohydrates are Key

Our bodies do not produce energy on their own. We must obtain all our energy from the food we eat. Carbohydrates are definitely the preferred source of energy! Our bodies quickly break them down into glucose, which feeds our cells as energy. We also store glucose in the form of glycogen in our liver and muscles, which the body will tap into once glucose stores are depleted during activity. (2).

It is important to consume a meal or snack predominately coming from carbohydrates before a workout. But, it is also key to include a small amount of protein, especially for weight lifting!

When we exercise, our muscles experience small microtears. These tears must be repaired by protein in order to create bigger and stronger muscles. So, including some protein in your pre-workout meal or snack gives your muscles a bit of a head start to repair and grow.

Choose easily digestible sources of carbohydrates and protein before a workout. Avoid heavy meals, anything fried or very fatty, or foods that tend to make you bloated or gassy, like beans. That way, your body won’t be tied up in the digestive process and it can focus on the work.

Timing

Giving your body the proper fuel means nothing if you don’t time it right. Eating too far away or too close to a workout won’t give you the benefits of the nutrients you consumed.

As a rule of thumb, wait at least 30 minutes after eating before exercising, and don’t go much longer than three hours between eating and working out. Try to have a carbohydrate rich snack if you’re exercising between 30 minutes to one hour. You can also have a meal that includes plenty of carbohydrates two to three hours before working out.

My one exception to this rule is if you can’t stand the thought of eating something before your 6 AM workout. There may even be some benefits to exercising after an overnight fast (3). If this is the case for you, just make sure you are prioritizing your post-workout nutrition! FYI, you still need to have water if you’re exercising on an overnight fast.

Pre-Workout Meal and Snack Ideas

If you are exercising in two to three hours, consider having one of these meals:

  • One cup of oatmeal with fresh fruit and peanut butter
  • Two egg veggie omelet with whole wheat toast, sliced avocado, and a side of berries
  • Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and granola
  • Almond butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Brown rice, roasted vegetables and lean protein of choice
  • Whole wheat pasta with roasted vegetables and tuna
  • Smoothie with unsweetened almond milk, peanut butter, frozen banana, and blueberries

If you’ll be working out in closer to 30 minutes to two hours, choose a snack:

  • Rice cake with peanut butter and banana slices
  • Apple nachos
  • A banana with almond butter
  • Handful of trail mix that includes nuts and dried fruit
  • One or two energy balls
  • Granola bar: I like RX bar, Larabar, 88 Acres, KIND bars, and Bob’s Red Mill Oatmeal Bars
apple nachos

What to Eat After a Workout

It is essential to eat after a workout. We need to replenish the glycogen stores we depleted during exercise, and provide our muscles with the protein building blocks to repair themselves and grow stronger.

Refueling properly after a workout helps you avoid fatigue and revs up the recovery process. Then, you can hit the gym again strong to keep meeting your fitness goals!

Macronutrients: Carbohydrates and Protein

We need carbohydrates after a workout because we used up all the energy from the ones we ate before exercise. We also tapped into the glycogen stores in our muscles. Complex carbohydrates are best because they come with fiber and other nutrients that are beneficial for our health. Think whole wheat bread, quinoa, or sweet potatoes versus processed carbohydrates.

You’ll also want to eat a substantial amount of protein after a workout. We want to give our muscles the building blocks to repair themselves while we rest. Try to get at least 10-20 grams of protein after working out. You may need more protein depending on gender, body size, and activity level. For example, strength athletes need 1.2-1.7 grams of protein/kg body weight, compared to 0.8-1.0 grams of protein/kg for the general population.

Timing

The timing of when you consume your carbohydrates and protein post-workout matters, but maybe less so than we once thought. White traditional recommendations say to eat within 30 minutes of exercise, the window or opportunity might actually be wider. One study showed that eating protein immediately to three hours after a workout increases muscle protein synthesis. Combining protein with carbohydrates after a workout may lead to even bigger muscular gains (4).

Another study showed that, depending on the timing and composition of a pre-workout meal, the window for ingesting protein after a workout may be several hours long (5). So, if your pre-workout meal contains adequate protein, you may experience similar muscle protein synthesis changes to someone waiting until after their workout to ingest protein.

Eating after a workout goes beyond just stimulating muscle growth, though. It prevents fatigue, gives us back the energy we used up, and replenishes glycogen stores. Because of this, I recommend eating a meal or snack within one hour of exercising.

Post-Workout Meal and Snack Ideas

Don’t Forget to Hydrate

Make sure to drink water before, during, and after your workout. The amount of water you need depends on the temperature you’re working out in and the intensity of the exercise. You’d obviously need more water working out in a hot or humid climate. The goal of hydration is to replace the fluid lost when we sweat. Here are general hydration guidelines:

  • Consume 14-22 oz two hours before exercise
  • Drink 6-12 oz of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercise
  • Drink 16-24 oz of water for every pound of body weight lost in sweat after exercise

Water is the best choice, but if you are exercising and sweating a lot for over an hour, a sports drink is a good choice to also replace the electrolytes lost in sweat (2).

Every Body is Different

This post is meant to serve as a general guideline for what to eat before and after a workout. These guidelines may vary individually based on gender, body size, type of exercise, age, and many other variables. Listen to your body to decide what’s best for you!

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