Prepare yourself for the top foods that contribute to belly fat in our society. Most Americans love these foods but unless these foods are eaten occasionally (i.e., at most once per week), you can kiss your goal of acquiring six-pack abs goodbye.
Here are the worst foods
you should resist the urge to eat due to high-calorie content :
- Ice cream
- Hot dogs
- Fatty red meat
- Meat-topped pizza
- Giant burgers
- Super-size fries
- Caffeinated soda and "energy" drinks
- BBQ pork sandwich
- Buffalo wings
- Rack of ribs
- Breakfast danish
- Mega frozen dinners
- All-you-can-eat buffet
Here are better foods
you should eat to reduce belly fat:
- Frozen Greek yogurt
- Fat-free popcorn
- Lean meat (e.g., sirloin, tenderloin, flank steak)
- Veggie-topped pizza
- Single grilled burger with lean ground beef
- Lean grilled chicken or burger on whole-wheat buns
- Grilled chicken strips
- Low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt
- High-fiber foods (e.g., apples, peas, beans)
Also, be sure to exercise to lose bodyfat--emphasize compound, full-body weight training movements and cardio intervals. Bear in mind that spot-reduction is a myth.
Here are the worst foods you should avoid
eating before you hit the pillow:
- Caffeinated coffee--avoid drinking caffeinated coffee after 4pm
- Chocolate--particularly dark chocolate due to its caffeinated content
- Alcohol--disruptive to the later stages of sleep
- Fatty foods--some evidence indicates a link between high-fat foods and disruption to circadian rhythms
- Meat--it takes awhile for the body to digest meat and this may disrupt sound sleep
- Spicy foods--may trigger heartburn and the possible increase in body temperature from eating spicy foods may disrupt sleep
- Grapefruit--due to the increased stomach acidity from eating this citrus fruit which may disrupt sleep
So what are some foods that you should
eat before going to sleep?
- Cottage cheese
- Herbal tea (just a cup)
- Casein protein shake
- Nuts (just a handful)
- Peanut butter
- Milk (just a cup)
Research has shown there is evidence that refined or processed carbohydrates (characterized by large sugar content) seem to create a drug-like effect within the brain, thus causing addictive qualities mimicking alcohol addiction. In essence, food behaves like a drug in terms of how it affects the brain, psychologically as well as physiologically. This is not really news for most of us. We know certain foods have addictive qualities (think potato chips and ice cream). The human body loves fat, sugar and salt. Why? Because fat is a macronutrient which is a slow-burning, long-term source of energy for the body needed for survival when food is scarce. Because sugar is a macronutrient (carbs) which is a fast-burning, short-term source of energy needed by the body. Because salt consists of electrolytes (i.e., sodium and chloride) needed by the body for cellular pH balance.
Excessive sugar intake may be addicting physiologically as well as psychologically. To wit, sugar affects the dopamine receptors within the brain, making us feel good. Sodas are an excellent example of sugar addiction since they are a concentrated source of energy within many people's diets. Many become addicted to soda and need their daily fix or else experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and depression.
The caffeine within coffee, like sugar, has a drug-like effect within the brain which makes us feel good. We know that caffeine is a drug because it stimulates the dopamine receptors which mediate pleasure. (Now we know why people flock to Starbucks every day--it's to get their drug fix). If their is a down-regulation of dopamine within the brain, one will feel a need to get more
sugar and more
caffeine in order to satisfy the urge to obtain the same pleasure. Indeed, research has indicated that overweight and obese people seem to have this down-regulation of dopamine which lends itself to an increasing need for more sugar. Since sugar contains calories, it makes sense that a chronic sugar addiction may cause one to become overweight or obese.
If sugar, caffeine, fat, and salt have addictive-like effects on the brain, then does that mean all foods having these substances are inherently bad for the body? The answer is no. The natural sugar found within fruits is not nearly as concentrated as the sugar found within refined foods made in the lab (think high-fructose corn syrup). Fats and salts are added to chips to make them more tasty and addictive but potatoes are inherently not unhealthy.
Sugars, fats and salt are added to foods to make them more sweet, have more mouth feel (thicker texture), and more salty because the body and the brain loves these ingredients. It's simple: our brains are hard-wired to eat carb-rich, fat-laden foods because the body needs sugar and fat to survive. Regularly eating foods which have unnatural
concentrations of sugars, fats, and salts (as well as man-made chemicals) may indeed turn us into junkies. Yes, fast-food is addictive because it contains plenty of sugars, fats and salt to satisfy the palate. The regular consumption of fast food may indeed produce long-term neuroadaptations within the brain reward and stress pathways. Restricting fast-food and/or excessive sugar consumption may cause a withdrawal effect within the brain causing depression and anxiety.
If refined carbs behave like a drug within the brain, can psychological therapy resolve one's addiction to chips or ice cream, thus staving off bodyweight gain as a result of fat retention? Theoretically, this may be the case. But there are easier ways to lessen the addiction to chips and/or ice cream:
- Create new habits. Go for a walk when an urge for a candybar occurs. The exercise will lessen the immediate wanting for a quick sugar fix.
- Keep a food journal. Just the act of writing down the foods that you eat will provide a wake-up call to eat healthier foods.
- Reward yourself. Choose a small goal and then reward yourself when you accomplish the goal. Healthy rewards (e.g., a movie, bath, bike ride) make for healthy habits.
Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide so it's really not at all that surprising that researchers have been studying its effects on the human body. As such, much information has been discovered regarding coffee's benefits and possible negative effects. The Pros of Coffee Consumption:
* Parkinson's * Alzheimer's * Type-2 diabetes * Gallstones * Some cancers (e.g., oral, colon, skin, esophageal, pharyngeal, breast, prostate) * Asthma attacks * Heart rhythm problems * Strokes * Liver cirrhosis
- Coffee contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- Research has indicated drinking coffee may reduce the risk of diseases and ailments including:
The Cons of Coffee Consumption:
- Coffee may increase pain threshold
- Coffee is a stimulant which heightens focus and motivation
For your information, the following is the average caffeine content per cup (in mg):
- Excessive coffee consumption can affect normal sleep patterns
- May cause auditory hallucinations
- Hampers absorption of some vitamins and minerals (e.g., magnesium, zinc, iron)
- Can raise blood pressure
- As a mild diuretic, coffee can lead to dehydration and the depletion of water-soluble vitamins B and C as well as some minerals (e.g., calcium, iron, zinc)
- Coffee can stain the teeth
- The acidity in coffee can aggravate heartburn
- Coffee is a crop which is heavily sprayed with pesticides
- Drip coffee: 115-175
- Expresso: 100
- Brewed: 80-135
- Instant: 65-100
- Decaf, brewed: 3-4
- Decaf, instant: 2-3
The benefits of caffeine are numerous in regard to your workouts. Caffeine can lessen reaction time, increase mental alertness and improve mood. Taking caffeine prior to a workout can increase endurance, allowing for more reps, sets and longer sessions. This increase in volume can lead to larger muscles in the long run. Caffeine's effect on the body is via the central nervous system (CNS), causing an increase in your pain threshold. End result: it becomes easier for you to push through those extra reps, extra sets, and extra cardio intervals.
Caffeine may also increase muscle strength due to those extra reps performed. Another benefit of caffeine is its characteristic of increasing lipolysis, or fat breakdown. The fat can serve as a much needed fuel source during hard training, allowing for more calories to be burned. Caffeine taken post-workout can increase glucose uptake from the blood into your muscles. This means your muscles can recover faster and glycogen recovery in enhanced. An increase of glycogen into your muscles enhances muscle size due to its hydrophilic (water-pulling) effect.
More is not better when it comes to caffeine intake. Overindulging in caffeine can cause insomnia, overexcitabilty, restlessness, muscle twitching, etc. If you experience any of these symptoms, level off the amount consumed. In this case, less can actually be more--smaller amounts may be more effective in promoting increased endurance, strength and muscle mass. You need to consume an amount relative to your bodyweight (i.e., 3-6 mg per kg bodyweight) at the right times (i.e., pre-workout, post-workout). The full effect of caffeine can last 2-3 hours and diminishes within 12 hours. Caffeine in liquid form (e.g., coffee, energy drinks) will be absorbed within the body faster than in pill form.
There are commonly-held beliefs regarding caffeine that are myths:
MYTH: CAFFEINE CAN SOBER YOU UP
Caffeine does not sober you up but rather makes you become an alert drunk.
MYTH: CAFFEINE MAKES YOU DEHYDRATED
The reality is that caffeine does have a mild dehydrating effect within the kidneys but the increased urination is mostly caused by increased fluid intake.
MYTH: CAFFEINE IS ADDICTIVE
Caffeine is not addictive in and of itself--rather it's the morning ritual of drinking coffee that makes it seem addictive. Nevertheless, caffeine is a drug which, when taken in large amounts and then stopped, can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and irritability.
It seems like everyday a new study is published purporting another benefit of drinking coffee. To wit: coffee may reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. A recent study of over 48,000 males has found that those who regularly consumed the most coffee (six or more cups daily) had a 60% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer compared to non-drinkers. Six cups of coffee does seem excessive, although even one to three cups daily was linked to a 30% lower risk. Whether or not the coffee is caffeinated was found to be irrelevant. Thus, it appears that the polyphenols within coffee which are antioxidants may have a positive impact in lessening prostate cancer severity. This potential benefit of coffee is plausible since there is evidence among other studies which indicate that coffee improves blood sugar control (i.e., possibly reducing the onset of type-2 diabetes), has anti-inflammatory effects, and affects sex hormone levels. All of these aspects play a role in the progression of prostate cancer.
Other purported beneficial effects from drinking coffee include weight loss, decreased depression, decreased cognitive decline (Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2011), increased muscle growth, increased life expectancy (New England Journal of Medicine, 2012), and decreased risk of gout, liver disease, type-2 diabetes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013), heart disease, stroke (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2011), colon cancer, prostate cancer (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2011), endometrial cancer, Parkinson's disease (Experimental Neurobiology, 2012), and Alzheimer's disease risk. In regard to the latter possibility, mice were used in a study in which a decrease in the protein linked to Alzheimer's disease was observed (note: both of the studies supporting the aforementioned benefits involved caffeinated coffee).
Norwegian scientists have published a study in the journal BMC Research Notes which seems to indicate a correlation with decreased physical pain and coffee ingestion.
I would say the benefits of drinking coffee far outweigh the risks--but remember, moderation (i.e., three or less cups daily) is the key! Drinking more than three cups of caffeinated coffee daily may increase blood pressure.