Why you can never eat just one Oreo

We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating: there are very good reasons why we like bad foods and why we can’t stop eating them. Understanding brain activities here doesn’t just excite the neuroscience nerds and fitness junkies. More importantly, though, understanding the process of how terrible foods affect us will teach us about ourselves and about those with whom many of us have difficulty empathizing.

This article on Medium by Taylor Mitchel Brown does a great job of balancing the science and the effects. Here’s a couple of salient points:

“Terrible foods work their magic by manipulating these hunger and satiety systems; they trigger the release of hunger hormones while simultaneously weakening satiety signals. The result — as our plight with Oreos, ice cream, fast food, and the like shows — is that we eat well beyond what we should.”


“Another possible explanation is early exposure. When rats and mice are given high-fat foods at a young age, for instance, they show an increased affinity for those foods in adulthood over all their little rat and mice friends. This change persists throughout the lifetime.”

This last point is particularly striking because it indicates children are most susceptible to developing bad eating habits. Understanding how our metabolism works will help us be more mindful with the foods we not only feed ourselves but also with what we feed our children.

The good, the bad, and the ugly about sugar

We have a love-hate relationship with sugar. We put it in everything, but we know it’s linked to high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. Still, we can’t get enough of it. It’s complicate, for sure.

There are different types of sugars and different ways our body processes them. For example, there’s glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Glucose is the primary source of energy for our cells and the main component of carbohydrates. It is metabolized in the pancreas. Fructose is found in fruits and plants, and is only processed by the liver. Sucrose is made of 50% glucose and 50% fructose and is the scientific name for table sugar. There is also high-fructose corn syrup, which is often used in processed foods, soda, and sports drinks. HFCS is a popular replacement for sucrose due to its lower cost food manufacturing.

Without going into a chemistry lesson, let’s look at how sugar generally affects our body.

The Good

Sugar is a great source of energy. In particular, fructose replenishes our glycogen supply quickly, giving us that boost when we’re fatigued. Sports drinks have high levels of it. After sugar is processed, it goes straight to our bloodstream and gives our cells what they need to function. Glucose, because it’s broken down in the pancreas, releases insulin, which signals to the brain to stop eating. In other words, it regulates hunger and appetite. A healthy blood-glucose level equals a healthy body. Conversely, a healthy body could in turn modulate our blood-glucose levels. This means, of course, regular exercise maintains a healthy metabolic system which keeps all the important body chemicals in check.

The Bad

While a great source of energy, sugars if unprocessed get converted to fat. So unless you’re burning it, your body packs it away and you pack on the pounds. Glucose also causes your brain to release dopamine, aka the happy chemical. This is why we love our sweets. They make us happy. Like drugs, we develop a craving for it. There’s something else that causes the release of dopamine without the side effects of craving, and that’s exercise. Regular exercise gives you the double bonus of regulating your blood chemicals and your hunger.

The Ugly

Unlike glucose, fructose isn’t recognized by the brain and tells it to stop you from continuing to eat. This is why drinking a soda does very little to sate your hunger. Furthermore, high consumption of sugar has been shown to lead to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. Fructose after being processed in the liver produces triglycerides, which could build up in the arteries and lead to a variety of health risks like heart disease and high blood pressure. Large sugar consumptions could cause organ damage–particularly the liver and pancreas where they are processed–joint deterioration, reduced skin plasticity, affects our mood, and interferes with brain functions.

Again, regular physical activity can help mitigate much of the adverse effects of sugar. As long as you keep the consumption of sugar on a moderate level, exercise could be the difference maker. Our sedentary lifestyles have led to minimal physical activity. On top of that we are consuming unhealthy levels of a product that wreaks havoc on our body. The sensible thing would be to move more and eat less sugar. Doing one of those things would help, but doing both would accelerate our path to a healthier life.

Coffee and Working Out

Good news for coffee lovers: coffee is actually good for your workouts. In fact, it is one of the most effective pre-workout drinks, in addition to providing some great health benefits.

Here are a few reasons coffee complements your workouts:

  1. Better focus. Thanks to the caffeine, your level of alertness increases, which keeps your workouts productive and effective.
  2. Increased energy. There have been studies that have shown consuming coffee before a workout results in a boost in strength and stamina performances.
  3. Increased metabolism. There are properties in coffee that, when consumed before exercise, can cause fat cells to be used as an energy source as opposed to glycogen. Also, the high amounts of caffeine in black coffee will increase your metabolism, which makes you burn more calories throughout the day. As a bonus, coffee is also an appetite suppressant, causing you to be less hungry.
  4. Less muscle pain. Recent studies have shown that people drinking coffee before working out experienced less muscle pain. As a result, you can do a higher intensity workout.
  5. Antioxidants. Coffee has a high amount of antioxidants, helping prevent disease and sickness.

Like with everything else, though, moderation is the key. So feel free to get a cup of joe before your next workout and reap all the benefits it can give you.

Fad diets

Over the years, there have been no shortage of fad diets: the South Beach diet, the Mediterranean diet, the Raw Food diet, the Macrobiotic diet, Atkins, Paleo, Keto… and so on.

What typically constitutes a fad diet is one that promises quick weight loss through what is usually unhealthy and unbalanced diet. These diets target people who wanted to lose weight quickly without exercise. Some fad diets claim to make you lose fat, but it’s really water weight that you’re losing.

The truth is that there is no one-size-fit-all diet. Everyone’s body is different. What works for one person might not work for another.

There is really one rule that tends to work for most people. That’s moderation and routine. The stomach is about the size of your closed fist. Compared to that, most servings at restaurants are enormous. Eating moderately will modulate our appetite, regulate our metabolism, and balance our energy levels. Keeping a meals routine helps our body function optimally.

Of the three conventional daily meals–breakfast, lunch, and dinner–breakfast is the most important. The first meal sets the tone for the rest of the day, because it tempers our appetite. Eating protein early is a good idea, as it takes the longest to metabolize and thereby controls mid-day hunger. On the flip side, skipping breakfast means we usually overcompensate later in the day. So even if you eat late the night before, don’t skip breakfast the next morning.

So in summary, beware of fad diets and just eating moderately on a consistent timely fashion.


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See the TANK in action in this video:

Fitness Mistakes

Like many things in life, exercise could help you and it could hurt you–if you don’t do it properly. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

Skipping workouts
Sometimes you just don’t feel like it. Sometimes you’re simply not in the mood. Skipping workouts “just because” can set you back, especially if you’re on an exercise program. Not only does it make it harder for you to reach your goals—such as losing weight, building muscles, etc.—you could lose some progress you’ve made.

Eating right before a workout
If you eat a meal within two hours before working out, your body will be digesting that food and blood won’t flow as well to your muscles. This could also affect your post-workout recovery and lead to cramps. Instead, try a light snack.

Not warming up
Your body needs the warmup to raise your body temperature and get your blood flowing to help loosen up your muscles.

Holding your breath
It goes without saying that breathing is important. Holding your breath limits the amount of oxygen coming into your body. When working out, you might hold your breath without even knowing it.

Ignoring your limitations
Sometimes we get gung-ho and try to do more than we can handle. One, you could get hurt. Two, you usually sacrifice form and technique, in which case you’re just wasting time and energy. Know your limitations and attack them strategically and methodically.

Being too competitive
This is related to the above. Sometimes we can’t help comparing ourselves to other people and we try to keep up with them out of pride, ego, competitiveness, or just immaturity. Stay within yourself and focus on your goals.

Doing only what you like
You’re going to like some exercises better than others. That’s natural. But working on only what you’re comfortable with—usually it’s what you’re good at—will limit your range. In lifting weights, for example, you need to work all muscle groups. If you’re always targeting only the same muscles, you’re making it hard to them to recover and you’re going to look lopsided. Get out of your comfort zone once in a while. That goes for working out and in life.

Not hydrating
Perhaps the most common mistake is not taking water breaks. Hydration is important for cooling off your body and keeping your blood flowing. The guideline is 6 to 8 ounces for every 15 minutes you’re active, and then some more once you’re done.

Happy June!

Everyone knows exercise is good for you. It keeps your weight in check, makes you stronger, helps you feel younger, and gives you more energy.

More importantly, though, exercise also makes you happier. While you may think having abs, or biceps, or nice calves, will make you happy, those things in of themselves are not what will ultimately make you happy. For one, those things won’t make your problems go away. Saying that abs and biceps and calves will make you happy makes happiness based on certain conditions. That sets you up for inevitable disappointment.

Happiness, rather, is an outlook on life. It’s a way of looking at things. It’s gratitude for what you have and not coveting things you don’t have. It’s looking at the glass half-full.

How do you improve your outlook on life? You guessed it — exercise. Everyone knows that science has shown that exercise releases happy chemicals into your brain. Likewise, everyone knows that exercise relieves stress. It boosts confidence, eases anxiety, and fights insomnia. In short, exercise makes you feel good physically. When you feel good, your outlook on life naturally improves.

So get out there and get moving. High-five your trainer and pat your exercise partners on the back!

We just finished the month of May, which according to a Gallup survey, is the happiest month of the year. Do you know the second happiest month? June!

Happy June!

Oh, and it’s Friday, the undisputed happiest day of the week!

Summer Love

Memorial Day is a few days away, which means summer is here. For most of us, there is seemingly extra motivation to get in shape for summer. Gotta get the beach bod!

My schedule is filling up quickly, but there is still a couple of spots available. Contact me now for a direct consultation.


Minding the Wild Fires & Outdoor Conditions

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

There are no less than four wild fires currently ravaging the Greater Los Angeles area. Couple that with Santa Ana winds gusting up to 60 mph. It is worth mentioning that everyone in the area should refrain from prolonged and strenuous outdoor workouts, particularly if you have respiratory and/or cardiovascular conditions. Some areas are, of course, more affected by the fires than others. But even if you do not smell smoke, there are still harmful particulates in the air. So it’s better to take the workouts indoors. If you are within the affect areas, though, it is a good idea to refrain from working out altogether because these microscopic particulates can get indoors. Skipping a day or two won’t derail your fitness goals.

AirNow.gov is a good resource to check air quality levels for your area.