Transitioning Your Workout Routine From Summer To Fall

Transitioning Your Workout Routine From Summer To Fall

This week’s post was written by guest blogger Jim Rollince who’s fitness and nutritional goals parallel my own. He is the head of the creative writing department at gymsource.com and I want to thank him for his time.

Now that the warmer weather is coming to an end, many people are confused about their workout routines.  You might have spent your entire summer swimming laps in the pool or using treadmills in an air conditioned gym just to stay cool.  With the weather changing to a cooler temperature, many exercise fanatics are finding it difficult to transition.  Believe it or not, autumn is one of the best seasons to workout.  There are quite a few benefits to exercising in this season and there are also a lot of different workouts that you can do to take advantage of the changing temps.

One of the major benefits about working out in the fall is that the temperatures outside are a lot more tolerable.  If you enjoy running or walking but have been forced to use home gym equipment because of hot temperatures, now is your time to get out into the fresh air and enjoy your exercise in a new environment.  Switching your environment when working out is essential for staying on track.  People, in general, tend to get very bored rather quickly.  This can be a recipe for disaster if you are trying to establish a steady and solid workout routine.

Another benefit for working out in the fall is that you will find it easier and more enjoyable to workout.  Just imagine yourself taking your daily hour walk, but this time you are walking in a beautiful park that is laden with autumn leaves.  The weather is cool, but you have your warm sweater on to keep you cozy.  This whole scenario will make you hungry to exercise and it will make your at-home treadmill seem boring and useless.  One way to really enjoy the fresh, crisp new weather is to take a gorgeous nature hike.  Find a hiking trail near your home and dedicate a full day to enjoying its beauty.  You will really be able to see the changes of the season when taking a hike.

Autumn really allows you to enjoy your exercise regimen more so than any other season.  If the weather outside is getting a little too chilly for your liking, do not hesitate to use treadmills, ellipticals or other equipment at home.  Instead of using an air conditioner, conserve energy by opening up some windows and smelling that delicious autumn air.  Fall is a great time to also explore your town or city.  The temperatures are just right for walking or jogging a local park or simply taking a walk down your road.  Looking at all of the fall decorations and holiday decor will also help to make your workout a little more interesting.

In general, you should take advantage of the changing season and make sure to change your workout routine with it.  Get some comfy and heavy workout clothes and do your exercises outside as opposed to staying cooped-up in the house.  You will find that you are actually looking forward to the fall weather and not missing summer all that much.

My Take

I think Jim makes a compelling argument for training in the fall. My experience in the fitness industry has shown that people tend to work out the hardest and most dilegentely from January to April due to New Years resolutions and preparing for beach season. My thoughts are with new seasons should come new challenges and goals. Personally, I intend to use the fall to try to put on a few pounds of healthy muscle. Setting fitness goals and tracking progress will help you to stick with a routine and ensure you don’t ruin everything you worked for in the spring and summer.

The main section of this article that resonated with me was the exercise outside portion. I have made it a weekend staple to wake up early on Saturday mornings and go for a run with a few friends on our football Saturdays. Running around campus and dodging the early tailgaters makes for great scenery and can turn a 30 minute grind into a 15 minute leisurely jog. So, my challenge to readers is find your own “Saturday morning run” that you actually enjoy and make it a routine.

 

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions.

From South Bend,

The Newest Fitness Fad; Exercising Barefoot

The Newest Fitness Fad; Exercising Barefoot

Our feet are the only part of our anatomy that touches the ground to transmit all the force that we spend so much time developing in the rest of our body. Think about that –  the only part of our anatomy to touch the ground when we run or jump – and most of us spend little to no time developing strength, mobility and proprioception in the feet.”

Although a growing trend, this training technique is nothing new.  There are many pictures from the ‘70s of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his buddies training barefoot.  Not only a more natural way to train, going barefoot or minimalist provides some very real performance advantages.Bunions, corns, hammer toes, Achilles shortening, athlete’s foot, and ingrown nails are just some of the issues associated with training in shoes.

The Science

The architecture of the hand and the foot are almost identical. So what would happen if you had incredibly weak hands? If you have incredibly weak hands then you can’t pick anything up and if you can’t pick anything up then the arms, back and legs can’t get strong –  and it would be easy to see that if the arm isn’t strong then it’s also more susceptible to injury. It only seems right that the same principle applies to the foot.

The Benefits

No Heel-The lift caused by the heel of a traditional shoe alters the body’s center of balance on its vertical axis.  This shifts the weight slightly forward and as a result the body compensates by exaggerating the lumbar curve.

Uneven Cushion-When weight is applied in the direction of gravity (such as in the case of squats) the foam compresses unevenly and inconsistently introducing an element of instability into the lift.  This can lead to less weight per lift. As the lifter attempts to move the weight against the pull of gravity (as in the case of a deadlift) the compression of the cushioning fails to transfer all of the lifters energy to the ground or lifting platform which robs the lifter of the full benefit of his or her efforts.

Increased Balance And Posture-There is no substitute for the bare foot when it comes to improving posture.  Proper posture leads to improved technique which allows you to lift more weight more efficiently and more safety.

Yoga Like Benefits-One major difference can be seen in yoga class. The feet of those who have been performing yoga barefoot for a lifetime are different than those who may have just begun. Well-formed arches and un-cramped toes are often the results of barefoot training.

No More Shin Splints– The subtly raised heel and the added arch support of the average training shoe change the natural mechanics of the foot. In short, time spent in a raised heel unnaturally tightens the calf muscle and lengthens the shin muscle. Calf cramps and shin splints are often directly caused by shortened calves and lengthened shins.

Reduced Joint Pain– Artificially supported shoes can force unnatural pressure into the knees, spine, and even neck. One way to naturally strengthen the arch and shin, relax the calf, improve overall ankle stability, and promote proper muscle alignment is to train barefoot.

Less Impact– “People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike.” “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.

Negatives

The Shock Factor-Suddenly going barefoot or wearing a minimal shoe can be quite a shock to the foot and require a slow adaptation phase. Like anything exposing new movements and training regiments at full force can cause injury overuse.

Why Fix What Isn’t Broken-If you have no problems and no pain, do you really need to change anything?

Gym Rules-Many gyms don’t allow you to train barefoot

Dirty And Unsafe Surfaces– Shoes can provide protection from glass, dirt, and other random debris that can cause foot damage. But lets be honest, if you drop a weight on your foot than you are going to be hurting either way.

Blisters-Almost everyone who switches to a minimal shoe or starts going shoeless will find themselves battling blisters for the first few weeks until calluses are formed.

Conclusions

It seems petty but strengthening your foot is an essential part of strengthening the entire lower limb. I think the hand analogy describes it best. What would happen if you had incredibly weak hands? If you have incredibly weak hands then you can’t pick anything up and if you can’t pick anything up then the arms, back and legs can’t get strong. It seems like the same principal should apply to the foot. That is why I  am recommending that people give this a shot. I have always been an advocate of eating things as they are found in their natural state. I have the same ideas towards exercise. Whether it is choosing the treadmill over the elliptical, free weights over machines, or barefoot over shoes, always go with the most natural form of sutff. Start off by incorporating a few exercises and build up to an entire barefoot workout. If you are a germ freak and can bare the weird look of them, give Vibrams a shot  http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/index.htm.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin

The Truth About Stretching And Warming Up

The Truth About Stretching And Warming Up

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
― Mae West

There are many schools of thought with regards to stretching, warming up, and cooling down. Let’s get one thing right before we start. Each individual has different needs and requirements for their own body. There is no universal principle that applies to everyone, whether it be stretching, working out, or eating. The most important aspect is to find out what works best for YOU and refine your craft from there.With that being said, here is the new school of thought about stretching.

“Although it’s often prescribed as an injury-prevention measure, static stretching before a workout might be the worst of all strategies.”

Static stretching before a workout forces your muscles to relax, in effect making them weaker in the short-term. This causes imbalances with surrounding muscle groups which will affect your strength gains and performance along with opening yourself up for injury.

“Static stretching also reduces blood flow to your muscles and decreases the activity of your central nervous system—meaning it inhibits your brain’s ability to communicate with your muscles, which limits your capacity to generate force.”

What To Do Instead

Self-Myofascial Release

Self-myofascial release is a self-massage using objects like foam rollers, medicine balls, or even tennis and golf balls. Performing some SMR prior to training will increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscle. Also, SMR will alleviate any minor soft tissue restrictions that could hinder your performance.

Example: IT band foam roll

  1. Start by lying on your side, support your body weight with your legs and arms, and lie with a foam roller or ball under the upper, outside portion of your thigh – this is the proximal portion of your IT band.
  2. Use your legs and arms to roll the length of your IT band along the ball, traveling right down to just above your knee-joint. As you get closer to your knee, you may feel more tenderness, so be prepared to use your arms and legs to ease pressure off of your IT band.
  3. Complete for 30 seconds/body part.

Dynamic Mobility

Dynamic stretching improves your “active” flexibility, the kind you need in every type of athletic endeavor. Dynamic stretching also excites your central nervous system,  increases blood flow,  and increases strength and power production.

Example: Dynamic Inchworm

  1. Standing with your feet hip-distance apart,  bend at the waist, keeping your legs as straight as possible, until your hands touch the floor about 8 to 12 inches from your feet
  2.  Walk your hands out to pushup position (or extended out in front for shoulder activation as well)
  3.  Walk your feet in toward your hands with short choppy steps. Complete for 15-20 yards.

Muscle Activation

Muscle activation utilizes exercises that improve the mind – muscle connection and ensures that all of the important stabilizer muscles are maximally turned on and functioning properly.

Example: Back bridge with single leg option

  1. Lying on the back with knees bent at 90 degrees, arms extended sideward at 45 degrees and feet on the ground, raise the hips off of the ground until the trunk and thighs form a generally straight line. The spine must not arch to achieve this position.
  2. With the buttocks still up, straighten the left leg until it aligns with the trunk and thigh. Don’t let the trunk and pelvis sag on the unsupported side. Hold five seconds, and then switch to the other leg.
  3. Repeat for one minute. If the spine begins to sag, arch, or tilt, lower to the starting position, rest for 3 to 5 seconds, then, try again

CNS Activation (Central Nervous System)

In the CNS Activation stage, fast and explosive movements are utilized to continue to prepare the body for a workout These types of activities are heavily CNS-dominant and therefore ensure that your CNS is primed and ready for the more intense lifts to follow.

Example: Box Jumps

  1. Stand in front of a sturdy box or bench, your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees, then jump onto the box, landing softly.
  3.  Step down to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 8-12 reps.

When To Incorporate Static Stretching

“Improvements in flexibility are specific to your body position and speed of movement. So if you do only static stretching—as most poeple are advised—you’ll primarily boost your flexibility in that exact posture while moving at a slow speed. While certainly effective if you’re a contortionist, it has limited carryover to the flexibility you need in sports and weight training, which require your muscles to stretch at fast speeds in various body positions.”

Abandoning static stretching all together isn’t necessary. Most studies show to increase general flexibility you need to stretch twice a day, every day. Any less frequently and you won’t maintain your gains in flexibility. This is why most flexibility plans don’t work. A structured plan of post workout static stretching and stretching before bed(15-20 seconds/stretch) can help with your overall well being and general functionality as an upright human.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin

Obesity; A Growing Epidemic

Obesity; A Growing Epidemic

Thanks to Tony Shin for forwarding me this graphic. I think it is very pertinent to today’s society. Theses statistics are both shocking and scary and should motivate everyone to not only take care of their own health, but also look after close friends and family to help combat the growing obesity epidemic in America.

For more on this graphic visit http://MedicalCodingCareerGuide.com.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin

The Difference In Cardio Machines

The Difference In Cardio Machines

Here is a great nutrition tip before I talk about cardio machines

Immediately after waking up, drink 16 oz of cold water to get your metabolism fired up. Studies show that drinking cold water can increase metabolism as much as 25% for 2 hours after finishing.

According to a study by the The University of California at San Francisco’s Human Performance Center, cardio machines overestimate calorie-burn by shocking amounts. (http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/exercise-calorie-counters-work/story?id=9966500#.T1p_TvF8C80 the link to the study)

Treadmill: Overestimated calories burnt by 13%

Stationary Bike: Overestimated calories burnt by 7%

Stair Climber: Overestimated calories burnt by 12%.

Elliptical: Overestimated calories burnt by 42%

First off, there is no right or wrong answer here. Hopping on a cardio machine and doing the simplest of workouts is beneficial, and if nothing else, is useful for burning off calories from the ice cream you had the night before. With that being said, there are definitely some programs and machines that are more beneficial than others. As a general “wake up call” statement, documented studies suggest that treadmills and other cardio machines actually overestimate calories burned by up to 42%. Using cardio machines entails moving the large muscles in your body. These muscles require large amounts of oxygen which is circulated into your blood with the end goal of raising your heart rate. Taking this into account, the machine that requires the largest muscles to move the most should create the largest benefits, right? Lets take a closer look below at what I find to be the most effective machines. (4 most common machines)

1. Treadmill 

Benefits

  • Versatility– From a brisk walk to an uphill sprint, treadmills offer a wide range of tools in terms of speed, incline, and training programs.
  • Emulates Natural Movements– As technology continues to develop, fitness moguls are developing new machines that can be awkward or confusing. The treadmill is a familiar, and mostly natural movement for the human body that doesn’t allow you to rely on momentum to power the machine.
  • Seniority– Treadmills have been around since the 1800’s and are a staple at every gym and most homes.Naturally, they have been researched, developed, and perfected more than any other piece of cardio equipment.
  • Consistent Surface– As opposed to running outside, where you can encounter rocks, cracks, and other uneven surfaces, treadmills allow you to run on a consistent surface, year-round.
  • Full Body– Walking and running are rooted from the strides your legs are forced to make. In order to stride forward you have to engage your core and utilize momentum from your upper body.

Downfalls

  • Tough On Joints– In general, running can put stress on your spine, hips, knee, and ankle joints.
  • Safety Issue– Doing incline sprints can be dangerous if you are really “pushing the limits.”
  • Unnatural Handles Often times, people like to know their heart rate and find their target heart rate zone. Trying to hold on to the treadmill handles while you are running can be challenging and awkward.
  • Posture Problems Some studies show that the size of the belt can cause people to change the way they walk or run, leading to muscle imbalances and posture problems.
  • Difficulty– Running(especially on an incline) is hard. People are lazy. People will use the machine they find to be “easiest” and use that specific machine as a way to burn calories.
Consensus 
Overall, I think treadmills are the most effective cardio machine mainly because of the versatility in programs and the amount of muscles groups that are affected by a forward stride. I am a huge proponent of hill intervals (both walking and running) and I think using a treadmill to complete a high intensity training program can work wonders for your fitness goals.

2. Stair-Climber.

Benefits

  • Non Impact Conditioning Unlike the stress of running on a treadmill, stair masters can provide similar cardiovascular benefits without putting your joints in a vulnerable position.
  • Muscle Memory Almost everyone is guilty of taking the elevator or escalator in today’s technology-driven world. Naturally, the muscles in our legs become accustomed to a walking or running stride. Using a stair stepper will activate different muscles groups that may have been ignored in the past.
  • The Legs Feed The Wolf- The stair stepper is a great way to build leg muscles and increase lower body endurance. It also allows you to work on your balance and work on rehabilitative exercises.
Downfalls
  • Lower Body Specific- Climbing stairs definitely burns the quads and glutes, but your upper body is used sparingly in a stair stepper.
  • “Convenient” Handle Placement– The geniuses that created the stair stepper made handles that are easily accessible and almost invite you to hold on to them which can cause decreased energy output by your actual legs.
  • One Dimensional– You can’t change the incline on most stair steppers like you can with the treadmills which limits the overall versatility.
Consensus
Muscle memory is no joke. Using a stair stepper should be added to your weekly exercise regimen to activate different muscles in your legs that have become dormant due to technology-not your own personal laziness of taking the elevator everyday. (Yes I am guilty too)
3. The Elliptical 
Benefits
  • Non Impact Conditioning– Much like the stair stepper, the elliptical allows your body to emulate a running motion without causing the strenuous impact of actually running.
  • Cross-Training Aspect– Most ellipticals are now equipt with moveable handles which allow you to exercise your upper body and lower body simultaneously.
  • Reverse- Most ellipticals allow you to stride in reverse which can activate different muscle groups and put more emphasis on your quads.

Downfalls

  • Laziness– Ellipticals were a product of human complaint. “too hard”, “too much stress on my legs”. If running actually does cause pain on your joints, try an inclined/brisk walk on a treadmill. Check your heart rate and see how it compares to the elliptical.
  • Gravity- Elliptical pedals are suspended off the ground and lack the “weight-bearing effect” that is utilized when running.  Weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones and muscles, and is particularly important for older people in preventing osteoporosis.
  • Momentum- Operating an elliptical, especially on lower levels, can allow you to use the machines’ momentum to compensate for actual work output

The Consensus

If performed efficiently, the elliptical can be used as a valuable cardiovascular machine with interval training and tough, cross-training programs. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case. The elliptical’s reputation as the “lazy mans treadmill” is exactly that. Not to mention that ellipticals outrageously overestimate calorie expenditure.

4. The Stationary Bike

Benefits

  • Lower Body Endurance Bikes are great tools to build lower body strength, endurance, and stamina.
  • Limited Stress On Joints- Like the elliptical, the bike does not impose your entire body weight on your joints but stills allow you to reap enormous benefits.
  • Great For Rehabilitation- Bikes are great tools for people with pulled muscles or recovering from a lower-body injury.
  • Difficulty Factor- Cranking the resistance up on a bike can force you into a standing position and as a result cause enormous caloric expenditure.
Downfalls
  • Human Nature The average human spends 9.3 hours a day sitting. Why would you want to sit during exercise?
  • One Dimensional- The bike focuses primarily on lower body performance.

Conclusion

DON’T RELY ON CALORIE ESTIMATES BY CARDIO MACHINES. Joe Smith, exercise physiologist at UCSF’s Human Performance Center said the overestimation is not surprising.”I think the estimations are just that. You can’t necessarily believe everything you read on those machines.” However, cardio machines can be a great resource if you use them efficiently. Going on a 20 minute elliptical stroll will burn SOME calories, but will not give you the same benefits as an interval program on a treadmill. I give everyone credit for going to the gym and getting on a machine but why wouldn’t you use your time efficiently?

My Suggestion

Mix it up. Try different programs on different machines to constantly keep the body guessing. Rowing machines have started to make a return (thanks crossfit) and can be used as a great asset as well. Chances are, the machine you dislike the most is probably the one that is the hardest and causing the greatest amount of work output by your body. Lastly, spend one day a week doing some form of intervals. (See my Dec. 16 post for more on interval training)

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have questions or comments.

From South Bend,

 Kevin

Burn Fat By Lifting Weights

Burn Fat By Lifting Weights

Americans drink an average of 200 calories a day in high-fructose corn syrup! That’s enough to pack on nearly 21 pounds a year.

It’s common knowledge right? Lifting weights=bulking up and more muscle. Cardio=slimming down and less fat. Not so fast. Studies have shown strength training to be just as effective for burning fat as hopping on the treadmill. However “spot reduction” itself is one of the most misunderstood theories in fitness. Fat is lost throughout the body in a pattern dependent upon genetics, gender, and age. That means doing crunches will not necessarily make you lose fat from your midsection. Overall body fat must be reduced to lose fat in one particular area. Strength training is one of the best ways to help accomplish this overall fat loss. Here are some facts in regards to strength training and burning fat.

  1. Increased Metabolic Rate Post Workout-While doing generic cardio and aerobics does a good job of spiking your metabolism during exercise, strength training using large muscle groups can increase your metabolism more effectively in the hours following your workout. As a result, more calories will be burned for up to 24-48 hours after your workout.
  2. Boosting Metabolism At Rest– Strength training can stimulate the development of muscle mass which can increase your resting metabolic rate and therefore increase the calories you burn.
  3. Strength Training Increases Energy Expenditure During A Training Session-Both cardio and weight lifting will burn calories and utilize stored energy in the body. However, in some cases, the anaerobic nature of strength training indicates a higher utilization of carbohydrates during a training session once initial ATP and CP(sources of energy) stores have been exhausted. During the post-exercise recovery period energy expenditure is elevated resulting in burning more calories. A good portion of those calories burned are coming from stored fat.
  4. Changing Your Body Composition– Lifting weights can help you maintain or increase lean body mass while reducing fat.  Overdoing it on cardio itself can cause a reduction in lean body mass and  lower your body’s ability to oxidize fat, in effect, lowering your metabolism. Strength training, especially high intensity weight lifting, can allow you to maintain or increase muscle mass while reducing body fat.
  5. High Reps vs Low Reps– This depends largely on your overall goals in terms of muscle hypertrophy or specifically losing weight. Generally, higher reps is geared towards burning calories/fat and developing more lean muscle versus sheer muscle mass. Lifting moderate to heavy weights for a lower number of repetitions will help you gain muscle at the same time as you lose body fat. The difference comes in post training metabolic rate and calorie burn. Some studies show when subjects used heavier weights and lower reps they burned more calories in the hours after training. With much debate about this, the best approach is to mix it up and keep the body guessing by varying rep range.
Here are some excellent strength training exercises to help burn fat.
1. Front Squat To Push Press
  1. Stand holding a bar on the front of your shoulders, with your elbows pointing straight ahead and feet hip-width.
  2. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor while keeping elbows up and hips back.
  3. As you push back up to the starting position, press the bar overhead and head through your arms.
  4. Lower the bar to your shoulders and immediately sink into your next squat.
2. Weighted Pushups With Legs Elevated
  1. Start in pushup position with legs elevated on a bench or swiss ball.
  2. Use resistance by; 1.Placing a band around your back 2. Having a partner put a weighted sand bag on your back or 3. Have a partner apply manual resistance to your mid/upper back.
  3. Lower until chest/head is close to the ground.
  4. Explode up to starting position and repeat.
3. Barbell Overhead Lunge
  1. Start by standing and holding a barbell overhead with your arms straight and core engaged.
  2. Hold that position as you lunge forward and your front knee is bent at 90 degrees and your back knee is an inch or two off the floor.
  3. Push back to starting position by exploding with front leg and maintaining your upper body posture.
  4. Repeat with the other leg.
4. Single Arm Overhead Squat
  1. Grab two dumbbells. One twice the weight of the other and stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise the lighter dumbbell in one hand overhead, with the heavier dumbell between your legs and your arm straight with palm facing inward.
  3. Perform squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor and push back to start position through your heals and mid foot.
  4. Complete all reps without lowering your arms, then switch sides.

Conclusion

All of the exercises above involve major muscle groups and can be modified for each individual’s ability. Going in and doing a few sets of arm curls is not going to help you burn fat. Multi-joint exercises that require multi-level muscle contractions will be the most effective.  Strength training is a proven method for fat loss, and allows you to maintain lean muscle mass and definition while losing body fat. Strength training in combination with dietary modifications can have more impact on fat loss than weight training alone. The ideal program for fat loss would include the combination of proper diet, weight training, and cardio exercise. As a general guideline for strength training and cardio, you need to cut back on the time but increase the intensity. This will prevent your body from going into a state where you start burning muscle mass instead of fat.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments. The next topic will be about sleep.

From Norway,

Kevin

kdeeth21@gmail.com

Is It Time To Go Gluten-Free?

Is It Time To Go Gluten-Free?

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple years then you have probably heard about the “gluten-free” diet. Here is a quick synopsis to get you up to speed.

  • Gluten is a protein found in most grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats, that is consumed all over the world.
  • Gluten-free diets were originally formulated to treat celiac’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects 1% of the US population who are allergic to gluten and gluten products. In recent years, upwards of 6-10%  have been treated with mild cases of a “gluten sensitivity”.
  •  Some evidence attributes gluten to numerous diseases ranging  from obesity to autism and everything in between. There is also some evidence that shows gluten possibly contributing to overall inflammation in the body which is a major cause of more serious illnesses such as heart disease and joint pain.
  • A gluten-free diet allows for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, many dairy products, rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, beans, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, nut flours and many specific gluten-free products while excluding all ordinary breads, pastas, and many convenience (processed) foods.
The Science In Support Of A Gluten Free Diet
  • When the human body senses the gluten, it needs to break it down, and it takes fairly strong enzymes to do that. The small intestine is not necessarily designed to digest large amounts of processed carbohydrates and gluten dense foods present in the evolving “Western Diet”. Therefore, the 99% of Americans who don’t have celiac’s disease also tend to respond favorably to a gluten-free diet.

The Benefits And Hype

  • While people with celiac disease have little choice but to avoid gluten, others may be avoiding gluten in an effort to;
  1. Trim pounds
  2. Benefit cholesterol levels
  3. Aid in digestion
  4. Increase energy levels
  • Wheat and other grains associated with the gluten-free diet are considered moderate to high on the Glycemic Index. ( A measurement of the type or quality of carbohydrates in a particular food and how fast they raise blood glucose levels. AKA the lower the better) Anything with a Glycemic Index rating over 50 is considered counterproductive for fat loss in high quantities. Many foods considered “healthy” like some breakfast cereals often contain a GI of 70+. More on the Glycemic Index to come later this month.
  • Marketers estimated in a 2008 study that 15% to 25% of consumers desired or wanted gluten-free foods, even though doctors estimate just 1% of actually having an allergy to gluten itself.
  • Gluten-free diets have gone mainstream getting endorsements from people like Oprah to Chelsea Clinton. In the most recent endorsement, Madonna was publicized as serving gluten-free brownies at her 52 birthday,
  • Many mainstream companies have created gluten-free products as well.

The Reality 

  • I believe the increased energy levels and documented weight loss isn’t from substituting generic whole grain bread for gluten-free bread or gluten-free products in general. Instead, people (excluding those with celiacs) “feel better” because they consume fewer fast and processed foods, which tend to contain gluten. They are substituting starchy carbs, breads, and convenience foods for more fruits, vegetables, and other natural carbohydrates.
  • In fact, many processed gluten-free foods and gluten-free junk foods contain almost twice the calories as their traditional counterparts, not to mention they are usually much more expensive. Processed gluten-free foods are generally lower in fiber, so you won’t stay full as long, creating an increase on overall caloric intake in the long term.
  • It’s a surprising statistic, but one study found that 81% of people suffering from celiacs disease (gluten intolerance) who followed a gluten-free diet actually gained weight. That’s because there is a common misconception that anything labeled “gluten-free” must be good for you.

  • Many gluten-free products are not fortified or enriched and contain lower amounts of nutrients such as folate, iron, and fiber than other foods
  • Some other drawbacks of specific gluten-free cultivated products;
  1. Less fiber than whole grain products
  2. Lower levels of certain essential vitamins and nutrients
  3. Avoiding grains with a gluten-free diet may mean eating fewer of these enriched products
  4. Manufacturers replacing gluten with more calorie dense substances causing an increase in overall caloric intake.
  5. THE COST FACTOR
The Cost Factor For Specific Gluten Free Products (not substituting products containing gluten for fruits and veggies)
The following data is from a 2007 US Government study. It shows that the cost of gluten-free products are considerably higher than their equivalent wheat filled products. Here are some extreme cases;
  1. Wheat flour $0.34/lb TO Brown rice flour $1.89/lb
  2. Wheat bread $1.09/loaf TO Gluten-free bread $6.00/loaf
  3. Wheat pasta $0.87/lb TO Gluten free pasta $3.69/lb
  4. Chocolate chip cookies $2.69/lb TO Gluten free chocolate chip cookies $12.83/lb
  5. Wheat crackers $1.63/lb TO Rice crackers $9.12/lb
  • The average unit price for gluten-free products was $1.71
  • The average unit price of regular products was $0.61
Conclusion
So, the answer to the article is yes and no. If you are substituting regular wheat products like breads, pastas, and processed foods, for more natural foods like fruits and vegetables than, YES, a “gluten-free diet” is great. Should you start buying gluten-free pastas, breads, and mixes? NO. The benefits of gluten-free products don’t seem to outweigh the negatives of the cost and convenience factor. However, anytime you can substitute gluten dense products like a high carb tortilla or wheat wrap for a more natural lettuce wrap is highly encouraged and very beneficial. The benefits and weight loss people experience from a gluten-free diet is not buy substituting breads, pastas, and processed foods, for their more expensive gluten-free counterparts. It is by eliminating these foods completely or opting for a more natural version where people see benefits. (For example, using spaghetti squash noodles instead of starchy, high-carb pasta noodles.)
Saving your money on what you would have paid for a gluten-free product and spending it on something like organic produce, dairy, or grass-fed meats, is going to be much more beneficial to your overall diet and wallet. The last and most important fact of gluten-free diets is; Do people know one of the ingredients in some of the most popular beers around? Gluten! Have fun drinking this on Friday night if you are giving the gluten-free diet a shot.