Nancy Clark uses her extensive knowledge and expertise to advise you of the latest nutrition news that you can follow for the rest of 2015.

1. Protein: How much is enough?

Many fitness trainers/athletes believe more protein is better. Not necessarily true, according to exercise physiologist Doug Paddon-Jones from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

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Research subjects who ate a 30g dose of protein had similar rates of protein synthesis as those who ate a 90g dose. Because the body does not temporarily store extra protein as muscle, about 60g of the protein got “wasted” (or rather, burned for energy or stored as fat).

Yet, if you eat only a 10g dose of protein at breakfast (1 egg + 1 white), you may not have eaten enough to maximally stimulate muscle synthesis.

Paddon- Jones recommends athletes target about 30g of protein at three meals per day. That means, cut your hefty dinner steak into thirds and enjoy two-thirds of it the next day at breakfast and lunch!

Although 30g is the number often mentioned by researchers, Paddon-Jones reminds us this is not an exact science. Protein research is incredibly expensive – few researchers are able to do dose-response studies to precisely determine the number of grams of protein needed per pound of bodyweight.

Hence, Paddon-Jones suggests fitness trainers/athletes simply enjoy a moderate portion of protein-rich foods at each meal.

He also recommends eating protein after you exercise (back your exercise into a meal-time), so your muscles will have the tools they need to do the building and repairing that peaks in the next 3 to 5 hours.

Mind you, following this strategy will not make a massive difference in your musculature, but it may optimise muscle maintenance. This could make a meaningful difference over the course of a year, particularly for athletes over 30 who slowly lose muscle as a normal part of the ageing process.

Enjoying an even distribution of protein throughout the day has another benefit: you’ll feel less hungry all day. For yet-unknown reasons, eating protein-rich foods for breakfast contributes to greater satiety than protein eaten at other times of the day.

Research suggests a higher protein breakfascan result in consuming 200 fewer calories at dinner. Theoretically, that’s enough to lose 9kg of fat in a year! How about boosting your breakfast with more Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese and omelettes?

2. Weight Management: How much exercise is enough?

If you want to lose weight temporarily, you don’t have to exercise; you “simply” need to create an energy deficit by eating less food. But if you have already lost a lot of weight and want to maintain that fat loss (and help minimise fat-regain), you need to be active for about one hour a day.

According to obesity researcher Dr. Jim Hill as he says, “Unfortunately, that’s the price a person who has lost 30 kg needs to pay for having been obese.” Dr. Hill suggests there is as yet no defined “sweet spot” where just the right amount of exercise (not too much, not too little) enhances fat loss.

As many frustrated dieters have learned, too much exercise forces the body into starvation mode and then the traditional weight loss rule – to knock off 500 calories per day to lose one 0.45/1 lbs of fat per week – becomes a myth.

The less you eat (or the more you exercise), the more your body down-regulates to conserve energy and your metabolic system adapts. The body has a very complex system that makes weight reduction difficult.

While any type of exercise is good for weight management, lifting weights and doing other forms of strength training help maintain muscle mass. Dr. Brendon Gurd of Ontario suggests high intensity interval training can contribute to fat loss, particularly abdominal fat. Plus, you’ll effectively improve your fitness in less time!

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3. Weight and Taste Buds

Weight gain is related to not only under-exercising, but also to over-eating.

Why do some people routinely overeat?

According to Dr. Beverly Tepper of Rutgers University, the answer might be related to their taste buds! About 30% of the population has a genetic variation in bitter taste that results in a preference for the taste and texture of high fat foods, such as creamy salad dressings, cheese and ice cream – as well as spicy hot foods.

Combine this with our enticing food environment – e voila, overeating!

When compared by body mass index (BMI is a ratio of weight and height), fat-preferring women have a higher BMI (30 vs 24 – obese vs average physique) as compared to women with a different version of this gene.

When presented with a buffet lunch (that encourages overeating), genetic “fat lovers” need to muster more dietary restraint to consciously choose foods that are lower in fat.

Otherwise, they may eat 88% more calories than usual, while those without the gene will consume “only” about 38% more calories (buffets can be dangerous!).

In a three-day food experiment during which women ate a standard breakfast (orange juice, yoghurt, toast) and then selected their lunch and dinner, the genetically predisposed “fat lovers” chose more added fats (butter, salad dressing), cakes and pies, while the others preferred more fruits and vegetables.

Perhaps obesity prevention programmes could include genetic screening so these people can be taught to better manage their food environment?

Cooking tip:

Mushrooms have an “umami” (meaty, savory) flavour that allows them to easily be substituted for meat. Taste-testers equally enjoyed tacos made with 100% beef, 50% beef with 50% mushrooms, or 20% beef with 80% mushrooms.

So how about adding more mushrooms to your next beef stew, spaghetti sauce or meatballs to save calories and saturated fat – as well as helping save the environment?

According to the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, for 1kg less beef we eat, we spare the environment about 27kg of greenhouse gasses.

Nancy attended The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – formerly the American Dietetic Association. America’s largest group of food and nutrition professionals – in Oct 2012.

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