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Calculating Net Carbs for Your Health

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When you plan out your meal for the day, do you know what vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional values your food contains? Do you know how to read a nutrition label to help you with your weight loss goals?

Diets that are designed to limit carbohydrates suggest figuring out the net carbs in a meal by starting with the grams of carbs listed on the label, then subtracting the dietary fiber and any sugar alcohol that the food contains. This net carb calculation leaves you with the sugars that are in a food after the fiber and sugar alcohol contents have been factored in. Because some kinds of carbs have less of an effect on blood sugar than others, net carbs refer to only the carbs that affect your blood sugar.

Why are people concerned about net carbs?

“Net carbs? became a household term when people started to eat low carb diets in the early 2000s. When people were worried about carbohydrates causing weight gain, they felt like they could eat more carbs if they also ate the nutrients that counteracted them, making their net carb intake significantly lower.

Additionally, eating a low-carb diet allows dieters to eat more. The idea here is that you can eat as much fiber and sugar alcohol as you want because it helps to burn the fat-causing carbs.

Makes sense, right?

Not quite.

Net carbs are not regulated on food labels by the FDA, and the calculations for net carbs can vary by each manufacturer. Only carbohydrate information that can be broken down into sugar alcohols and dietary fiber is actually regulated by the FDA. These are the carbs that significantly impact one’s blood sugar level.

Also, if you go on a low-carb diet, you are cutting out important food groups such as grains, certain vegetables, and fruit, which can cause you to miss out on some vital nutrients. Some nutrient-dense produce does not have a large impact on blood sugar and are not likely to decrease the amount of weight that one is able to lose.

Net Carbs vs. Total Carbs

Net carbs equal the total carbs in a food minus the fiber. When you want to limit your intake of net carbs, this is not equal to eating a low total carb diet because limiting carbs from fiber would not be productive because your body requires a lot of fiber carbs to stay healthy.

The problem with carbs is that they do not burn as well as fat does and they produce 30 to 40% more free radicals that damage important cellular structures like your cell membranes and mitochondrial DNA.

Limiting your net carbs can, in turn, help you replace them with healthy fats that will change your body into burning fat for fuel rather than carbs.

How to Track Your Nutrition and Health

You need to know a lot of information in order to learn what foods are best to eat for weight loss while still giving your body the nutrition that it needs for optimal results. If you want to burn fat for fuel, you can use an online nutrient tracker. This will take out all of the math involved in calculating your nutrition needs and take the mystery out of being healthy.

These can tell you how much fat, carbohydrates, and protein you have eaten, the statistics of your total calories, and ratios for omega-6 to omega-3, potassium-to-sodium, and zinc-to-copper.

Benefits of the Cronometer

The Cronometer is a web app that helps you count calories and track your diet. It allows you to preplan your meals and add in the information about the food before you eat it. This allows you to analyze your carb, protein, fiber and healthy fat intake. This app also has discussion forums that address a wide range of topics about your health journey.

Net Carbs, Fiber and Your Blood Sugar

The number of net carbs that are listed on a food label do not necessarily reflect the true number of carbs that your body absorbs. Also, everyone processes carbs differently.

Simple net carbs have just one or two sugar units and are in foods such as fruits, vegetables, sugar, milk, syrup, and honey. Alternatively, complex carbs have many sugar units that are linked together in foods such as grains and starchy vegetables. When you eat carbs, the enzymes in your small intestine break them down into individual sugar units, which is what your body absorbs.

There are two types of fiber, soluble or insoluble. Insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation and has no impact on blood sugar, caloric intake, or insulin levels. However, soluble fiber dissolves in the gastrointestinal system and creates a gel-like substance that makes you feel full and helps food move through your system.

Sugar Alcohol

Sugar alcohols are sugar alternatives that include ethanol. They are a mix of sugar and alcohol molecules and can be found not only in chemically-concocted foods, but also in fruits and vegetables.

Some sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, erythritol, maltitol, and sorbitol are very controversial in the sense that they are known to cause significant digestive distress.

Eating a lot of sugar alcohols in a short period of time can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea. People who suffer from IBS or are sensitive to FODMAPs may want to avoid sugar alcohols altogether. The worst sugar alcohol for causing these symptoms are sorbitol and maltitol, while erythritol seems to be less offensive.

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are difficult for some to digest. This is common for people who have IBS. Rather than using these sweeteners, it is best to use natural substances, such as stevia.

Increasing Healthy Fats and Limit Net Carbs

Not only is it important to limit your net carb intake to help improve your metabolic health, but it is also important to increase the number of healthy fats that you consume. The type of fuel that you give your body to burn makes a huge difference in your weight loss success.

While a typical diet reduces calories, it is still high in sugar and carbohydrates. This results in cycles between blood sugar spikes and drops. This makes it difficult to lose weight.

It is important to keep an accurate journal of your net carbs and determine and maintain your body?s balance to help it function at its best. Using a tracker such as Cronometer can help you to optimize your nutrition so you are able to feel good and look good without having the mystery about what you should be eating.

Good Health and Net Carbs

Almost all diseases, including obesity, begin with metabolic mitochondrial dysfunction. Improving your metabolic mitochondrial function with your diet means you have to radically reduce your net carb intake and replace it with high-quality fats.

It is important to limit your net carbs because foods that are high in sugar cause your blood sugar to rise. Glucose is a harmful fuel that creates free radicals in the body that fat does not. The core of the problem is that your cells have to be healthy to be able to use fat for fuel.

For example, cancer cells do not have as much metabolic flexibility. These cells primarily burn glucose. This means that eating a healthy high-fat diet is an effective cancer prevention strategy.

When your body starts to burn fat instead of glucose as its primary fuel, your healthy cells can be more easily be nourished while your cancer cells are starved. Your body then becomes increasingly efficient in burning fat. This helps prevent and treat diseases, which is the key to good health.

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How Fat Can Benefit Your Metabolism

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Believe it or not, dietary fats are the best fuel for our metabolism. There are several health benefits of a high-fat diet.

Fat vs Carbs

Studies have tested traditional weight loss advice by decreasing sugar consumption and increasing exercise. While this does result in weight loss, that weight is also often brought right back on and oftentimes even more weight is gained. This has resulted in people having weight problems all around the world.

People’s food choices are preventing them from losing weight, and traditional weight loss advice can actually steer people in the wrong direction in the long-term. Sticking to a low-fat and low-calorie diet and increasing your exercise is not necessarily the answer to weight loss. If it was that easy, we would not be in this health crisis.

Flawed Dietary Guidelines

Our current dietary guidelines that promote a low-fat and high-carb diet have been influenced by the food and beverage industries for financial gain. As more research has been done on health and diet, we have learned that this is an antiquated way of thinking.

Instead, reports suggest that a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet, along with reducing snacking between meals, may be the answer to this obesity problem. Studies show that eating fat does not make a person fat, and actually can have the opposite effect on one’s health. Additionally, there has been no proof that avoiding saturated fat reduces one’s risk of heart disease.

The consumption of vegetable oils have been shown to lower total cholesterol levels by 14% after one year, however, the overall risk of death actually increases. In fact, for every 30 point drop in cholesterol, there is a 22% increase in one’s chance of death.

In order to lose weight, it is important to stop counting calories and eat less frequently. Calories from different sources have different metabolic effects on our bodies, so counting them will not help when it comes to weight loss.

However, eating too much between meals is a large contributing factor to weight gain. To effectively lose weight, you must reduce your meal frequency. One option is to limit your meals to two per day with a six- or eight-hour break in between them. It is also best to avoid eating for three hours before going to bed to preserve your mitochondrial function.

Remember, you can not out-exercise a poor diet. Obesity stems from metabolic dysfunction that cannot be overcome by increasing exercise.

High-Fat Diets Improve Metabolic Health

The human body prefers fat over carbs for fuel.

When the body burns fat for fuel, the liver creates ketones, which are water-soluble fats, that burn more efficiently than carbohydrates. This creates fewer free radicals that can damage your cells, proteins, and DNA.

Ketones also make your body think it is fasting, which reduces inflammation and results in improved glucose metabolism. One problem with a diet that is high in carbohydrates is that when your body uses glucose as its primary fuel, it stops your body from accessing and burning body fat.

Skipping a meal or intermittently fasting can cause your body to down-regulate enzymes that use and burn stored fat. When this happens, your liver runs out of glycogen, which forces it to use the glycogen that is stored in your fat cells instead.

This all helps explain why it is not so easy to lose weight while you’re eating a lot of carbohydrates, especially all throughout the day, regardless of how much exercise you are getting. However, to get your body out of this unhealthy habit and boost your ability to burn fat, you must eat more healthy fats, reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet and do some intermittent fasting.

Healthy Fats

To burn body fat, you may up to 85% of your daily calories to come from healthy monosaturated and saturated fats, such as:

  • olive oil
  • raw nuts
  • raw cacao butter
  • grass fed meat
  • coconut oil
  • pumpkin seeds
  • black sesame seeds
  • egg yolks
  • avocados
  • butter
  • sardines

Any fat that is found naturally in food is a healthy fat. Unlike unnatural fats that can harm your health, these fats increase your healthy cholesterol levels, decrease LDL cholesterol levels, do not cause heart disease, produce fewer free radicals, serve as clean-burning fuel for your body.

Harmful Fats

Harmful fats are all manmade. These trans fats and highly refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils contribute to heart disease.

Trans fats act as a pro-oxidant and polyunsaturated fats are high in damaging omega-6 and can become toxic when heated. Additionally, when taken in large amounts, these fats cannot be burned for fuel and are therefore absorbed into cellular and mitochondrial membranes where they become susceptible to oxidative damage, which damages your metabolic system.

Unnatural fats also promote gut inflammation, damage the blood flow through the arteries in the brain, kill antioxidants in the body, attack the nervous system, and hinder brain development.

Effects of an LCHF Diet

Aside from just losing weight, people are able to reverse diabetes, improve their energy levels and sharpen their mental clarity on an LCHF diet.

Evidence suggests this type of diet can help prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

These results may be surprising to some, but this low-carb, high-fat diet is really able to benefit some people when it comes to losing weight. Most importantly, it is critical to eat the right things in order to have a diet high in healthy fats, low in carbs, and moderate amounts of protein. This will help shed body fat, improve metabolism, boost energy, reduce inflammation, promote optimal health, and increase longevity.

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Plank Variation for Optimal Core Strength

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

You know it is important to keep your core strong, but do you give some variation to your core exercises to make sure that it is getting the strength conditioning it needs?

Core exercises are a critical part of a diversified fitness program that will help keep your body in tip-top shape. However, aside from just doing the occasional situps and pushups, core exercises can easily be neglected.

Keeping your core in its best shape has a lot of long-term benefits on your health. These exercises help to improve your balance and stability by training the muscles in your pelvis, abdomen, lower back, and hips so they all work together. Most sports and even just daily activities require this balance and stability and depend on your stable core muscles.

Having strong core muscles makes it easier to do everyday activities from grabbibg a glass off of the top shelf to swinging a golf club or leaning over to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles can result in poor posture, muscle injuries, and lower back pain.

One of the best core exercises you can do is holding a plank. This can help to keep your abs strong and the muscles around them all working in unison. However, planks are not exactly exciting.

Here are some different plank variations that will keep your body guessing. Begin by mastering your favorite variation, making sure that your form is correct and your entire body is engaged.

Once you feel comfortable with one variation, try to hold it for 30 seconds or do a set of five reps. Then, work your way up to holding the position longer and doing more reps. Here are some variations for you to try.

Side Plank

A simple side plank is one of the most common plank variations and is a great place to begin if you want to take a step up from your basic plank. Side planks are great for increasing shoulder stability and awareness, creating core and back strength, and challenging the stability of the body. When doing a side plank, make sure to keep your wrist or forearm directly below your shoulder to ensure proper stability.

Oppositional-Reach Plank

This is a great variation to do to test your balance and increase your core engagement. Start in a kneeling plank with your hips level with the ground and extend one hand forward with the opposite leg extended straight back. Hold this pose for a moment and then use controlled movements to return to your starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Hip-Drop Plank

Get in a standard plank position. Keep your core muscles engaged as you slowly tilt your right hip to aim towards the ground. Return your body to center and repeat on the other side. Incorporating movement into your plank helps you strengthen your body?s ability to balance and stay stable while bracing the spine.

Light Knee Taps

Adding in some knee taps and moving your limbs while doing planks adds some additional elements of balance, stamina, and finer muscle targeting. While you are in your plank position, lower your right knee and lightly tap it on the ground before returning to plank position. Do the same on the other side. This will help engage your obliques and quadriceps as well.

Shoulder-Mobility

A shoulder-mobility plank is another mobility and strength combination. To do this, get in a standard plank position and slowly lift up one hand and elongate your arm, then move it up to the ceiling and bring it down behind you, creating a full circle back to your starting position. Repeat this on the other side as well. It is important to keep your hips steady while you are doing this because staying balanced and keeping your muscles engaged will help you benefit the most from this exercise.

Apple-Picking Twisting Side Plank

It is healthy to include controlled twisting motions in your exercise routine. Start in a side plank position with your forearm resting at your side and your feet stacked. Take your opposite hand and reach towards the sky.

While doing this exercise, keep your hips perpendicular to the floor and do not let them sag. Maintain a straight line throughout your entire body. Using your overhead hand, pretend to reach up high as if you are picking an apple off a tree. Do this with control and keep a neutral spine as you rotate your upper body toward the ground and you put the imaginary apple into a basket that is under your chest. Repeat this move on the other side.

Knee-to-Elbow

This is a great variation to do if you want to lighten up your obliques.

Start by getting into a standard plank position and slowly lift one foot up off the ground and pull the knee toward the opposite elbow. Keep your body stable and your core strong to get the most benefit from this exercise.

Return to your original plank and repeat this move on the other side. This move not only targets your abs from another angle, but it also adds variety to your workout which can fight off mental fatigue.

Gliding Plank

After you have tried all of the many variations of bodyweight planks, add in some equipment, such as moving gliders. Start out in a regular plank position and put the gliders under your feet. Slowly slide your feet out to the sides, one at a time and then together.

Dragging Plank

You can use your gliders here as well. Start in a straight-arm plank and put the sliders under your feet. Keep your abs engaged and do not let your hips sag while you walk one hand at a time forward, allowing your feet to drag behind. You can even try to do this move backwards.

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Warming Up Your Upper Body Before Lifting

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Are you sure that you are giving your upper body the warm up that it needs before doing a workout? Often, people stick to basic arm swings and stretches before working out their upper body. However, doing an upper body warm-up before lifting weights is a critical part of the process. If you do not properly warm up, you are putting yourself at a greater risk for injury and increasing your chances of becoming sore after a workout.

In order to keep your workouts safe and effective, try doing an upper body warm-up that will improve your wrist and shoulder mobility. This warm-up can also strengthen your shoulder, core, and upper back.

Improving your shoulder strength and mobility can also help you to overcome a plateau in upper body exercises such as pull ups and incline push-ups. This specific warm-up also focuses on your abdominal and oblique muscles to help increase your core strength.

In order to do an upper body warm-up, complete two rounds of these exercises in order.

Wrist stretch on floor

There are a few ways that you can do this. A simple way is to get on your hands and knees with your elbows straight and your palms facing up. Bear down on the backs of your hands until your wrists feel a stretch.

In this same position, move your fingers up towards the sky and back down again to create a deeper stretch into your wrists.

Hollow-body plank

This is a well-known stretch for gymnasts that helps strengthen the core and stretch the shoulders and wrists. To do this, get in a plank position up on your hands and toes. Twist your arms so that your fingers are pointing back towards your body. Keep your heels and legs together. Hold this pose.

Scapular pushup

Start in the pushup position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your core held in tight. Simply retract and protract your shoulder blades to create a very slight up and down movement. You should only be moving up and down one or two inches.

Single-arm hollow plank, right

Get into a push-up position on the floor with your arms straight. Place your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and put your hands just below your shoulders.

Keeping your legs straight, form a straight line with your body. Keep your pelvis, spine, and neck neutral and keep your head in a line with your spine.

Raise your right arm in front of you and hold this position while tightening your core.

Floor angel

Lay down flat on your back with your knees up and your feet on the ground. Lift your arms up over your head with your palms facing up. Slowly bring your arms back down so your hands are even with your ears. Repeat this movement.

Single-arm hollow plank, left

Repeat this exercise, raising your left arm instead of your right.

Y-Press out

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and push your arms up and out so your body makes a “Y” position. Pull your arms back towards your body before pushing them back out into the “Y” position.

Hollow-body pushup

Get in a pushup position but lift up your body with your toes. Slowly lower your upper body by bending your elbows, bringing your nose towards to ground. Hold this position with your arms supporting your body with your elbows bent before lifting yourself back up.

Do each of these moves for 30 seconds with a 10-second break in between. After your first round, do another to complete your warm-up.

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Creating Self-Awareness at Work

May 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While almost everybody thinks they have self-awareness, very few people actually do. In general, people are actually very poor judges of themselves. This can be detrimental in the workplace as well as everyday life.

People who know their motivations, know where their passions lie, and realize how they can impact the people around them, are more effective. They tend to get promoted faster in the workplace and have more financial success.

So, why is self-awareness so important, and how can one be better at it? Self-awareness is a complex topic, but there are certain things you can do to become more self-aware.

Why You’re Not Self-Aware

The more power a person gets and the higher they progress in their career, the less self-aware the person tends to be. Power in the workplace can literally go to one’s head and make it hard for them to recognize or comprehend the impact they have on their colleagues.

One example of this is the Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick. During his tenure as CEO of Uber, his chief marketing officer and his president have both left the company. This is a prime case of having very little self-awareness.

A CEO can be a genius businessman, but if they are not aware of how other people perceive them, their successful days will be limited. If they do not fail as a CEO, they will at least be ineffective, due to the fact that they are unable to get people to follow them. Many times, leaders who are not self-aware are not respected and are unable to get their goals accomplished because they can’t get people to get on board with their ideas.

Additionally, if a CEO does not make their future visions clear to their subordinates, they are creating a missed opportunity for themselves to be successful. Often, CEOs blindly chase the positive responses of shareholders, which is short-sighted and ineffective.

Why Self-Awareness Matters

Sometimes leaders can be successful in spite of their lack of self-awareness. If this is the case, they likely won’t make an effort to change how they are because they already have the power that they desire. However, there will always be a time when people learn the importance of understanding the people around them.

Often when leaders are told how people perceive them, they are in disbelief. However, if they change their management style, the positive results are exceptional. The more leadership the person has, the larger ripple effect the change can make, all the way down to the customers.

3 Steps to Improving Self-Awareness

Self-awareness cannot be achieved quickly, but there are three steps that you can take to start your journey.

1. Devote the time to learn the truth about yourself.

Even if you do not necessarily want to hear the truth, face up to the reality. Don’t just assume that everyone has the same positive thoughts about you as you have of yourself. Also, question your assumption that just because you don’t get pushback on your decisions that all of your decisions are right. Be open-minded, brave, and wise.

2. Find someone who will be direct with you.

A loving critic is not only someone who you trust but also someone who you know is rooting for your success. However, this must be a person who is willing to be transparent and completely honest with you. Look towards your board members or someone who is your equal in the workplace and knows you very well. Ask your loving critic what you are doing well and in which areas you could improve. You could be surprised how much insight you might gain.

3. Consider getting a coach.

There are a lot of great coaches that work specifically with executives. If you are able to connect with someone who is able to help you evaluate others’ perceptions of you within your company, and help you figure out what you need to work on, you will likely see some great improvements.

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Frank Salvatore