Saturday, November 29, 2014

How To Do Atkins Right: 10 Mistakes to Avoid

Spring has sprung! The weather is getting warmer, and the days are getting longer, which means it’s also a great excuse to overhaul any healthy eating habits that may have fallen by the wayside during the chill-inducing months of one “polar vortex” after another. Here’s how to do Atkins right and avoid making some all-too-common errors:
·       Mistake #1: Counting Total Carbs, not Net Carbs. On Atkins, you need to count Net Carbs, which are the grams of total carbs minus grams of fiber, which has virtually no impact on your blood sugar. Don’t forget to count lemon juice and other acceptable condiments and include 1 gram of Net Carbs for sugar substitutes. And most important, don’t use your carb allowance for foods that are high in sugar and starches and low in fiber. Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking no carbs are better than 20 grams of Net Carbs and eat only protein and fat. You can download the Atkins Carb Counter to track your daily carb intake.

·       Mistake #2: Skimping on Veggies. Make sure you are eating 12 to 15 of your net carb grams in the form of foundation vegetables. This translates to about 6 cups of leafy greens and 2 cups of cooked veggies, which means you could have a big salad at lunch, a side salad at dinner and still have several servings of your favorite cooked veggies.

·       Mistake #3: Saying No to H2O. Eight daily cups is the standard recommendation, but the larger and more active you are, the more you need. As long as your urine is clear or very pale, you’re drinking enough. Two cups can come from coffee or tea (caffeinated is fine), herb tea, sugar-free sodas or broth. Don’t ever skimp on fluids in a misguided effort to see a lower number when you hop on the scale. Not drinking enough water actually makes your body retain fluid as a protective mechanism.

·       Mistake #4: Going Salt-Free. A little salt (or broth or tamari/soy sauce) can help you avoid experiencing weakness, headaches, muscle cramps or lightheadedness as your body transitions to primarily burning fat for energy. Since Atkins is a naturally diuretic diet, you don’t need to avoid salt to minimize water retention. The symptoms can be the result of an electrolyte imbalance caused by losing minerals along with fluid. Caution: continue to limit salt if you’re being treated for hypertension or your doctor has advised you to limit sodium intake.

·       Mistake #5: Not Eating Enough Protein. Eat 4–6 ounces of protein at each meal, depending on your height and gender. Four ounces may be enough for a petite woman; a guy may need 6 ounces. A very tall guy may even need a bit more. But eating too much protein—or eating only protein and not vegetables—or conversely, skimping on protein, will interfere with weight loss and/or leave you hungry and subject to carb cravings. 

·       Mistake #6: Being Afraid of Fat. You need dietary fat to help stimulate the burning of body fat, and natural fats are fine when you control carb intake. Always accompany a carb snack with either fat or protein. For example, have cucumber slices with a piece of cheese.

·       Mistake #7: Eating Hidden Carbs. Read package labels so you can avoid added sugars and other sneaky carbs. Just because a package says it’s low in calories doesn’t mean it’s low in carbs. Avoid low-calorie products unless they’re labeled as low carb. Likewise, use full fat versions of mayonnaise, salad dressing and the like. Low-fat versions of packaged foods almost invariably add sugar to replace the flavor carried by oil. If the label is unclear, look up the food in the Atkins Carb Counter.

·       Mistake #8: Picking the Wrong Low-Carb Products. Use only Atkins low-carb products. Most of these have been tested to ensure that the impact on your blood sugar is minimal, and most are coded for Phase 1. 

·       Mistake #9: Becoming a Slave to the Scale. Weigh and measure yourself weekly or use weight averaging. Your weight naturally varies across a three or four-pound range from day to day so weighing yourself daily is setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Moreover, if you are working out, you may actually be building muscle even as you shed fat, which may keep your weight constant, even as you trim inches and your clothes fit better. (Muscle is denser than fat and therefore takes up less space.)

·       Mistake #10: Not Recording Your Progress. Use a journal. You’ll be entering your weight and measurements weekly, but you will want to record your food intake and Net Carb count daily. This way, you can quickly see if you’re consuming more carbs than you think you are. You can use Atkins’ free tracking tools to track your progress.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Skin You’re In: 7 Low-Carb Foods You Should Eat for Good Skin

The Skin You’re In: 7 Low-Carb Foods You Should Eat for Good Skin

There are plenty of reasons why a low-carb diet like Atkins is beneficial—it helps you lose weight, plus it lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But did you know that the Atkins Diet is good for your skin, too? 

Breakouts, sensitive skin, how your skin looks and feels and even how quickly your skin ages may be affected (to some extent) by the food you eat. Why is this? To start with, the typical American diet is too high in omega-6 fatty acids (typically found in processed and fast foods) and too low in omega-3 fatty acids (found in seafood like tuna and salmon, walnuts, canola oil and flax seeds and more). When this ratio is out of whack, inflammation sets in. What is inflammation? It is your body’s response to a perceived threat—whether it’s a splinter in your finger, sunburn at the beach, a zit or a sprained ankle. In fact, inflammation is actually part of the body’s natural healing process. But when your body becomes imbalanced, it loses its ability to produce anti-inflammatory chemicals to counteract that inflammation. In addition to an out-of-balance omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, high stress levels and excess body fat contribute to chronic inflammation. Another important weapon in controlling inflammation is avoiding foods that spike insulin levels, such as simple carbohydrates, sugar and white flour. Simple carbs and white sugar and flour also raise your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which also leads to breakouts. So, in simple terms—that delicious cookie that looks so tempting not only adds inches to your waistline but years to your face and maybe a couple zits to boot!
Another important weapon in your “good skin” arsenal is foods high in antioxidants. Free radicals damage the membrane of skin cells (leading to inflammation, sun damage and an increased risk of skin cancer). But antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are found in fresh fruits and vegetables, protect the membrane of the skin cells from those nasty free radicals. 

The Atkins “Good Skin” Food List

1.    Seafood
Salmon, tuna and mackerel have the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids and are acceptable in every Phase of the Atkins Diet. In addition, studies show adding fish to your diet can also help reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis and even eczema. Tuna is also rich in selenium, which helps prevent breakouts. Try to eat seafood at least three times a week.

2.    Nuts, seeds and flax 
Walnuts, almonds, pecans and other nuts and seeds are packed with omega-3s. You can add nuts and seeds into your plan after two weeks on Induction or when you move to Phase 2. You can also add flax seed to muffins—the Muffin in a Minute recipe has a ¼ cup of flax seed and is perfect for any Phase. 

3.    Olive oil 
It’s a great source of omega-3s and antioxidants. Look for extra virgin olive oil that is “cold pressed” or “expeller pressed.” A serving is 1 tablespoon, and your skin needs at least 2 tablespoons of oil a day to keep it supple and moisturized. You can cook with olive oil or use it to make salad dressing, or just drizzle it over your salad. 

4.    Fruit
Berries and many other fruits are full of free-radical-fighting antioxidants. Starting in Phase 2, you can add fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cantaloupe or honeydew melon, and you can add even more fruits in Phases 3 and 4. 

5.    Vegetables 
You can never have too many vegetables and all the healthy antioxidants they provide. Even in Induction, you should be eating between 12 and 15 grams of net carbs of a variety of vegetables every day. Pile on the leafy greens, plus squash and pumpkin. Once you hit Phases 3 and 4, you can have sweet potatoes, which are a good source of vitamin A. 

6.    Green tea
It’s rich in polyphenols called catechins, which are anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Some research shows that green tea may also have some UV-protective properties, meaning it could help protect your skin from cancer-causing sun rays. To get the biggest boost, drink three cups of freshly brewed a day (vs. decaffeinated, instant or ready-to-drink versions, which are less potent). 

7.    Water 
When it comes to your skin, hydration is key. Water keeps your skin healthy and young by moving nutrients in and flushing toxins out. Focus on drinking the recommended eight glasses a day (or more). 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Constant Cravings? Kick Them to the Curb with Atkins: 13 Cravings-Busting Tips

Constant Cravings? Kick Them to the Curb with Atkins: 13 Cravings-Busting Tips


Whether it’s a fresh-baked cookie, a piece of chocolate, a hot slice of pizza or a plate of salty French fries, most likely you’ve had the intense desire to throw caution to the wind and indulge. So you give in, just once, only to find yourself craving another cookie or a bag of potato chips in just a few hours. This cycle of eating too many carbs raises and lowers your blood sugar levels. We call this the carb rollercoaster, and it’s the culprit for those constant cravings. You can end your ride on the carb rollercoaster with the following craving-busting tips:

1. Stick with it. If you follow Atkins correctly, you teach your body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs by decreasing your carb intake. This eliminates the spikes and slumps in your blood sugar, and keeps your hunger at bay, as well as those cravings. When you first start Atkins, your blood sugar levels have not yet stabilized. After the first two weeks, your body should be burning fat for energy instead of carbs, which acts as a natural appetite suppressant.

2. Keep eating. If you are going too long between meals or snacks, your blood sugar will drop, leading to hunger and cravings. Keep your blood sugar on an even keel with three meals and two snacks a day.

3. Stick with a plan. If you plan out your meals and snacks each day, the right foods will always be at your fingertips, making you less likely to succumb to temptation.

4. Watch out for sneaky carbs. As always, be sure to read your food labels. You may be consuming foods containing hidden sugars or grains, and these foods could unknowingly trigger your cravings.

5. Have a drink. Of water, that is. Hunger and cravings may be confused with thirst, so make sure you’re drinking at least eight cups of water a day. Two cups can come from coffee or tea (caffeinated is fine), herb tea, sugar-free sodas or broth.

6. Don’t forget fat. Or protein. Make sure you have fat or protein with every meal or snack. Have half a Hass avocado, some cheese or olives for snacks. You can cook with canola, olive and most nut oils, as well as butter or coconut oil. Top veggies and other foods with butter, and use extra-virgin olive oil in your salad dressings. And you can enjoy eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry (unless it’s breaded or battered or sausages that contain fillers or other high-carb ingredients), beef, lamb, pork and all other meats (once again watching out for fillers and high-carb ingredients). All of these fat and protein sources fill you up and keep you satisfied.

7. Distract yourself. Sometimes hunger (and cravings) can be mistaken for pure boredom. Go for a walk, drink a glass of water, read a book or call a friend.

8. Watch your stress. Stress can mess with your blood sugar levels and trigger cravings for comfort food. Check out Atkins Recipessection for low-carb versions of your favorite comfort foods. Regular exercise can help decrease stress, as well as meditation, and taking the time to do activities that you enjoy.

9. Fruit. Foe or friend? Once you reintroduce fruit into your diet, you may find that it spikes your blood sugar and/or causes cravings. Make sure to pair it with fat or protein. Enjoy your berries with full-fat whipped cream or walnuts, for example.

10. Indulge in Atkins productsMany are formulated for every Phase, and you have your choice from bars, shakes and snacks to convenient frozen meals. There are even treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth—and this includes peanut butter cups and chocolate candies.

11. Find the culprits. As your progress through the Phases of Atkins and add back foods you have not eaten in a while, your cravings may return. Cut back by 10 grams of Net Carbs a day and eliminate foods you’ve added recently. Reintroduce foods slowly, one by one, to find the culprits.

12. Revisit Phase 1.  Congratulations! You’re losing weight or maintaining your goal weight. And then you get a little overly confident and start adding foods that aren’t acceptable on your Phase—potatoes, alcohol or a cookie, for example. Suddenly your cravings return and the number on the scale starts creeping up. Return to Phase 1 (Induction) for a week or to jumpstart your progress and stabilize your blood sugar levels.

13. Go cold turkey. A 2011 study in the journal Obesity shows that the fewer carbs you consume (especially when you eat fat and protein in their place), the less you will eventually crave those carbs and the more you will be able to control your hunger. This does not mean restricting all carbs; you need your 12 to 15 grams of Net Carbs of veggies every day and eventually we will learn what carbs (and how many grams of Net Carbs) you can continue to consume will losing and eventually maintaining your weight. But if there’s a food that continually causes your cravings to return, science shows it might be worth just eliminating it for good.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eat This, Not That! Tasty low-carb alternatives to high-carb classics

Eat This, Not That! Tasty low-carb alternatives to high-carb classics


Just because you’re following Atkins doesn’t mean you have to say good-bye to pasta, chips, or bread. There are plenty of delicious low-carb alternatives that will satisfy your hunger for these favorites while you still lose weight. Get the recipes below and your waistline will thank you!

Lettuce Wrapped Burger
This delicious, classic American recipe won’t sit like a gut bomb in your stomach or put your into a carb-induced food coma. You get a healthy dose of protein and it’s only 0.8 grams of Net Carbs.
Hamburger on a Bun
Why ruin a hearty burger (which is naturally low in carbs) by placing it on a bun, and racking up a full day’s worth of Net Carbs in one sitting?


Kale Chips 
Kale is a super food, meaning it’s packed with even more nutrients than other foods. These tasty, good-for-you chips weigh in at only 2.7 grams of Net Carbs per serving and features heart-healthy olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. We are also like Rhythm Superfoods kale chips. There are many other good brands of kale chips (and other low-carb salty/crispy snacks) out there. Be sure to read the label carefully and watch out for excess sodium, trans fats, and, of course, Net Carbs. 
Potato chips
You can blow your whole day’s quota of Net Carbs away with a few handfuls of these greasy chips, because who just sticks to one 1-ounce serving?


Muffin in a Minute
These muffins, made with heart-healthy flax, are an Atkins mainstay. At only 2.1 grams of Net Carbs, they work great as a quick breakfast, or really at any time of the day. They bake quickly and they are extremely portable.
Toast for breakfast or bread for sandwiches? Think twice. Just one slice can range from 10 to 12 grams of Net Carbs.


Zucchini Pasta with Almond Pesto 
Swap out your traditional pasta for thin ribbons of spiralized or grated zucchini. At only 4.8 grams of Net Carbs per serving, this recipe is a delicious and filing alternative. You can substitute zucchini for pasta in any dish, or use thicker ribbons for lasagna.
Japanese shiritaki noodles
Shiritaki noodles are made from the Japanese yam, have literally no carbohydrates and are very low in calories. Use them in stir-fries, soups or with any recipe that requires noodles.

Carb-filled Pasta and Sauce
A serving of regular spaghetti may account for up to 40 grams of Net Carbs. Yikes!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Cut Above: Your ultimate guide to steak


A juicy steak hot off the grill is a staple of summer and the perfect low-carb meal. If you’re following Atkins, you can enjoy red meat in every Phase. Read on for more about red meat’s health benefits, how to pick and grill the perfect steak, plus some of our favorite grilling recipes. 

Red meat is rich in vitamins B12, B3 and B6, plus selenium, protein and monounsaturated fat. Grass-fed beef, although pricier, has more omega-3 polyunsaturated fats than grain-fed beef. It’s true that red meat has gotten a bad rap in the past due to its supposed link to an increase in heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but scientists have found that processed meat—not red meat—is associated with heart disease and diabetes. Why is that? Processed meats (such as lunch meats and hot dogs) often contain preservatives like nitrates and nitrites, major sources of nitrosamines that may contribute to insulin resistance and Type-2 diabetes. 

It was also thought that the saturated fats in red meat increase your levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which leads to cardiovascular disease, among other illnesses. While it’s true that saturated fats may increase LDL cholesterol, when your entire diet is taken into consideration, there is no link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. And when you consume saturated fat on a low-carb diet like Atkins, where your body is burning primarily fat for fuel, published research has shown that the level of saturated fat in the blood does not increase. 

Making the Grade

Now that you’re ready to get grilling, here’s how to pick the right cut of red meat. First, look for marbling, which are visible grains of fat that run through the steak and add moisture and flavor. In terms of tenderness, the more fat the cut has, the location of the cut (loin and rib are the most tender because they are the least-used muscles) and the age of the beef all come into consideration. 

Look for a steak that is 1½-inches to 2-inches thick. Thin steaks tend to overcook. You want a steak that’s thick enough to have a nice sear on the outside while being tender and juicy on the inside.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) divides beef into three grades:

•    Prime—This only includes 2% of all meat, and is naturally the most expensive. It is usually sold to restaurants, specialty butchers and high-end grocery stores, and it is harder to find. It has the most marbling and is great for grilling, as well as roasting or broiling. 
•    Choice—This is probably your best overall choice for price, tenderness and marbling.
•    Select—This is still a high-quality cut of red meat, but it is very lean (which means less marbling). It is tender, but has less flavor and juiciness than Prime or Choice. 

Grass-fed beef typically has less marbling and is leaner than grain-fed beef. 

When it comes to grilling, here are some cuts of beef to look for:

Ribeye—This is often considered the most flavorful cut and is very juicy, although it is usually less tender. 

Filet mignon—This is the most tender, but it does not have as much flavor as the ribeye.

Strip steak—This is a favorite of steakhouses. It is tender and flavorful, with good marbling.

Porterhouse/T-bone—This is extremely tender and great for grilling.

Sirloin—This is usually less tender but very flavorful. 

Get Cooking

Steak should be at/close to room temperature when you cook it because when you put it on the grill, you want it to cook evenly. Trim the steak of excess fat, and brush evenly with olive oil. Salt generously with kosher salt and sprinkle with pepper. 

Preheat your grill to high. Place the steaks on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, which is usually about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the steaks over and continue to grill 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare (an internal temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit), 5 to 7 minutes for medium (140 degrees Fahrenheit) or 8 to 10 minutes for medium-well (150 degrees Fahrenheit).

Move the steaks to a cutting board or platter, tent loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes before slicing. This will let the juices distribute throughout the steak. Keep in mind that the steaks will continue to cook while they rest. 

If you choose a leaner or grass-fed cut of meat with less marbling, cook it a lower temperature, which will help ensure it doesn’t overcook and dry out. Remove your steak from the grill 10 degrees before it hits your desired temperature. Use a meat thermometer for most accurate results.

Serve your steak with delicious sides such as grilled asparagus, mushrooms and zucchini or sliced on spinach salad. You can also experiment with different spice rubs and marinades. The options are endless when you’re on Atkins.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What Not to Eat on a Low Carb Diet


That white bread has been sitting in your refrigerator untouched ever since you started your low carb diet.  You’ve been strong and avoided high carb foods, but why keep the temptation around?  National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day on November 15th is the ideal day to get rid of simple carbs!  Here is a list of what not to eat on a low carb diet so you will know what to keep and what to give away:

White Bread

Though this has already been mentioned, make sure to get rid of any white bread in your fridge!  Whether it’s hot dog buns, hamburger buns, or regular sliced bread, they all fall into the category of simple carbs.  Bread doesn’t need to be completely cut out of your diet, though—tryAtkins Cuisine Bread.  Atkins Cuisine Bread is approved for those following Phases 2, 3, or 4 and has 1.8g of net carbs per serving.


Just like white bread, regular pasta is another high carb food that will not fit into a low carb diet very easily.  Once you reach Phase 4, you can enjoy whole wheat pasta or Atkins Cuisine Penne, which has 19g of net carbs.

Sauces with Added Sugar

Tomato sauces often contain a lot of sugar not only because of the tomatoes themselves, but also because of added sugars.  Donate cans of premade pasta sauce that have sugar as a top ingredient and make this Atkins Basic Tomato Sauce as an alternative.  Basic Tomato Sauce has 8.2g of net carbs per serving and is perfect for individuals following Phases 2, 3, or 4.

Cookies, Cake, and Candy

Having these sugar-laden treats around will not make staying on your low carb diet easy.  The added sugar is a simple carb that will be digested quickly, which is the opposite of what you want from your food.  Get rid of any sweet treat unless it happens to be low carb, like these Atkins dessert recipes.

Soft Drinks

Regular soft drinks are chock full of sugar and aren’t a great source of nutrients so getting rid of those cans of cola on National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day is a good idea.  Water is a healthy substitute, but if you want something with a little flavor, add a small amount of lemon juice.

Now that you’ve learned more about what not to eat on a low carb diet, learn more about what you can eat.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Most favorable exercise...

Exercise Comes in Two Flavors

The best exercise programs combine aerobic and anaerobic activity.

Aerobic exercise is any activity that increases your heart rate and causes you to consume more oxygen. Every cell in your body requires a constant supply of oxygen, and if you've been a couch potato for years, many of those cells are being deprived. This is why, once you accustom yourself to a regular routine of aerobic exercise, you will begin to feel better than you did before.

If it's been a long time since you did any vigorous activity, consider getting some professional advice from both your doctor and a certified fitness expert. It’s important that you start slowly and learn how to stretch, warm up and cool down in order to avoid injury. You also may want to try an exercise trampoline. This is a gentle way to increase the stress on your bones and send a signal to the vertebrae to lay down more calcium along the stress-bearing planes.

Exercise such as walking, golf, doubles tennis, horseback riding, Ping-Pong and dancing may only mildly increase the pumping action of your heart, but they are still tremendous improvements for a former non-exerciser. If you fall into that category, walking is the best way to begin. If you are someone who hasn't walked more than two blocks in years, you'll notice an immediate and great change in how feel. Walk five blocks, and then try six. If it's hard on you today, take comfort in the certainty that the stiffness will ease, your breathing will improve and relaxing endorphins will be released into your body. And before you know it, you'll be walking a mile. Moving can and will feel good—it's actually what your body was built to do and what it wants! Remember, Mother Nature did not design us for our sedentary modern lifestyle.

Anaerobic exercise is any type of physical activity that isn’t significantly aerobic. This includes exercise that builds muscle mass, such as weight lifting. It also includes other types of training such as resistance and isometrics. Building muscle mass does not mean becoming one of those bulging bodybuilders. If you keep at it, you will begin to notice a gradual sculpting taking place under your skin—and you’re going to like how it looks. But if vanity doesn’t drive you to take up some weight-bearing exercise, maybe the fear of frailty will. It is this type of exercise that helps stave off the loss of bone density that accompanies aging. This is why resistance training is so important to prevent osteoporosis.

Selected References:

1. Jespersen, J., Hein, H.O., Suadicani, P., et al., "Triglyceride Concentration and Ischemic Heart Disease: An Eight-Year Follow-Up in the Copenhagen Male Study," Circulation, 97(11), 1998, pages 1029-1036.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Importance of exercises

Everyone Can—and Must—Find Time to Exercise

Still not convinced how important exercise is for everyone—including you?

 If so, take this chance to read about   two recently published reports that stress the value of exercise in preventing significant health risks. The first study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, followed 73,000 postmenopausal women for an average of 3.2 years. In this study, JoAnn E. Manson, M.D, Dr.P.H., of the division of preventive medicine at Harvard University, and colleagues found that women who either walked briskly or exercised vigorously at least two and a half hours per week had a 30 percent lower risk of heart-related problems such as heart attack, stroke, the need for heart bypass surgery, heart failure or death than the least active women.1

The second study, which followed a group of young girls through adolescence to their later teenage years, found that the level of physical activity declined precipitously over time, so that by the age of 18 or 19, up to 56 percent of the girls reported no regular physical activity. Not surprisingly, a significant number of girls were overweight.2 Together, the message from these studies is pretty powerful: Exercise is important—and as a nation, we’re not getting it done.

How Much Is Enough?

The answer to this question is a bit less well defined. In its most recent report, the National Academy of Sciences recommends one hour a day. Sounds like a lot for most people busy with jobs, families and commutes. So let’s get back to the first study: How about two and a half hours each week to lower your risk of heart-related problems. If you don't think you can do that, try harder to figure out how you can —or at least be a bit more creative. To help you out, here are 10 tricks to work in workouts, which can help you  manage your time.

1. Ride, run or walk to work. If you have a shower at work, this is a great way to start the day and make the most of your time.

2. Work out at lunchtime. A midday exercise will help break up the day, boost energy ,and will allow you  to make the most of your afternoon.

3. Exercise in front of the television. This way you are less likely to put off a workout so that you can watch your favorite show. Watching the tube can become a reason to work out, rather than a deterrent.

4. Exercise with friends or coworkers. If you use your exercise time as a way to socialize, you can accomplish two goals at once. Group workouts are also a great way to meet new people with a shared interest, so check out local running clubs, spinning classes or aerobic studios for times that fit your schedule.

5. Get up early. Morning is your friend. With practice, predawn workouts can become found hours.

6. Exercise at home. It’s tough to be away from the house and family for long periods of time. Running on a treadmill in the basement is a great way to fit in a run and at the same time be part of the household. Warning: Your dog may get jealous if you start substituting treadmill workouts for an outdoor run with them. 

7. Make a plan. Following a schedule is a powerful tool in the battle to stay on target. Look at the week in advance and pick your time slots carefully. Remember that it is always safer to start the day with your workout than to plan on getting to it later: Distractions are less likely to come up unexpectedly first thing in the morning than later in the day.

8. Make a date. If you plan to exercise in the morning, try the buddy system. There are few things more powerful than guilt to help motivate you to get out of bed in the early hours. If you commit to meeting someone for an early workout, chances are, you will show up—at least after the first time you sleep in and your buddy plays up the guilt factor.

9. Exercise before you go home. If there is a way to work out before getting stuck in the evening commute, you can avoid wasting time in traffic along with the pitfalls of procrastination.

10. Remember that time with family and friends is priceless; the benefits of exercise do not outweigh the importance of experiencing what is most valuable in life.

When it comes down to making exercise fit into your life, use these tricks to maximize your time with the people that matter most. It is all about balance, being your best while at the same time realizing for whom you are doing this. Get in shape so that you can enjoy your family and friends, so you can live longer and healthier and share more time with them, not less.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Could we have been wrong about exercise and weight loss?

Could we have been wrong about exercise and weight loss?

In a thought provoking article in this month’s New York Magazine, Gary Taubes reviews the evidence for exercise and weight loss and the relationship turns out to be far more complex than most of us thought.

For years, conventional wisdom held that you lose weight by exercising (and of course by eating less). These two cornerstones of dietary strategy were rarely questioned, and it wasn’t really until Dr. Atkins introduced the hormone connection to weight that anyone seriously considered that the relationship could be a bit more complicated than just calories in, calories out. Taubes reviews the evidence that exercise “causes” weight loss and finds it, to put it mildly, wanting.  Sure, lean people exercise more than those who are not lean, but, as he pointedly asks, “does that mean that working out will make a fat person lean?” The science, says Taubes, suggests that there’s more to it.

Let’s be clear. No one- including Taubes- suggests that exercise isn’t a good thing to do. It has proven benefits on the cardiovascular system. It has proven benefits on the brain. (In fact, aerobic exercise actually can cause new brain mass to grow!). But as many people know all to well, simply going to the gym for 20-30 minutes (or more) three times a week (or more) won’t always cut it when it comes to fat loss. The results have been sorely disappointing for more than a few people, probably causing them to give up and go back to their sedentary ways.

Taubes suggests a couple of other mechanisms that may illuminate the exercise-weight loss relationship. One is the fact that exercise increases the appetite, causing many people to eat a lot more after working out, thus blunting the calorie burning effects of the exercise. A second is the fact that some people may be genetically programmed to “store” and others to “burn”- perhaps Lance Armstrong sits on his bike because his body is programmed to find ways to burn off excess energy, and perhaps Mr. Jones sits on his couch after dinner because his body is programmed to store that Big Mac. And third- and most convincing- is the activation during exercise of an enzyme known as LPL (lipoprotein lipase) which is responsible for pulling calories into muscle cells during a workout. While this works great when we’re exercising, afterwards, LPL just keeps on doing it’s job but shifts to importing calories into the fat cells, working to return to them any fat they may have lost by exercising.

But the central point Taubes makes is that the biggest barrier to weight loss (whether fueled by exercise or diet) is one that Atkins Advantage readers have been hearing about for several decades: oversecretion of the fat-storing (and LPL raising!)  hormone insulin. “Because insulin determines fat accumulation, it’s quite possible that we get fat not because we eat too much or exercise too little but because we secrete too much insulin or because our insulin levels remain elevated far longer than might be ideal” Taubes concludes.

The take home point isn’t that we shouldn’t bother to exercise. Of course we should. But if we are turning to exercise primarily as a way to lose body fat, we’ll get much better results if we follow the Atkins Advantage program of eating- controlled carbohydrate consumption, low sugar, no refined carbohydrates foods, no trans-fats, more protein and more fiber. That way of eating is least likely to keep insulin levels raised, and much less likely to sabotage our exercise efforts.

It’s also the best way to stay healthy!

Monday, November 10, 2014


Confused About Carb Loading?

How you can maximize your energy, make your exercise time more effective and reach your goals most efficiently.

Have you ever eaten a bagel or muffin for breakfast, and then felt either so ravenously hungry or lethargic by late-morning that you wolfed down a sugar-filled energy bar? Now ask yourself why anyone would want to go to the gym in that condition—he’d probably spend the whole workout feeling he couldn’t get out of first gear. The rapid rise in blood sugar that comes from this type of high-carb load produces a very different outcome than most anticipate. It signals the body to release a big spurt of insulin, which actually lowers blood sugar and energy levels—a recipe for a mid-workout crash.

The original thinking behind carbohydrate loading was that it effectively restocked blood-sugar stores (glycogen) in the days before a major competitive event to provide long-lasting energy. But as you can see, carb loading at the wrong time (right before exercise) produces just the opposite outcome, leaving the body with less, rather than more, energy. Consistent energy is the goal, and avoiding sugar spikes and troughs is the answer!

In one study, 12 normal-weight men switched from their regular diet (about 48 percent carbohydrate) to a higher protein, low-carb diet (eight percent carbohydrate) for six weeks. Another eight men stayed on the regular diet for comparison. The men were encouraged to eat plenty of calories in order to maintain their weight. At the end of the six weeks, the men who had consumed higher protein and restricted carbs had significantly decreased their body fat by an average of 7.5 pounds and significantly increased lean body mass by an average of 2.4 pounds¹.

Why Protein Is Key

What would have happened if those men had also stepped up their exercise regimen during that time? They likely would have seen an even greater increase in muscle-to-fat ratio, because exercise builds muscle tissue when there is adequate protein in the diet.
Proteins, in fact, are the building blocks for muscle tissue. During exercise, the muscles are stressed—essentially causing dozens of tiny tears in the tissue. Proteins subsequently repair and rebuild this tissue, which is how your muscles maintain themselves and grow stronger. If you’re an active person, this occurs underneath your skin every day.

When Carbs and Exercise Go Together

There are some times when increased carb consumption does make sense and can enhance exercise performance.
1. During a workout of an hour or more. In contrast to research suggesting that consuming a carbohydrate snack one to two hours prior to exercise can result in lowered blood sugar levels, some carbohydrate intake can be beneficial and result in greater exercise tolerance. For those performing aerobic exercise lasting 60 minutes or more, consumption of a carbohydrate and electrolyte-replacement drink during exercise can enhance performance².
2. During preparation for longer-duration exercise events such as 20-mile runs or races. One study demonstrated that individuals who normally control their carbs and then consumed a high-carbohydrate diet in the days before an event increased glycogen storage and had much higher rates of fat oxidation than individuals who regularly consume a high-carb diet³.
3. When recovering post-workout. This recovery period is an important time to fit in at least a portion of your daily carb consumption to maximize muscle recovery and to aid the process of preparing for your next exercise session (carbs consumed immediately after exercise begin to replenish glycogen stores).

Saturday, November 8, 2014


A Personal Trainer Speaks: Moving from High-Carb to High-Protein

Welcome ! From the perspective of a personal trainer, this article explores the benefits of protein for those interested in optimal benefits from their exercise routine. This article will explore:
The results of various health studies on the protein requirements of active people 

How consuming enough protein benefits active people 

The components of an optimal sports nutrition plan
We also will discuss how you can develop your own sensible eating plan to provide all the energy and support you need for your active lifestyle.

What You Will Learn 

By the time you finish this article, you will have a better understanding of:

The benefits of protein and its role in recovery, strength, body composition and immune system response to illness
The role of amino acids in muscle protein synthesis and body composition
How exercise causes a dramatic increase in an individual's protein requirements
The difference in quality of various proteins
How to develop a sensible eating plan that provides all the energy and support you need for your active lifestyle
How This Will Work 

The Live Discussion Groups and Message Boards are a key aspect of your learning experience. The more you participate on the Message Boards--sharing questions, concerns, ideas and your own personal experiences--the more both you and our online community will benefit.
Now let's get started!

Protein is the building material for your body. It's essential for everyone due to its role in muscle growth and maintenance, but it's especially important for active people because protein repairs muscle damage due to training.

Understanding Amino Acids and "Complete Proteins" 

Protein consists of chains of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids required for tissue growth, and the body can make 11 of these. These are the non-essential amino acids. That leaves nine amino acids that cannot be produced by the body--they are called the essential amino acids, and they must come from food. A complete protein is one that has a balance of all 20 amino acids. The complete proteins are the ones that come from eggs, milk, poultry, fish and meat.

Protein is essential in the building of muscle tissue and in rebuilding muscle tissue that has been damaged (from training, exercise or physical exertion). In addition, protein is necessary for many other functions, including making red blood cells, hormone production, healthy immune system function, and healthy skin, hair, connective tissues and nails. Proteins are the basis for the major structural components of human tissue.

Studies have shown that active people and, of course, athletes, do require more protein than sedentary individuals. When you exercise, protein stores are broken down and used for fuel. This process is called gluconeogenesis. It has been shown that when athletes consume a low-protein diet, there is decreased whole body protein synthesis, which indicates a breakdown of muscle tissue--very counterproductive for the active person.

Take a Look at the Research 

More and more studies are confirming the benefits of higher protein. Let's take a look at one study that compares the effect of a high-protein food intake with a "normal" protein intake.

Fourteen men were placed on a standardized eating plan and exercise regimen for six days. Then, six of the men were placed in a "high-protein" group, lowering carbohydrate content from 58 percent to 33 percent, so that they consumed 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight. The other eight men were placed in a "normal-protein" group; they consumed 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. All the subjects exercised for 90 minutes each day on a stationary bicycle. On days when their blood was tested, subjects engaged in two 90-minute bike workouts.

The blood tests revealed that the high-protein, lower-carbohydrate group used more protein for energy during exercise. Also, subjects in the high-protein group used more fat for energy during exercise as well as during recovery and at rest, compared with the lower-protein group. In addition to burning fat for energy, subjects on the high-protein, lower-carbohydrate program also were in positive nitrogen balance, which prevents the body from breaking down body tissue, such as muscle.

The findings of this study clearly support the high-protein component of the Atkins Advantage nutrition principles. By consuming higher-protein and lower-sugar foods while exercising 90 minutes per day, subjects were able to stay in positive nitrogen balance. These subjects also used more fat for energy during exercise, during recovery and at rest than the lower-protein group.
You can read about this study and others in the Research Library.

Next Up 

The importance of a healthy nitrogen balance. 

In this section, you'll learn about the importance of two kinds of balance related to protein: maintaining a healthy nitrogen balance, and balancing your protein intake for optimal energy and stamina.

The Importance of Nitrogen Balance 

If you're a physically active person concerned about healthy nutrition, you need to understand the role of nitrogen balance and protein. The presence of nitrogen in protein differentiates protein from fats and carbohydrates. Nitrogen intake and output can be measured, as you learned when we discussed the research results earlier. This measurement indicates whether new muscle is being built or if existing muscle is being broken down.

A positive nitrogen balance occurs if the intake of nitrogen is greater than the output. This indicates that new muscle is being built. 

A negative nitrogen balance indicates that more nitrogen is being excreted than is being consumed. This indicates that existing muscle is being broken down. 

It's important to consume protein frequently throughout the day to maintain positive nitrogen balance. When protein, or nitrogen, is low, your muscles lose mass and begin to atrophy. The best way to maintain a positive nitrogen balance is by eating protein with every meal and supplementing with protein between meals.

Breaking down protein takes more water, so be sure to consume extra water when eating a higher-protein diet to avoid getting dehydrated.

Maintaining Balance 

Since protein cannot be stored in the body, it must be consumed frequently: every three to four waking hours. This can take a little planning, but you'll find the payoffs enormous. To keep your protein intake balanced and even, follow these tips:

Eat protein with every meal 

Use protein shakes or nutrition bars after hard workouts as supplemental protein
Keep protein shakes and nutrition bars at work and in your car
The Protein in Atkins Advantage® Nutrition Bars and Shakes 

In line with the Atkins goal of providing great-tasting products that provide you with the optimal mix of essential nutrients, we use a mix of soy, whey and dairy protein. This creates an optimal blend with a broad range of amino acids that provides you with the essential amino acids you need to build muscle.

More tips for balancing your proteins

Why the Recommended Daily Allowance of protein may not be enough for active individuals on a rigorous exercise routine. 

As people become more active, the question often arises: "How much protein do I need?" Look at the Nutrition Facts label on any food product and you'll find grams of protein listed, along with a percentage indicating how much of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein the product supplies. The RDA is a government guideline established by the National Research Council; it is based on body weight and is set at 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.

Here's a very important fact to note: The RDAs were set for the "average" sedentary person to avoid nutritional deficiency, not for athletes or individuals who follow an active lifestyle.

To find out your recommended individual protein requirement according to this guideline, simply perform the following calculation:

Body weight (in pounds) X 0.36 = recommended protein intake 

What does this mean for you as an athlete, exercise enthusiast or someone interested in becoming more physically active? In a nutshell: A higher-protein, smarter-carbohydrate eating plan is much better for decreasing body fat, increasing muscle mass and helping you achieve your physical goals. There are dozens of published studies on protein needs and protein metabolism in bodybuilders and other hard training athletes. These studies show numerous benefits of increasing protein intake above the RDA.

Increasing protein intake above the RDA will help reduce body fat by increasing lean muscle mass. This will help bodybuilders and competitive athletes, as well as anyone leading an active lifestyle, to achieve their goals.

When you lose muscle, your metabolism slows down--so your goal should always be to decrease body fat and increase (or maintain) lean mass if you are trying to lose weight. If you are not trying to lose weight, then your goal should be to increase or maintain lean mass for maximum health benefits.
The Importance of Small, Frequent Meals 

It takes energy to digest and use the food you eat. Eating small, frequent meals instead of two or three large meals a day can increase your metabolism by around 10 percent. Frequent protein intake is a good idea--the body will more efficiently use protein because the body taps into the blood for amino acids on an as-needed basis.

Protein has a thermic effect--which means it requires more energy to digest. Eating smaller meals more often, instead of the standard "three squares a day," helps you get maximum benefit from your protein.
So far in this lesson, we've focused on your body's need for protein: what you need, how your body metabolizes it and how you can get maximum energy benefits of protein by exceeding the RDA for protein and eating smaller, more frequent meals. Now let's take a look at burning fat more efficiently.

When you eat lots of sugar and high-glycemic-impact foods, the sugar you don't use to meet your energy requirements will be stored as fat. To meet the body's protein requirements, it will take protein from muscle tissue and burn it. This is the worst possible scenario for any active person! When you lose muscle, your metabolism decreases and fat will be stored more rapidly. Consuming foods high in sugars and high-glycemic-impact carbohydrates creates a vicious cycle. You work out harder to compensate for the fat increase, and that causes even more muscle to be burned and more fat to be stored.

Whether you are exercising at the gym or competing in a race, you want to be able to burn fat efficiently. A higher-protein, lower-sugar eating plan allows your body to go into fat-burning mode rather than sugar-burning, fat-storing mode. Your goal should be to fire up your fat-burning engine; in other words, to shift your metabolism from one that burns fat preferentially over sugar. In order to do this, you should embrace a higher-protein, lower-sugar eating plan that also includes healthy fats, such as olive, canola and grapeseed oil. Following the Atkins Advantage nutrition principles of high protein, high fiber and low sugar will prime your body to use fat for energy. Once the metabolic shift has been made, your body will prefer utilizing fat stores for energy.

Making the Shift 

It can take two to eight weeks on average to make the full metabolic shift to fat burning.

Research studies are useful to know about, but sometimes it's more inspiring to read about a real person's journey to good health.

Greg's Story 

Two years ago, Greg was a 39-year-old truck driver who wanted to get in better shape. He was not physically active outside of work, and he weighed just over 300 pounds. He had a family and was concerned about his long-term health. Greg was eating lots of sugar and fast food meals on the road. 

After doing a lot of research on nutrition and weight loss he opted to combine a high-protein, high-fiber and low-sugar eating plan with weight training and cardio workouts. He soon learned the value of protein in his diet as the fat began to melt off and his muscles got stronger. Today he weighs in at 179 pounds with 7 percent body fat and is considering getting ready to compete in a bodybuilding show.
Judy's Routine 

Here's a first-person narrative from the trainer and sports nutritionist who wrote this course:

I have found that the best way for me to get into fat-burning mode is to do a cardio workout first thing in the morning before eating. I usually feel that I am burning more fat all day after that. I always make sure to consume easily digestible protein immediately after this workout. Most experts agree that the best way to burn fat by doing cardiovascular training is to do it early upon arising in an unfed state. If you're doing cardiovascular training in conjunction with weight training, then it's better to do the cardio after the weight training. That way, most glycogen has already been used during the resistance training; therefore, more fat will contribute to the cardiovascular session. In this case, consuming a light meal beforehand, such as an Atkins Advantage® nutrition bar or shake, is a good idea. 

Now I normally start my day at 6 a.m. with my morning cardio workout. Then I train clients for one or two hours. After that I go to my full-time job, where I work from seven to nine hours per day. Then I usually run or do my weight training after work. Following the high-protein, low-sugar eating plan gives me all the energy I need to maintain my active lifestyle. It will do the same for you! 

Moving On 

This article has covered some important basics about protein based on scientific research as well as personal experience. Next we will delve deeper into some of the topics that have been introduced in this lesson. You'll learn more about the importance of amino acids and how they can lead to optimal health and energy.

Before moving on, be sure to come to the Live Discussion Boards to meet your instructors and the online community, as well as ask any questions you may have.

The first section of this article gave you an overview of research on protein intake versus performance and recovery. You learned how to turn on your fat-burning engine for a more stable energy supply and better endurance. You also studied the problems caused by eating excessive sugar and high-glycemic carbohydrates, which leads to fatigue rather than increased energy. 

In this next section, you'll learn about the role of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) during periods of exercise and resistance training. You will explore the importance of amino acids, the building blocks of protein that are key components in promoting muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth, for active people. You also will learn about glutamine and other amino acids that provide support to the immune system. By the end of the article, you will have a better understanding of how protein supports muscle strength and increased muscle mass, and improves body composition.

Why BCAAs Are Important 

Branch chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are critical for athletes and active people who want to enhance immune function. They are considered essential amino acids because human beings cannot survive unless these amino acids are present in the diet. BCAAs help the body repair itself after intense resistance training, as well as prevent the breakdown of lean muscle tissue. BCAAs are especially important for active individuals since they are metabolized directly into muscle tissue and are the first ones used during periods of exercise and resistance training.

BCAAs include the following amino acids:

Leucine builds muscle tissue and promotes the healing of wounded bone tissue and skin.
Valine promotes muscle recovery after physical exercise. It plays a role in wound healing and the growth of new tissue. 

Isoleucine is essential to help maintain nitrogen balance, which we discussed in Lesson 1. Also, isoleucine is necessary in the formation of red blood cells. 

Important Facts about BCAAs 

Here are some good reasons to eat foods that contain BCAAs:

BCAAs make up 35 to 40 percent of the essential amino acids in body protein and 14 percent of the total amino acids in skeletal muscle. 

The use of supplemental BCAAs has been researched for a variety of purposes, particularly in the treatment of liver failure and other catabolic disease states (i.e., diseases in which metabolic function breaks down), and also as a means to improve exercise performance. 

There is a significant decrease in plasma leucine levels after aerobic, anaerobic and strength exercise. This is due to increased BCAA metabolism in muscle tissue. Getting sufficient leucine or BCAAs in both the short and long term prevents this exercise-induced decline in plasma BCAAs and increases concentration of BCAAs in muscle. 

It is critical that BCAAs are accessible to the body during and after strenuous physical activity in order to reduce or eliminate the breakdown of muscle tissue for protein. 

Increased availability of BCAAs also will increase production of other amino acids, such as glutamine. Studies have indicated that increased glutamine can decrease the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in endurance athletes. (You'll learn more about glutamine later in this lesson.)
Where to Find BCAAs
Clearly, BCAAs offer several benefits to the active person. How can you make sure you're consuming adequate amounts?

Dairy products and red meat contain the greatest amounts of BCAAs, although they are present in all protein-containing foods.
Whey protein and egg protein supplements are other sources of BCAAs.

You also can increase BCAAs by taking supplements, which typically is a strategy that bodybuilders and endurance athletes use. You will get enough BCAAs when you include adequate amounts of protein in your diet.

Next Up 

Just as protein is the building material for muscle, amino acids are the building blocks for protein. 

You learned about essential and nonessential amino acids, but now it's time to explore them in more detail and examine their role in exercise and nutrition. Amino acids often are referred to as the building blocks of the body. In other words, they are responsible for building cells and repairing tissue. Finally, amino acids are helpful in helping you get through intense physical workouts.

The Amino Acids Your Body Needs 

For the record, let's list the various amino acids.

The Essential Amino Acids 

These are the 10 amino acids you must include in your diet because your body can't make them on its own:



The Non-Essential Amino Acids 

Your body can manufacture these 10 amino acids under normal conditions, so you don't have to ingest each of these:

Aspartic acid
Glutamic acid

Another Category: Conditionally Essential Amino Acids 

If your system is out of balance, these seven amino acids become essential and you must get them from food or supplements:


Physical exercise affects protein turnover and net gains in body protein. The most critical time to ensure that you have plentiful amino acids in your system is the period immediately following a workout. Consuming dietary protein and amino acids immediately after training and for the next 36 hours will help your body maximize protein synthesis and minimize protein breakdown.

Next Up 

The amino acid glutamine supports so much--let's look at it in greater detail. 

The most abundant amino acid in the body is L-glutamine, or glutamine. It is extremely important for your digestive system. Glutamine helps the intestinal lining from deteriorating, and it's also a primary source of fuel for the immune system. Without an adequate supply of glutamine, your immune system cells cannot defend your body against infection and disease. Glutamine keeps the immune system working at maximum capacity and stimulates the production of antioxidants.

A digestive tract that is not healthy can cause nutrient deficiencies and decrease the body's ability to function efficiently. Numerous studies show that glutamine is needed to keep the digestive tract healthy.
Here are some more good reasons why you need to get enough of this important amino acid. Glutamine:
Acts as a nutrient for the lining of the digestive tract 

Is required for the synthesis of glutathione, a major liver antioxidant

Plays an important role in cell proliferation, growth, wound healing and tissue repair
Is required for brain function; it improves memory and cognitive skills
Helps control sugar and alcohol cravings 

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (building block of protein) in the bloodstream. It is considered a "conditionally essential amino acid" because it can be manufactured in the body, but under extreme physical stress the demand for glutamine exceeds the body's ability to synthesize it. Most glutamine in the body is stored in muscles, followed by the lungs, where much of the body's supply glutamine is manufactured.

The Role of Ammonia and Glutathione 

Glutamine is also important for removing excess ammonia, which is a common waste product in the body. In the process of picking up ammonia, glutamine donates it when needed to make other amino acids, as well as sugar and the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that is responsible for preventing the breakdown of cells due to stress. Glutathione levels decrease with age, and low levels of glutathione are found in people suffering from immunodeficiency diseases. Maintaining adequate glutamine levels in your body can help increase glutathione levels.

Causes and Effects of Lowered Glutamine Levels 

When the body is stressed--whether from injuries, infections, burns, trauma or surgical procedures--steroid hormones, such as cortisol, are released into the bloodstream. Elevated cortisol levels can deplete glutamine stores in the body. Since glutamine plays a key role in the immune system, a deficiency in this nutrient can slow the healing process significantly. Studies have shown that glutamine enhances the immune system and reduces infections--particularly infections associated with surgery. Glutamine also may aid in the recovery of severe wounds or trauma.

Athletes who train excessively also may deplete their glutamine stores. This is because they are overusing their skeletal muscles, where much of the glutamine in the body is stored. Anyone who is performing strenuous physical exercise needs to ensure they are getting enough glutamine.

Sources of Glutamine 

Fortunately, glutamine is found in all of these foods:

Beef, pork and poultry
Milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
Raw spinach, parsley and cabbage 

Next Up 

Protein supports your muscle strength and improves your body composition. 

Our discussion of BCAAs and various amino acids has highlighted the concerns of protein deficiencies. While a deficiency probably will lead to a loss in muscle mass and/or a loss in athletic performance, eating just enough protein to prevent a deficiency may not exactly lead to the best possible performance. A number of well-controlled research studies have been done to determine the exact amount of protein needed in athletes to achieve nitrogen balance.

As you learned in the previous section, nitrogen balance occurs when the amount of protein that goes into the body is equal to the amount that leaves the body. What this means is that high-protein diets aren't necessarily excess-protein diets. In fact, according to several recent studies, high-protein diets in athletes are just enough to get these individuals to nitrogen balance. So by definition, it cannot be an excess of protein.

Protein Quality 

The quantity of protein you consume matters, as we've discussed throughout the last two lessons. But the quality of protein is essential as well.

How Protein Quality Is Measured 

Protein quality is measured in many different ways. Two of the most common are biological value (BV) and the protein digestibility corrected amino acids score (PDCAAS).

The BV score gives us an indication of how much of the protein you eat remains in your body; the rest is excreted via sweat or your digestive processes. Since the BV score is measured relative to a high-quality "test protein" (usually egg protein), the test protein is given a BV of 100. A BV score of 70 percent or greater usually is considered good quality protein.

The PDCAAS measures the individual amino acids in the protein. A deficiency in only one amino acid may cause severe negative consequences, as we have discussed. This measure of protein quality examines the essential amino acid content of the protein in question and compares it to the human requirement for essential amino acids.

How Various Protein Sources Stack Up 

Wheat protein is known to be a poor-quality protein due to the fact that its limiting essential amino acid is lysine. Since the lysine content of wheat protein is only 8mg/1g protein, while the human requirement for lysine is 19mg/1g protein, this protein source only provides 42 percent (8 divided by 19) of the necessary lysine for growth and repair.

Animal products score better on both the BV and PCDAAS scales. This is why animal proteins typically are the proteins of choice for athletes. Other protein sources, such as beans, grains and peanuts, can be eaten, but they are usually insufficient to provide the body with the amino acids necessary for growth.
Due to the high-quality protein in animal sources, various researchers have examined the question of whether animal protein is better for getting stronger, gaining mass and losing fat than vegetarian protein. From these studies, it has been concluded that an omnivorous diet containing protein from several sources, including various meats, eggs and dairy, is superior to a vegetarian diet containing no meat and only a small amount of dairy and eggs.

For athletes interested in increasing lean body mass while minimizing fat mass, higher protein intake above "need"--the amount you need to avoid protein deficiency--may be extremely beneficial. This additional intake can increase metabolism relative to other nutrients, prevent insulin-related fat gain, optimize anabolic hormone levels and improve cardiovascular risk profiles.

Moving On 

We've discussed how branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are used during periods of exercise and resistance training. You learned about the importance of amino acids--the building blocks of protein--for active people and how they play key roles in promoting muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. You also looked at glutamine and other amino acids that provide support to the immune system. Then you learned how protein supports muscle strength and increased muscle mass and improves body composition.

In the next section, you will learn about the importance of consistency in your eating plan. You will investigate various strategies for increasing protein intake throughout the day. Finally, you will explore your options for supporting your active lifestyle with high-protein nutrition shakes and bars.

Meanwhile be sure to join your instructors and the online community on the Live Discussion Boards to share questions, answers, tips and experiences.
In order to meet your fitness goals--whether they involve strength, endurance, body composition or just staying healthy while becoming more active--you will need to develop a consistent eating plan as well as a consistent training plan.

Lessons 1 and 2 gave you an overview of the many benefits that consuming adequate protein can offer you. You must be consistent with your protein intake in order to reap the benefits of protein that we have discussed earlier in this course. And as you've learned in the previous two lessons, there are many advantages to eating smaller meals more often. Doing so delivers protein in small amounts your body needs and helps your blood sugar levels stay even as well.

When Do I Need to Eat Protein? 

This is a question that personal trainers hear a lot. Realistically, your schedule, health and fitness goals, nutritional needs and lifestyle may affect how often you eat, but in general these are the protein consumption times that active people should strive for:

First Thing in the Morning 

When waking up in the morning, your body has just been through a fast. During this overnight fast, the body has been using up its stored energy by slowly sending nutrients out from the liver, fat cells and muscle cells. The body does this in order to keep blood sugar constant and to fuel the brain and other tissues during sleep. In the morning, the best thing you can do for your body is to consume a relatively quick-digesting protein source. One good way to accomplish this is to drink an Atkins Advantage® nutrition shake immediately upon waking.

Immediately After Exercise 

Your muscles need protein after a workout in order to rebuild and repair so you can come back even stronger for your next workout! This is a great time to consume a quick-digesting protein.

With Every Meal During the Day 

When you start enjoying the benefits of a higher-protein way of eating, it goes without saying that each meal should include protein, especially breakfast.

Immediately Before Bed 

Before you lie down and enter dreamland, you should consider taking in a final meal in anticipation of the six- to eight-hour fast ahead. You want to prevent the body from using all of its stored energy during the night. This would be a great time for a slow-absorbing protein, since the slow proteins release their nutrients over several hours. Before going to sleep a milk protein isolate/concentrate blend with whey and casein is appropriate. An Atkins Advantage® nutrition shake, with its blend of four proteins, would do the job nicely.

Next Up 

We'll give you some ideas on how to consume protein throughout the day.

If you have a job or lifestyle that requires you to live on the go, always plan ahead so you'll never be forced to consume foods that aren't in your eating plan.

In order to reach your goal of increasing your protein intake at every meal, you should rely on a variety of protein sources: fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy, as well as protein supplements in the form of ready-to-drink shakes or nutrition bars that are high in protein and low in sugar. (This is, of course, in addition to low-glycemic vegetables and fruits and lots of water.)

Even if your schedule is very hectic, try to have at least two whole-food meals per day. They should include animal-source protein, natural fats and lots of high-fiber vegetables.

Using Nutrition Bars and Shakes 

Other questions that personal trainers often hear are: "What about these nutrition bars and other products? How do I know which ones to use and how to use them?" These tips will help you make smart choices:

As a rule, meal replacements are best utilized as an adjunct to an optimal nutrition plan. They should not be a substitute for whole, natural, unprocessed foods. Combining nutrition bars or shakes with natural foods is the best way to satisfy all of your nutritional requirements. 

Always read labels carefully--it's amazing how many products geared toward active people are low on protein and fiber and full of sugars. Always study the Nutrition Facts label as well as the list of ingredients, and take your time choosing your products. 

When traveling or working long hours, have some Atkins Advantage® nutrition shakes and bars available. Then you can supplement your other meals with these convenient on-the-go options. By using these convenient, portable nutrition options you will never have to worry about getting enough nutrients or protein to fuel your active lifestyle and help you recover from your training. 

How Can I Be Sure to Get Enough Protein? 

Even though you know that it's important to eat regularly, you may simply not be that hungry first thing in the morning. If so, an Atkins Advantage® nutrition bar or shake or an Advantage Morning Oatmeal Raisin bar is a great way to get the protein and other nutrients you need.

What's the Best Kind of Protein? 

The current process of rating protein is called the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAA). This test rates the protein's amino-acid profile against the acid test; it assesses what's needed for the growing requirements of preschool-age children. Whey, eggs and casein (milk protein) all have a nearly perfect PDCAA score of 1.0. These are also ingredients that you will find in Atkins Advantage products, as you'll learn in the next section.

Following these five guidelines will enhance your health and energy levels, whether you're cooking at home or dining out:

Eat foods high in protein. Protein boosts your metabolism and provides energy for your body to build and repair muscles, bones and other tissue. 

Choose carbohydrates that maximize your intake of fiber and nutrient content, and minimize the impact on your blood sugar level. 

Select foods to maximize your intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Dark, leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, are all good choices. Remember that in general, the less a vegetable has been cooked or processed, the more it retains its health-promoting characteristics. 

Avoid excess sugars, and emphasize high-fiber fruits and vegetables that have a low-glycemic impact.
Avoid trans fats, which are also called hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. 

Discovering Your Optimal Nutritional Blend 

As we have dicussed, protein provides a powerhouse of energy for the body, building and repairing muscles, bones and other tissue. Protein boosts your metabolism, as well. To make sure you get the protein you need to support your health and fitness goals, look for products using a mix of soy, whey, and dairy protein (caseinates) that provides you with all the essential amino acids.

What Kinds of Ingredients Will I Find in Atkins Advantage® Nutrition Bars and Shakes? 

Atkins Advantage nutrition bars and shakes use a blend of proteins from four sources:

Whey protein isolate
Soy protein isolate
Sodium caseinate
Calcium caseinate 

Whey protein isolate is considered the highest-quality protein after casein in terms of the body's ability to use it. It has been shown in studies to possess immune-boosting capabilities because it increases cellular levels of what is arguably the body's most important antioxidant, glutathione. Soy protein isolate has been shown to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, increase HDL ("good") cholesterol and actually inhibit the progression of atherosclerosis.

Milk protein (caseinate) is not only the easiest for the body to use; it also improves mouth feel and taste. Since each type of protein has a slightly different amino-acid profile, the combination of these all-star protein sources ensures optimal amino-acid content overall.

This course has concentrated mostly on protein, but here are four more good reasons to look into Atkins Advantage products:

Fiber: Fiber will not raise your blood sugar level significantly. Fiber is satiating--it makes you feel full longer and helps cut cravings. Better yet, fiber has been proven to boost your immune system, as well as lower cholesterol. Still, most people do not get even half the amount they need on a daily basis. Atkins Advantage nutrition bars contain lots of healthy fiber. For example, the Atkins Advantage® Caramel Fudge Brownie Bar has 9 grams of fiber. 

Vitamins and Minerals: Making sure you get enough vitamins and minerals is one of the best things you can do for your health and energy levels. Atkins Advantage products are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins for energy and calcium for strong bones. 

Low Sugar: This means you won't experience the dreaded "sugar spike and crash" that can come from high sugar-based products. 

No Trans Fats: Trans fats have no place in any healthy lifestyle, so you can rest assured that all Atkins Advantage products are free of manufactured trans fats. 

Goodbye and Good Health 

In this article you learned the benefits of protein and its role in recovery, strength, body composition and immune system response to stress. Then you looked at the role of amino acids in muscle protein synthesis and body composition. We showed you how exercise causes a dramatic increase in an individual's protein requirement. Finally, you learned strategies for developing a sensible eating plan to provide all the energy and support you need for your active lifestyle.

Before you go, please drop by the Live Discussion Boards and Message Boards to check in with your instructors and fellow online community with any remaining questions and comments.

Thanks for taking the time, and we wish you the best of success in meeting your health and fitness goals!