Monday, February 24, 2014

Breaking Your Sugar Addiction

Sugar can be addictive and they are an ingredient included in many beverages and foods.  Sugar even affects the same "feel-good" brain hormones as street drugs. According to a review in the July 2013 issue of "Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care." Researchers state that the sugar/sweet reward to the brain may be even stronger than that of cocaine.

When you overload on sugary foods, it may alter the parts of the brain that control how much you eat. In lab studies, rats that binged on sugar had brain changes like those of getting off drugs. In humans, just seeing pictures of milkshakes triggered brain effects like those seen in drug addicts. It was strongest in women whose answers showed they were more hooked on eating.

Sugary beverages and foods consume soda and vending machines.  Candies and chocolates are a common snack to have in the desk drawer at work.  The morning cup of coffee and donut start the day instead of healthier options.  Craving complex carbohydrates such as bagels, chips, and French fries the body breaks down into simple sugars. Eaten without better foods, starches can make blood sugar surge and crash like sugar. White rice, white flour, and potatoes do this. Highly refined starches like white bread, pretzels, crackers, and pasta are worst.

Sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products. However, the AHA indicates that the sugar added to your food is responsible for the increase in obesity. The average 12-ounce soda has 130 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar. According to Harvard Medical School.

Sugar plays a role in physical activity.  Fructose syrup has been proven in studies to be beneficial during long, intense workouts; they can burn through almost all of their stored glycogen and fade.   Sports drinks such as Gatorade have fructose syrup.  A sports drink can be beneficial during physical activity, but detrimental as a casual beverage while stagnant. 

A sports drink is not a substitute for water.  The sugar and carbs in Gatorade can cause you to gain weight, something you are probably hoping to avoid. The University of California at Berkeley's Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health found that an individual drinking one sports drink per day would gain 13 pounds per year.

Large amounts of sweetened sports drinks, gels and bars are recommended only for the “serious athlete” who works out for more than two hours at a time.

If you have a sugar craving here are healthy substitutes and some foods have “sneaky” sugars.  They do not appear to be high in sugar, but they are.  Here are examples from Eat This, Not That.

Polaner All Fruit with Fiber, Strawberry (1 Tbsp)
35 calories, 
0 g fat, and
6 g sugars

Smucker’s Strawberry Jam (1 Tbsp)
50 calories, 0 g fat, and
12 g sugars

Quaker Lower Sugar Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar
120 calories, 
2 g fat (0 g saturated), and 4 g sugars   

Quaker Oatmeal Express Cinnamon Roll
200 calories, 
2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), and 17 g sugars

The Center for Disease Control states that the current diet of the Western world is between 70 to 90 percent starch, sugar and fat, and the average sleep time is less than eight hours a night.  The single biggest influence over the levels of insulin in your body comes from the amount of starchy and sweet foods consumed.

If you have a sweet tooth they’re options that do not have to compromise your health.  For example, instead of loading your oatmeal with sugar, add fruits such as bananas, strawberries, and/or blueberries.  Replace the donut with a whole grain bagel that includes raisins. 

Snacks, such as yogurt with banana and granola.  Celery and peanut butter are tasteful without being loaded with sugar.  A protein shake with your favorite fresh or frozen fruits.  Foods high in protein help hunger cravings and will keep you fuller longer.  Pick proteins like lean chicken, low-fat yogurt, eggs, nuts, or beans.

Set short term goals to train your taste buds not to be so dependent on sugar.   Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. For example, pass on dessert after dinner. Slowly reduce the sugar in your coffee or cereal and replace them with healthier options. Over time, you will lose your need for that sugar taste. 

Be mindful of the hidden sugars in sauces, salad dressings, bread, baked beans, and flavored coffees.  Read labels before purchasing products.  Experts recommend no more than six teaspoons daily for women, that's 100 calories. Men should get a max of nine teaspoons, that's 150 calories. They’re healthier options for all of your sugar cravings, including deserts.  It just takes time to research recipes and alternatives and keep your sugar intake in moderation.

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Age Is More Than Just A Number

Newly appointed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated in his first press conference that he would like to see the minimum age requirement for entry into the NBA raised from 19 to 20.  Since 2006 the NBA has adopted a rule that early entrants for the NBA Draft had to be one year removed from their high school class and at least 19 years old.  With the influx of high school players since Kevin Garnett entered the NBA in 1995 out of high school the NBA has gotten younger.

As a fan of the game of basketball I am hoping that this rule is implemented.  The current system is not in the best interest of college or professional basketball.  Many of the “one and done” college basketball players plan on their college experience to be a pit stop.  They technically only have to pass minimum academic requirements their first semester to compete in the second semester.

The NBA has been dealing with an influx of young and immature players with words such as potential and upside always being tossed around.  Many NBA teams have Directors of Player Development on staff to assist players with life skills and dealing with the issues they will face on and off the court.
Bryce Harper, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr.

Unlike the other three major sports (baseball, hockey, and football) there are not minor leagues and rules in place to have a more developed player and person who enter the NBA.  Baseball prospects that are 18 years old and are drafted either go to the minor leagues and if they choose to attend college they have to stay for three years.

The minor leagues allow for development and players are called up to the main roster when the organization feels they are ready.  There have been only three phenoms the last 25 years who have been impactful as teenagers.  Kenny Griffey, Jr., (1989), Alex Rodriguez (1994), and Bryce Harper (2012).

Hockey prospects can be drafted at 18 as well, but they also have a minor league system in place and the NFL’s requirement is that prospects have to be three years removed from their high school class.

Basketball is a different animal.  Without a prominent minor league system in place and the success of players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Tracey McGrady and other straight out of high school stars and one year college players such as Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant there is a strong case to leave the rule as is.

The current systems has more college players after one season making a poor decision of entering the NBA Draft from social pressure and the hype machine that surrounds them.   Some early entrants regardless of class declare because they feel their stock can not increase by remaining in school. 

For example, last season University of Miami point guard Shane Larkin declared after his sophomore season.  Miami won the ACC and he was on a senior laden team.  If he remained at Miami with many of his teammates graduating his junior season potentially would not have been as good as his sophomore campaign.  At 5’10” his stock was as high as it was going to get.  He made a sound decision for his career to enter the draft.

This season four freshman players have been built up since they were in high school for the 2014 NBA Draft.  Jabari Parker (Duke), Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Julius Randle (Kentucky), and Aaron Gordon (Arizona).  Parker and Randle appear to have polished games and bodies and are “NBA ready."  Parker's father Sonny is a former NBA player so it is not surprising the intangibles that Parker has at a young age.  Wiggins and Gordon appear to be very talented players that could use an additional season of development.

Parker, Wiggins, Gordon, and Randle
College coaches are not crazy about the current system, but have to work under it with the pressure to win games.  As soon as they recruit a player who most likely will stay only one season they are also recruiting their replacement.  Schools such as Duke and Kansas have recruited one player per class that potentially is a one year player where Kentucky on other hand recruits 4-6 players per season since John Calipari’s arrival in 2009.

Twenty-one other schools have had players drafted after one season since current eligibility rules went into effect in 2006. But none do it at the rate of Calipari's Kentucky teams.

Stanford athletics director Bob Bowsy stated in March 2012, “We're not here as a feeder system. We're here to educate young people, and that's what it ought to be about."  Gary Walters who has served on the NCAA Tournament Committee expressed similar concerns, “"I hold no grudge against the University of Kentucky or John Calipari. I have a number of acquaintances who are Kentucky officials, graduates, whatever. But the real question becomes: Is this the image we want to project? Is this really the image we want to project as an institution of higher education? I don't think so."

The benefit of increasing the age limit to 20 years old or two years removed from a player’s high school class benefit everyone involved.  As much as universities and student-athletes are criticized for how seriously they take their academics, the current system makes even a bigger mockery of it.

Jabari Parker and Mike Krzyzewski
Players will have two years to personally and professionally develop and if they take their academics seriously could be halfway or even more with summer school toward their degrees.    The NBA would have a more mature person entering their league.  Most of the current one and done prospects are at top-notch programs with excellent coaching and player development.

The AAU culture of basketball has hurt the game more than helped.  Players today have more individual trainers and coaching and from watching them play do not have the intangibles of playing the game with other people.  Reigning Rookie of the Year and All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving is only 21 years old.  He played 11 games one season at Duke due to injury.

Even with his great statistics watching him closely play with the Cleveland Cavaliers it is apparent he is still going through the transition of playing with other people.  Especially when he is on a roster that does not have top talent.  With very little college experience it has lengthened his learning curve in the NBA.

Coaches in college and the NBA have to adjust their systems and approaches because many young players do not have a “feel’ for the game.  The most recent NBA All-Star game had 11 players including injury replacement Anthony Davis that came straight out of high school or one year college players. 

Kobe Bryant was lowest draft pick at 13th in 1996, with DeMarr DeRozan being the lowest draft pick at nine out of the players who participated.  These were drafted high because franchises had high expectations for them.

Every industry, including sports has to adjust to make rules that are in their best interest.    They either require a minimum age requirement, certification/education, years of experience, etc.  As the culture of basketball evolves early entry rules need to be adjusted for the best interest of the game.   Rules are not made for the exceptions, usually for the masses because it is best for business.

Monday, February 17, 2014

All Protein Shakes Are Not Made Equal

Choosing a protein powder supplement can be overwhelming, especially with the amount that are in the market.   All protein powders are not the same, so choosing the appropriate protein is essential for your nutrition and fitness goals. 

For weight loss you should choose a product that contains fewer of the calories, carbohydrates and sugars that can make losing weight more difficult. If you're trying to increase muscle mass you should choose a product that contains higher levels of calories, carbohydrates and sugars to help maintain your energy levels.  That is why it is important to read labels of all the ingredients that are in the protein powder.

Protein is one of the body's main building blocks for muscle, bone, skin, and other tissues. Used often by athletes and serious fitness enthusiasts, protein shakes come in many combinations of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. They can range from 100% protein to mostly carbohydrates with a little added protein and fat.   Protein shakes are a safe way to ensure enough protein, when used as part of a balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

Here are examples of the most popular protein powders and their benefits and best time of consumption:

Casein Protein

Casein is considered a "slow" protein. This is due to the fact that it is the slowest digesting protein there is (significantly slower than whey), which is why casein is not recommended for the meals around your workout.  The optimal time to take a casein protein supplement is your last meal before bedtime or as a snack between meals. 

It is beneficial to have some protein in your system while you’re sleeping and your body is doing most of its recovering/repairing.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is fast digesting and is one of the two major proteins (along with casein) contained in milk, and appears in many foods and dietary supplements.  Whey protein is found in the liquid left behind when milk curdles into cheese. Further processing, usually involving drying and filtration, extracts the whey protein from this liquid.  Whey protein is best consumed before and/or after a workout. 

When looking for the best whey protein product, look at the product's efficacy when it comes to burning fat, rather than glucose or blood sugar, for energy. The ideal protein product helps your body burn fat for energy rather than blood sugar. This can help you lose weight more easily; it also encourages your body to use the nutrients stored in fat cells to rebuild and create muscle tissue. Even if you're not trying to lose weight, an effective produce can help keep you lean.

Soy Protein

Soy protein is made using soya beans, and is very low in (or free of) fat, cholesterol and lactose. Soy protein is approved for those who are lactose intolerant, and it’s fast digestion properties with a high Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) make it ideal for athletes.

Soy protein has been used in the natural product industry for years and has only recently been isolated for use in protein drinks by athletes. Not only can you use soy protein supplements in your shakes, but you can use the same powder in cooking instead of flour to produce foods that are high in protein and low in fat!

Soy protein is the best way to increase, or supplement, your protein intake using non-animal sources. Soy Protein’s high BCAA score (the composition amino acids within the protein) make it ideal for muscle growth and high protein diets especially for those who are vegans or lactose intolerant.

Protein powders are an excellent source to fill nutritional gaps and compliment a healthy and balanced diet. Without adequate protein, our bodies can't put together the structures that make up every cell, tissue, and organ, nor can it generate the biochemical substances needed for cardiovascular function, muscle contraction, growth, and healing.   For your personal health and fitness goals read the labels before consuming any protein powder to ensure it is helping you reach your goals, consult a health and wellness professional if you have any questions.

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Training In One Area Can Lead To Success In Another

In business employees who are at an organization for extended period of time can feel entitled for promotion and other opportunities within the organization because of tenure, paying their dues, loyalty, and other reasons.  When someone from outside of the organization receives an opportunity that either themselves or a colleague desired it can cause resentment toward that person and those who made the decision. 

What can get lost is that the skills the person development somewhere else, even in another industry can add value and even help move the organization forward.  This situation also happen in athletic competition and took place recently with Lolo Jones being named to the United States bobsled team for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Lolo Jones
Jones, a two-time Olympic hurdler tripped over a hurdle in the 2008 games when it appeared she was on her way to winning the gold medal.  It motivated her to achieve the dream of Olympic gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics, but she finished fourth in the finals just missing out on medaling.

After being named to the bobsled team there was backlash from other candidates.   Katie Eberling, the most decorated brakeman on the team and a three-year veteran with a history of superior times, was left off the Olympic squad.  Her father told Selena Robert of the New York Times, "It's a mystery to me. I wish someone would explain how Lolo is on the team."

Jones was one of five athletes competing for three pusher spots—meaning she’s responsible for pushing the bobsled at the top of the hill, and then jumping in after the driver does and ducking for the rest of the ride. The position is a great fit for Jones, as it utilizes her speed, strength and coordination from track.  Jones helped her case in January with a silver medal performance in a World Cup race in Germany.

"She surprised me every day with how dedicated she is," said United States bobsled coach Todd Hays. "The one word I keep coming back to is, she's such a competitor. She cannot accept not being good at something. She gets up earlier than everybody else, goes to bed later, constantly trying to get better.”

It is not unprecedented in sports for athletes to transition from one sport to another and have success.  The NFL has several former basketball players who had little very little if any college football experience such as Antonio Gates (San Diego Chargers), Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints), and Julius Thomas (Denver Broncos).

In the 2007 World Track and Field Championships, 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Stefan Holm of Sweden was in the finals of the high jump that included Donald Thomas of the Bahamas.  Holm attempted his first high jump when he was four years old, inspired by the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.  Thomas, a former basketball player had only been training for the high jumping for eight months.

 Holm clipped the bar in his last jump and Thomas cleared his at 8’2” to win the gold medal.  Holm was gracious in defeat, but his father and coach was not.  As David Epstein explained in The Sports Gene Johnny Holm said that Thomas’s “flutter kick style” was a scandal for high jump and suggested that the inelegance of his jumping was an affront to the sport and the men who had spent years training.

Holm and Jones received backlash because those who spent years training and preparing to become elite athletes at their respective sports were beat out by someone who spent a short concentrated time in the same sport.  What is lost is that they did train and prepare for years; it was just in another area. 

The strength, coordination, and stamina took hard work and dedication.  Jones and Thomas had success especially when transitioning into something that is not as technical such as the high jump and bobsledding.  Thomas would have a difficult time becoming a world champion swimmer and Jones a figure skater.

In all professions people transition to other fields and have success.  The experiences they have can add value to their new area.  Some of this has been lost in the criticism of Jones and the entitlement that other bobsledders have toward her.  Other factors such as marketing and television ratings should not be ignored.  The United States bobsled team will have attention due to Jones inclusion on the team. 

Jones put on 30 lbs of muscle to prepare for her role as a bobsledder.  Her hard work as a world-class track athlete and the time and dedication to learn a new sport and make the team should not tarnish her inclusion.  Athletics are a microcosm of society.  The backlash toward Jones is similar to what many of us have observed in our respective professions, which can cause perspective to be lost.