Manipulating Your Time Of Consumption

The truth of the matter is that most “named” diets work for the simple fact that they manipulate the way you eat by tricking you into eating less calories. There is no magic trick that Paleo, low carb, Adkins, or ketogenic diets have, it simply the fact that without many realizing it, they are tricked into eating less calories due to the foods recommended. Well today, I’ve got some “tricks” for you! When it comes to tricking ourselves into eating less calories, the foods chosen need to have at least one of the following two qualities, if not both:

  1. They are filling
  2. They are time consuming to eat

And in this article, we are going to focus on quality number 2, and that is they are time consuming to eat, specifically snacks. Stereotypically, Americans are snackers. And there are many reasons for snacking, but one of the most common and detrimental is boredom. We as humans do not like to be bored and want to be doing something at all times, even it is meaningless. At night, when the fun is over for the day and we want to “relax”, the fact is we still want to be occupied, but now with things we enjoy and make us feel good. So we turn to TV, movies, video games, and the internet, but for some reason sitting completely still is just too hard, so we accompany those entertainments with snacking. What I have for you below are my go to’s when it comes to snacking, and the requirements for the foods on this list are simple, and that is that they are “time consuming”. And by “time consuming”, I mean that they will take some time to eat, but they will also keep your calories in check at the same time. In my opinion, a late night snack foods “worth” is determined by a simple formula:

Calories divided by minutes taken to consume equals calories per minute

Kcal/Min=Kcal per Min

For example, the first item on the list is string cheese, my current personal favorite. 1 stick of string cheese is 80 calories, and on the short end, if eaten correctly, should take around 15 minutes to consume. So that would equate to 80/15=5.33 calories per minute. On the opposite end, we may choose to eat a bowl of Doritos, which let’s say totals 33 chips. It takes you the same 15 minutes to eat, but now we are looking at 420 calories, which in 15 minutes of consumption equates to 28 calories per minute, or 5 times the calories during the same time frame. Now I am not saying to go through this calculation every time you eat, but I wanted you to see this to get the point of “time consuming” foods.

With that knowledge, take a look at the foods below and see how these “time consuming” foods work for you.

String cheese

80 calories

Why: If you are diligent and patient in truly eating it as string cheese, pulling off super thin strings each time, it could take you upwards of 15-20 minutes to eat.

Pistachios, Shelled

102 calories in 30 nuts

Why: If you buy the shelled kind, each nut you eat you are going to have to pull off the shell. Between the time it takes and your fingers getting sore, by the time you are done you will be most likely ready to move on.

Pretzel Rods

35 calories per rod

Why: This is kind of a weird one, but instead of chomping down on them you suck on them instead, and 2-3 rods could easily last you 20-30 minutes in this manner.

Skinny Pop

155 Calories in 4 Cups

Why: Who doesn’t love to have a big bowl of popcorn during a movie!? Well with Skinny Pop, you can. Make sure to properly measure out 4 cups, and enjoy yourself to some snacking that feels like you are eating A LOT, but really are not.

Apple

80-100 Calories

Why: Don’t peel and don’t cut, eat as is. Depending on your speed, it will take anywhere between 5-10 minutes to get through an apple eating is.

Orange

80-100 Calories

Why: The peeling will be time consuming, along with an orange being a high satiety food as well.

Advertisements

Nutrition Is A Budget

Budgeting is no fun, so seeing that in the title probably wasn’t the most exciting thing you’ve seen today, but stick with me. The truth is, nutrition is very much like a budget, and if we can approach it with this mindset, “healthy” versus “bad” foods makes a lot more sense. We see a lot of contradicting information out there in regards to what is good and bad for you, but the fact is, in the right context and situation, no food is truly “bad”, it is just a matter of how we fit it in our budget.

So let’s talk about literal budgets for a second, as for most people, it will be fairly easy to relate to. If you make 1,000,000 a year, it’s fairly obvious you will be able to afford some luxury items others may not. You can fork out the money for a Ferrari, have a massive house, and be able to take vacations to Europe on the regular, yet still probably have plenty of money left over to invest and save. Sounds great, right!? But for most, that is just not realistic. The latest information I found showed that the average household income is currently around $51,000 a year, so that is where a stricter budget comes into play. It doesn’t mean we can’t have nice things and have fun, but we are going to a bit more frugal and picky on how we allocate our money. We have to figure out what we can afford, as any big money choice in one aspect of our life is going to greatly affect other areas. If we buy a house that is out of our price range, then not much is going to be left over to buy a nice car or take a vacation.

All of this directly applies to nutrition. We all have a budget, and that is our caloric maintenance level. What that means is the amount of calories we can eat, based on our current activity, that we will maintain the same weight. If we dip below that level into a deficit, we will lose weight, and if we go above into a surplus, we will gain weight, and we have to budget our calories accordingly. These numbers are going to be highly dependent on many factors such as age, gender, lean muscle mass, non-exercise activity, resting metabolic rate, and more. If we have a person who has a very fast metabolism, has been weight training for 10+ years 4 days a week, and is a 30 year old male, most likely they are going to have a higher “budget” than a sedentary 60 year old female who has never exercised.

So looking at how this applies to our food choice, if our current goals dictate that we should be consuming 3,500 calories a day, we have a large budget. If we have a couple slices of pizza, ice cream, or in general “bad” foods once in awhile, it’s not a big issue nor unhealthy, because we have plenty of room in our budget to fit that in. So for this person, pizza isn’t “bad”, it just needs to fit into their diet within moderation. Take for example a Digiorno pepperoni pizza, where 3 slices is 900 calories. In a 3,500 calorie diet, that still leaves this person with 2,600 calories left in their budget for the rest of the day, which is equivalent to 5 and ½ meals of 4.5 ounces of chicken, 1 cup of rice, and 1 cup of broccoli. This person is not going to have an issue fitting this pizza in. But what if you are trying to lose weight, and are currently eating 1,500 calories a day? Probably not, because that pizza now consumes 60% of your daily caloric goals, which leaves you with very little to eat for the rest of the day. They could just go for it, but the person with only a 1,500 calorie budget is going to run into two main issues:

  1. Significant hunger levels. If they use 60% of their dietary goals on  3 slices of pizza, the volume of food they get to consume that day is very little. They could have had 45 cups of broccoli for the same amount of calories, which is an unreasonable amount, but just using that example to prove a point. People have adherence issue with diets when hunger levels are high, so when the budget is low, we have to be stricter with our food choices.
  2. Pizza has terrible micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) density. When foods have low levels of micronutrients, they typically fall into the “bad” category, and in the example of the 1,500 calorie diet, that is very true. It is going to be near impossible for that person to get the micronutrients their body needs to function properly from only 600 calories of “healthy” foods. Whereas the person with the 3,500 calorie budget still has 2,600 calories worth to consume those same nutrients.

My hope was to possibly make a slight change to the way you look at food. I will never argue pizza and ice cream is good for you, but in the right context, its also not bad, we just have to evaluate our budget and eat within moderation. Even with the 1,500 diet, small deviations from “healthy” food can be made. 2 servings of Edy’s slow churned ice cream is around 220 calories, so if you are wanting to reward yourself occasionally, you can use moderation to still enjoy some tasty treats. You just have budget it out and look at the pros and cons just like you do with your finances.

What Goes Into Caloric Output?

When it come to losing weight, it is pretty simple; eat less than you are burning on a daily basis. Or as many of you have probably heard, it all comes down to calories in vs. calories out. The simplicity of this though is usually masked by the difficulty of the lifestyle change, but for the sake of today, we are going to just look at what goes into the calories you burn on a daily basis, and how we can increase that. Too many people lower their calories until they are at a near starvation level, versus the healthier option of working on their daily caloric output. And for most, I find increasing the daily caloric burn is not only the healthier and more sustainable option, but also the more enjoyable route. We all like food, and there is no getting around that. The human body wants to eat and we also love the dopamine release tasty food gives us. This does not mean we can exercise off a bad diet, but it does mean we can stay full and satisfied with our diet as long as we are using other modalities to burn the calories off. So to get to our main point; what goes into our daily caloric output? When we break it down, it comes to 3 main factors:

 

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate
  2. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or NEAT)
  3. Exercise

 

Resting Metabolic Rate

 

Our resting metabolic rate (or RMR), simplified, is the amount of calories you would burn on a daily basis if all you did was sleep and watch TV. It is the amount of calories our body burns on a daily basis just to keep us alive and functioning, and you would be surprised on just how high the caloric output of our RMR is. Take for example a 45 year old female that is 170lbs., 5’5”, and no particular health issues (as thyroid, diabetes, hormones, and other health factors can play into this). If this female was to live as a vegetable, only sleeping and watching TV, they would burn 1414 calories on a daily basis. For most of you reading this, that probably was a slight shocker in that it seems fairly high, but it goes to show just how much we eat as Americans. A whole article could be written on this topic, but almost every study on the subject of the amount of calories people actually eat versus what they report they eat, shows that they drastically underrate the amount of calories they are in-taking (usually with reported deviations of over 1000 calories off). This does not mean everyone is lying, what it more entails is that most people are very unaware of the amount of calories that is in their food, and how to properly track that. But to get back on track, our resting metabolic rate does make up a large portion of our daily caloric output. If we take the example above, for that particular female to lose 1lb. a week without any additional activity, she would need to eat 900 calories per day, which is just not feasible (there is 3,500 calories in 1lb. of fat, which would then need a deficit of 500 calories per day to lose 1lb. a week). This is well below starvation level, and not only will hunger be an issue, but she will also be greatly deprived of sufficient vitamins and minerals that her body needs to function correctly. Our resting metabolic rate is fairly permanent and very few things change it. Medical conditions can lower your resting metabolic rate, but there is no magic pill you can take that can raise it, which is opposite of what many of these gimmick companies want you to believe. The only true and healthy way you can improve your resting metabolic rate is by adding lean tissue to your body, also known as muscle. The more muscle we have, the more our body now has to feed, so in the end it means we burn more calories on a daily basis. And the only way to add muscle is through progressive resistance training.

 

If you would like to get an estimate of what your own RMR is, check out:

http://www.restingmetabolicrate.net/number-of-calories

 

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

 

The next factor on our list that will help to increase our daily caloric output is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or NEAT). NEAT is the calories you burn through any non-exercise daily activity that is in addition to your resting metabolic rate. The single largest contributor, for most, when it comes to NEAT is your occupation. If you are a construction worker, or any occupation in particular where you are on your feet a lot, you will have a significantly higher caloric output from NEAT than a desk worker. Using myself as an example, with my move to Springfield I have had to decrease my daily caloric intake by about 300 calories per day to maintain the same weight. I came from a Personal Training position in St. Louis where I had a full schedule of clients from 9am to 7pm, constantly on my feet and having to rack and re-rack weights. Now in Springfield, I have changed my schedule to 7am to 2pm, and also have fewer clients since I am brand new to the area. I work out the same amount I did before, but now I am sitting for a larger portion of the day, which based on my experimentation with tracking my calories, equates to 300 calories a day less I now burn.

 

NEAT is also extremely important because around 70% of the calories you burn through NEAT are from fat, versus during exercise, that drops to only about 5-10% of calories. Now I am definitely not saying to skip exercise and just add more non-exercise activity, but what I am saying is that the calories you burn through your daily activity are the most efficient calories to burn when it comes to weight loss, as almost all of it is fat. That’s why you probably have friends who don’t even exercise, yet changed their nutrition, stop sitting around so much, and they still lost a bunch of weight. Exercise is a great tool, but we are just skimming the surface of our capabilities if we are just adding exercise to our regimen and ignoring our lack of non-exercise activity. We can’t change our occupation, but we can change our daily habits. Park farther away at the grocery store, use the stairs and not the elevator, play with your kids versus watching TV, buy a standing desk versus sitting all day, walk around while talking on the phone versus sitting, stop online shopping and go to mall instead, and the list could go on. Just find ways to get up and move throughout the day. At first it will take some thought and willpower, but eventually it will just become natural. When it comes to planning for weight loss, this is usually what most people ignore. They add exercise and they change their diets, but their non-exercise activity level stays the same. This is where the real game changer is if you really make some large scale changes to your daily movement, as you can see with my example, it was 300 calories worth of change in the wrong direction that I now need to address.

 

Exercise

 

I hope I haven’t downplayed exercise too much so far, as it is very important. It is just that exercise is the very obvious addition that everyone knows they need to add in when it comes to weight loss, whereas RMR and NEAT are the often ignored factors that go into our daily caloric output. Our non-exercise activity is very low intensity, which means it takes a lot to make a big dent in our caloric output. Burning an extra 300 calories over the portion of a 16 hour day is not very time efficient. Exercise on the other hand can be where we are very time efficient when it comes to burning a lot of calories in a very short period of time. 30 minutes of high intensity exercise can burn those same 300 calories, but now in a fraction of the time.

 

Exercise is also the modality that can be used to permanently improve your resting metabolic rate, and that is through progressive resistance training. Many people shy away from resistance training at first, as it is more complex, and frankly at first it does give you the same immediate results as cardio can. The reason for this is because resistance training many times has to start at a very baseline level, where the workouts do not necessarily burn very many calories. Progression must occur before strength and endurance improves, and then sufficient intensity can be added to your weight training regimen. In the long run, resistance training is the way to go, but you just have to have the right mindset that this is a marathon, not a sprint, or you can easily get trapped in the negativity of not seeing the immediate and drastic results that we all want.

 

So to take a lot of information and condense it into 3 simple points:

 

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate is where the vast majority of our daily caloric output comes from, and the only healthy and true way to increase your RMR is through the addition of lean muscle mass.
  2. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is often the most neglected aspect of how we can increase our daily caloric output. To make it simple, get up and stay active. Don’t sit around and just let your RMR do all the work.
  3. Exercise is the most time efficient way to burn large amounts of calories. It is usually the first thing addressed for that reason, but don’t make the mistake of just stopping there. Make sure to work on improving your RMR and NEAT as well.

 

And then with that, here are 3 take home points of how to apply this to your fitness journey:

 

  1. If you feel you are eating “too little”, learn to track your calories on a weekly basis correctly, count everything, and even weigh everything if need be. It may shock you just how much you are eating, caloric wise.

 

  1. Take 1 day this week and make a log of any and all non-exercise activity you have throughout the day. Also track the amount of time you spend sitting. Go over this in detail and figure out where you can make changes to improve your activity level.

 

  1. Start working out if you are already not. It is the easiest and quickest way to burn calories fast. Commit to a certain amount of days exercising at the gym, and do it, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. A personal trainer I follow on Instagram has a great way of putting this, “Tell yourself you’ll go to the gym for just 5 minutes today, that’s no time at all. If you end up going for just 5 minutes, that’s great, you succeeded on what you set out to do. Most likely you’ll stay longer though.”

Now it is time for you to take this information and apply it to yourself and think about how you can improve. Small and simple improvements lead to long term growth and development, so start small and work your way up. Decide today that you are going to park a bit farther away at work, tomorrow add in that from 10:30am-10:40am you are going to stand at your desk and work rather than sit, and the list can go on. Keep adding those up and over the long haul, you will be a calorie burning machine. Best of luck with your journey, and let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything I can do to help!

So Many Ways To Get To The Same Goal

I was reminiscing recently about the success stories I have been privileged to be a part of, and something hit me. The process of reaching each of these goals has been vastly different. And I knew that was the case, but I never put two and two together really until now of just how different each person’s journey was, specifically looking at their workout plan and nutrition. There were two keys that guided these differences, the first being what they enjoyed, and the second being something I will cover later. I like to be lenient up front with most people on what they choose to do for exercise, and provide a lot of different options, and it is for this exact reason. Each person needs to find what is right for them, and giving a wide variety of different exercise options a chance helps someone find the path most enjoyable for them.

Let’s go through a bunch of examples of client’s and what they typically did outside of our personal training sessions for their own workouts. (This is what they did in addition to meeting with me anywhere between 1 to 3 times per week)

Client A – Lost 40lbs.: Group classes 3 days a week, specifically Step being her favorite.

Client B – Lost 50lbs.: Wii Dance at home 3-4 days a week, most of the time with her family. Really only came to the gym to train with me, but rocked that Wii Dance every week.

Client C – Lost 70lbs.: Functional Training/High Intensity Personalized Group Training Program 3 days a week.

Client D – Lost 40lbs.: Running almost every day, usually with a group of friends. Competed in marathons and hated weight training, so only did weights with me.

Client E – Lost 30lbs.: Group classes that were offered at work during their lunch break 3-4 days a week.

Client F – Lost 50lbs.: Weight training twice a week on his own, and then would usually do more cardio that I would want him to on the other days of the week, usually plugging away on the elliptical.

Client G – Lost 40lbs.: Would “kind of” weight train on his own, but would mostly just do cardio 2 days a week. Craziest part is this person gained strength and muscle faster than any client I’ve ever trained.

Client H – Lost 30lbs.: Very strict plan of weight training and cardio. The “optimal” approach that most trainers believe their clients should actually do, but rarely works due to sustainability.

Client I – Lost 70lbs.: Skateboarding with friends 7 days a week. Would not come to the gym on his own, so skateboarding was the option we agreed upon at home to keep him active.

Client J – Lost 30lbs.: This was an outlier, as she was a girl who I met with for just a “free session” that came with her membership, and she took that one workout we did and busted her butt on her own. Due to her dedication, I’d usually shoot new workouts her way every couple months to give her something new, and she did that 3 days a week, and then cardio another 1-2 days a week.

Client K – Lost 40lbs.: Cardio on her own 2 days a week, usually on the concept 2 row machine. Usually needed to send texts to remind her, as she was someone who needed consistent accountability.

As for these client’s nutrition, I would have to be a superhuman to remember the things that each of them ate on a daily basis. But I can tell you one thing, and that is not a single client had a food journal that looked alike. Every single person was different with their food selection and what worked for them. Some even ate things that I wasn’t the most fond of, but it worked for them, and who I am to force them to eat things they do not like when they have found something they have gotten results with and enjoy. Some people ate a typical breakfast, some people “drank” breakfast (protein shake). Some people ate leftovers for lunch, some turkey sandwiches, and others microwaveable meals. And for dinner it continued to vary just as much. My point being that there is no fool proof recipe for success, it is all dependent on you as an individual.

But with all these differences, there is one consistent variable among all these clients. I mentioned early there was a second key for success that I would discuss later, and now is the time. That key is consistency. All of these clients found things they enjoyed, and then consistently did them.

These successful clients found a modality of exercise that motivated them to workout and worked within their daily life. If you can pick something that may be a bit consistent from each plan, it was finding a person or group to workout with, whether that be group classes, friends, or family. And that was simply because it is more fun to workout with someone than it is alone. But no matter what it may be, find what you enjoy, and do it.

When it came to nutrition, these clients found foods they enjoyed and stuck with it. If there is one thing with nutrition that all these people did, it was finding foods they liked, and then pretty much eating the same things every day. I have never had a successful client who kept “variety” as a mainstay in their diet. I am not a fan of saying you have to eat the same things everyday, and never told a single one of these clients to do so. But the ones who were successful did, with some very slight variation for maybe 1 or 2 meals a week. They found it easier to stick with similar things instead of trying to find new foods every day. It allowed them to cook in bulk and be prepared, saving a lot of time and headache when it came to finding something to eat.
Without even meaning to, I have basically summed up my article “4 Keys to Fitness Success” in detailing what these clients did to be successful. That article went into detail for the need of consistency, sustainable habits, enjoying the process, and not doing it alone. Those are the 4 keys I picked for a reason, and it is because if I look at the success of my clients and others, it is exactly the things they did and what you can see here. So when looking at your own fitness journey, if you are not seeing the success you desire, let’s reevaluate. If you are not making it to the gym, why not? What can you do differently? Is there a way to exercise at home we can add in as a substitute that may work? Have you tried ALL the group classes to see if there is one you enjoy? Are you planning meals for the week, or just hoping to run across healthy things? If I ask what you are eating for dinner tonight, or tomorrow for lunch, or to how about 3 days from now (someone who is successful will be able to answer all 3 of those)? Make a plan, find consistency and sustainability, stick with it, and the results will come.

Why There Is So Much Contradicting Information Regarding Nutrition

My hope is to answer this question today….

“Why is there so much contradictory information out there regarding nutrition”?

And while there may be a couple reasons for this, I believe there is a main overriding factor that plagues the fitness industry in providing bad information without true context behind the facts. This factor and main contributor is correlation vs. causation. This may get a bit long winded, but stick with me.

Let’s dive into what correlation vs. causation is. According to a quick Google search, these are the definitions of each:

Correlation: “a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things.” (1)

Causation: “the action of causing something.” (2)

Now reading those two definitions, it is very apparent there is a difference, yet many articles on nutrition seem to not be able to distinguish the difference between the two. Correlation shows a relationship or connection between two or more things, but in no way signifies that these two things cause each other to occur, whereas causation signifies a direct interrelation, where one thing causes the other. At this point you may still be confused, so let me get into an example of how correlation can be an inaccurate way of coming to conclusions, and then some specific nutrition examples that have consistently had this exact issue.

There is a famous study that many go to in regards to the possible downfalls of using correlation to assume causation, or in other words, assuming because something has a relation to another issue, that it means it causes that issue as well. This study showed that an increase in ice cream sales had a direct correlation with an increase in murder rates, which raised the question, “Does ice cream cause people to kill?”. (3) I don’t think I need to spend much time on answering that question, as we all can understand that ice cream does not cause someone to kill.  Even though there was correlation, there was something else that was the actual issue, and that was found to be the warmer weather in the months of July to September. Warmer weather then is the middle ground that is associated with causing both to occur, resulting in more ice cream to be bought and for murder rates to rise.

So how does this apply to fitness? Let’s take a look at two specific examples that I believe are the most abused when it comes to taking a correlational effect and then assuming it is also the cause. The first one we will look at is diet soda. I will be the first to say there is nothing inherently good about diet soda and I am not here to recommend that it would be a good option for you to consume. But I also can say with 100% certainty that diet soda does not CAUSE weight gain, as so many articles and research studies have tried to claim or hint at. Research has shown that there is a direct CORRELATION between diet soda and being overweight, but let’s break this down so we can understand the truth. When it comes to the question “Does diet soda CAUSE weight gain?”, I have a simple answer…..”Diet soda has ZERO calories” (mic drop). Weight gain is caused by a surplus of calories over our needed amount, so if something has zero calories, it cannot physiologically CAUSE weight gain, it is just not biologically possible. So if currently you have quit drinking diet soda in the fear of gaining weight from it, I am hear to tell you that you no longer have to worry. What research has shown though, is that there is a CORRELATION between people who drink diet soda and those people being overweight. And to me there is a simple answer to what this correlation means. People who are overweight tend to drink diet soda! This does not mean that diet soda is causing them to be overweight. What it means is that diet soda is not the healthiest of choices in regards to its contents, and those who are overweight usually are not choosing the best of options, so diet soda is a logical option they are probably gravitating towards. Now in my own personal experience, I have very rarely seen diet soda be an issue within someone’s weight loss, and have at times found a small benefit. People crave sweet things, and if a diet soda once in awhile can calm those cravings and give you that “sweet” satisfaction with zero calories, that is going to be a much better option than what could occur, which is eating candy and junk food that actually contains calories. Again, I do not recommend drinking diet soda, as there is nothing beneficial about it physiologically, but if mentally it can satisfy sweet cravings, I definitely would consider it the lesser of two evils in regards to eating candy and junk food.

The second big correlation vs. causation mishap I see is the demonization of sodium and its apparent role in causing obesity. Unlike diet soda, we actually need sodium, and there are health benefits in regards to sodium, so demonizing it is a dangerous thing to do. But just like any substance, if we over consume sodium, there can be health risks. Sodium is definitely something that can be an issue for those with heart related issues or high blood pressure, and at that point needs to be closely monitored. But for the sake of this article, I want to just hone in on the much talked about CORRELATION between sodium and obesity. A quick Google search of “sodium and obesity” comes up with 17,600,000 hits, with page after page filled with articles saying the sodium is strongly linked with obesity. But I have the same exact answer, as with diet soda, to this issue as well….

”Sodium has ZERO calories” (mic drop).

Just like diet soda, sodium cannot cause weight gain, yet the general fitness industry is trying to convince us it does, so what gives? Let’s look at the real issues with sodium and why this correlation has arised. I am going to look at myself as an example. I eat on average around 3,500 calories a day, and consume around 3,500mg of sodium as well. The vast majority of what I eat would be considered healthy, and I eat out on very rare occasions. According the general health standards, it is recommended to be somewhere in the range of 1500-2500mg of sodium for your daily intake, but that is also based off a 2,000 calorie diet. So if I am using those standards (which I do not completely agree with, but will use for this example) then I am right about where I should be, which is 1mg of sodium for every 1 calorie. But now let’s look at an entrée from a popular restaurant chain that will go unnamed.

Chicken Bowl /w Rice (sounds like it could possible be healthy, but it’s not)

880 calories

3,830mg sodium

That one single meal is more sodium than I consume in an entire day, and I eat 3,500 calories! If the suggested amount of sodium is 1:1 ratio of sodium to calories, this meal is 1:4.35, or four times the amount of sodium we should probably consume with that amount of calories. Going down the menu for this popular restaurant chain, most entrees are above 2,000mg of sodium, with probably the average being somewhere around 3,000mg. No matter what, we are going to hit our allotted sodium goal in just one sitting, while also consuming a very high calorie meal (the 880 chicken bowl w/ rice was one of the lower calorie options, most were over 1,000 calories). So what does this all mean? If you are consistently eating out or eating a lot of processed foods, you will be consuming a lot of sodium. And what do you think happens to people who are eating out a lot and are consuming processed foods? They gain weight. Sodium did not cause this weight gain, and just like the instance with ice cream and murder rates, there is a middle ground actually causing both, and in this case it is eating out and processed foods. So what can we gain from these correlational studies on sodium? Do not eat out so much and limit your processed foods, as those have been shown to have a causation effect with obesity due to their high calorie nature. Unless you have high blood pressure or a heart related issue, if the vast majority of your food is home-cooked, you do not need to worry about sodium in the slightest.

The list could go on about examples of correlation vs. causation getting abused within the fitness industry, but what I hope you got from this is a new way of thinking about the research in these articles claiming that X correlates with Y, so X must cause Y. Look for keywords like “linked, “correlates”, “strongly associated” or “associated with”, “may increase” or “may raise”, “tied to”, or other terms that try to hint at a causation effect, but are truly just correlational. This doesn’t mean all correlational effects are wrong, but what I am saying is that if you see those keywords, make sure to challenge the thought process of the claims before accepting them as truth.

 

  1. https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=correlation+definition
  2. https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=causation+definition
  3. http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/07/09/warm_weather_homicide_rates_when_ice_cream_sales_rise_homicides_rise_coincidence.html