THE ARMY HEALTH BLOG

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Calorie is a Calorie Myth

processedfood

It has been well understood that in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, one must reduce overall calorie consumption and increase calorie expenditure through physical activity. One pound of body weight equals 3500 calories (so to lose one pound a week, one must decrease food intake by 500 cals/day), but not all calories are created equal!

Get the Most Bang For Your Buck

When trying to lose or maintain weight, it is best to choose your calories wisely; this means that in order to get "more bang for your caloric buck", choose foods that will positively affect your health. If most of your calories come from fatty foods like red meat, sausage, fried foods, baked goods, and creamy dishes, then blood cholesterol levels tend to be higher, which in turn can lead to clogged arteries and other cardiovascular diseases. Consuming most of your calories from healthier sources like lean protein (beans, nuts, white meats), vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, and whole grains will have a positive effect on cholesterol and blood sugar levels which leads to a steady release of energy and an overall feeling of wellness.

Another benefit of selecting healthier foods towards your daily calorie goal is that you will feel full (not hungry!) even while losing weight. Calories that come from sugary, refined foods like candy, white breads, sugary cereals, and white potatoes will cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels followed by a surge of insulin to bring blood sugar levels back down. When blood sugar rises and falls at rapid rates, you tend to feel hungry more often and have less energy. On the other hand, a diet that is rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy (unsaturated) fats will allow blood sugar levels to rise and fall at a steadier, more controlled pace, leaving you feeling satisfied between meals and more energetic. 

UFO’s

Beware of dietary “UFOs”, or Unidentifiable Food-like Objects. This term refers to foods that are highly processed, contain many chemicals, and offer very little (if any) nutritional value for the calories they contain. Choosing whole foods that are closer to their natural state will help maximize the health benefits of the foods you are eating. The calories that come from whole, natural foods will help you in meeting your health goals and feeling the best you can.

 

 

A Calorie is a Calorie Myth Graphic

image sources: http://www.ihearexercisewillkillyou.com/2013/05/peanut-free-chewy-granola-bars.html, http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/rabbis-without-borders/2013/02/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SnackWells, http://talesfromthelou.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/the-nasty-nine-food-additives-to-avoid/


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Your Brain on Sleep

sleepgraphic

Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and the Army Performance Triad. Signs of sleep deficiency such as lack of energy and concentration are usually pretty apparent. However, research has demonstrated the negative effects of sleep loss extend much further than feeling a little tired. Sleep plays a crucial role in both mental and physical performance. Without the proper amount of sleep, the body is prone to injury, fatigue, stress, muscle weakness, and poor focus. In fact, the body declines in physical performance by 25% every 24 hours that it is deprived of sleep. Conversely, a fully rested body can think more clearly, make better decisions, and perform at a physically optimal level.

Sleep and Mental Performance

Memory

During sleep, the brain consolidates long-term memory into storage, removing the short-term memory stores to allow for the absorption of more information. Being well-rested also improves working memory.

Mood

A lack of sleep can increase irritability and mood swings. A general absence of emotion can also result from not getting enough sleep. During sleep, the body releases hormones. Premature waking can disrupt the delivery of these hormones, causing moodiness.

Focus and Concentration

Having a full night of rest increases the brain’s ability to concentrate. Sleep also improves alertness and reaction times.

Multitasking

During sleep, the brain prioritizes information. Sleep is also important in the formation of new ideas and the ability to multitask.

Logical Reasoning

Without sleep, it is harder for the brain to perform higher level cognitive functions, such as mathematical concepts. A well-rested brain is able to reason and think more clearly.

Sleep and Physical Performance

Energy and endurance

Sleep increases energy stores in the body used to fuel physical activity and exercise.  Without enough sleep, insulin resistance and a decrease in glucose tolerance occurs. This means the body cannot readily utilize fuel for physical activity as efficiently as when it gets a full night’s sleep.

Muscle recovery

During sleep, the body is able to recover and repair damaged muscles and bones.

Stress

Sleep reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Without enough sleep, cortisol levels increase, which can lead to slowed healing, increased risk of injury, and poor memory.

Accuracy and reaction time

Sleep can also improve brain function, which helps improve accuracy and reaction time related to focus and athletic performance.

Bottom Line

Sleep loss impairs both mental and physical performance. After 24 hours without sleep, mental and motor skills are impaired at the same level as someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10-legally drunk in all 50 states. For those who are struggling with sleep or simply not prioritizing it to the top of their list, start by setting some simple goals tonight!

Try to keep these sleep practices on a regular basis:*

· Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.

· Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual (such as a hot bath).

· Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.

· Avoid caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening.

· Wind down. Spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.

 

*Resource: The National Sleep Foundation


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