The Truth About hCG

Question of the Week:  Finish this sentence:  When the going gets tough, …

Nugget of the Day: The truth about hCG for weight loss.

A client recently asked me what I thought about hCG as a weight loss tool.  For those of you not familiar with hCG, it stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin.  It is a hormone released by the placenta of pregnant women.  (Huh?  Yeah, that’s most people’s response)  Believed to stimulate the consumption of excessive fat tissue in the pregnant mother in support of the growing fetus, it has been hypothesized to assist in metabolism of fat as an energy source in non-pregnant individuals, as well as suppress appetite.  When accompanied by what can only be classified as a “starvation” diet of 500 calories, it is believed to promote significant weight loss.

There are a few issues here to address.  The first is the effectiveness of hCG as a weight loss tool.  As of right now, both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have concluded that hCG is neither safe nor effective as a weight loss aid.  The second is the starvation diet of 500 calories.  Obviously, any diet that absent of calories is going to promote weight loss, at least for a time.  However, not only does it wreak havoc on your metabolism, but it is nearly impossible to adhere to for any length of time.  Since it is not a plan that promotes healthy, long-term eating habits, most people will regain much of the weight, if not all of it when returning to their regular eating plan.  And, third, the FDA has prohibited the sale of over the counter hCG products and homeopathic versions, declaring them illegal and fraudulent.  So if you are going to try to skirt the physician-prescribed route, don’t waste your time or your money.  There isn’t enough real hCG in there to have any metabolic effect at all.

In conclusion, the hCG diet is no more than another “quick fix” scheme that is unproven at best and downright dangerous at worst.  It is simply another “starvation” diet routine that leaves you undernourished and destroys your metabolism, increasing the likelihood of you not only returning to your pre-diet weight, but even getting heavier in the long term.  Don’t be fooled.  There are no quick fixes that beat good, solid hard work and lifestyle change.   Stay the course, keep up the hard work, and don’t give up!

J

It Comes Down to Pride

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”  Romans 12:3

A couple of weeks ago I was helping out at the Escondido Community Wellness Day, and I was present during the door-prize giveaway of a year of financial planning for free.  A great offer, right?  A whole year of a professional looking over your budget, helping you trim where you need trimming, invest how you would most benefit.  But I have to be honest.  My first thought was “I’m not sure if I would use that.”  Why not?  I really can only say that it comes down to pride.  It’s not that I couldn’t use the help.  I’m sure that the advice would be invaluable.  I just don’t like the idea of someone poking around in my personal life, and I think I would have a tough time with someone telling me that what I am doing is wrong and that I need to change it.  But I got to thinking about my attitude, and I realized an important hypocrisy in my rationale.  What I do for people’s physical lives is no different than what a financial planner does for people’s financial health.  And I expect that people will come to me for help, willing to open themselves to a certain measure of scrutiny.  Physical health is a very personal topic for most people, but I expect them to be open and honest with me.

What about me?  How willing am I to open up to someone about my personal life?  Realizing this has made me much more understanding about the psyche of the individual who seeks me out for my advice and help.  That being said, don’t let your pride get in the way of finding the help that you need.  Don’t be afraid to seek out the accountability of a friend.  Ask that trainer in the gym if you are doing your exercises correctly.  Sign up for Weight Watchers.  Sometimes it takes admitting that we can’t do it on our own to start making progress.  This is one of the reasons that I write this blog.  Please don’t hesitate to leave comments and ask questions.  I am here to help.  Don’t miss out on the opportunity to better your health because you won’t admit that you can’t do it on your own.

J

Cardio Is Not the Best Way to Burn Calories-Part 2

Question of the Week: What does your pride keep you from accomplishing?

Nugget of the Day:  Cardio is not the best way to burn calories- Part 2- Anaerobic exercise burns a higher total amount of fat calories and carbohydrate calories combined.

In my previous post on this topic, I told you that for lower intensity, longer duration activities, fat is the predominant energy source.  Proportionately more fats are burned versus carbohydrates while participating in exercise that keeps the heart rate at a lower level (50% of maximal effort or below).  It is this fact that led to the “aerobics” craze of the 80’s, and it has still been a driving force in the minds of exercisers when choosing an activity to help them reach their weight-loss goals.  Hence the seemingly endless rows of cardio machines at the gym.  And this all sounds good.  Why not?  I want to burn body fat, so naturally I should choose this style of activity, right

Here is where that logic falls short.  I’ll go back to my dinner plate analogy.  If you looked at the energy burned in an aerobic-style activity like a dinner plate, a typical cardio workout “plate” might hold 3 Twinkies, and 1 granola bar, with the Twinkies representing fat and the granola bar representing carbohydrates.  This 3 to 1 ratio of fats to carbohydrates is the most effective way for the body to provide the energy it needs to complete the task.  (Understand that protein is also used as an energy source, but for the sake of clarity I have left it out for now).  As the intensity of exercise goes up, the proportions present on the plate changes.  In a highly anaerobic (“without oxygen”) workout, it may be 3 granola bars and 1 Twinkies instead.  Carbohydrates do not require the presence of oxygen to be used as energy.

So why can a higher intensity, anaerobic exercise be more effective for body fat loss than aerobic exercise?  The important thing to understand is that while the proportions may have changed at a higher intensity, the anaerobic workout requires more overall plates.  You may have to have 3 plates worth of food to provide the energy necessary for a higher intensity workout.  9 granola bars and 3 Twinkies at the higher intensity workout, and only 1 granola bar and 3 Twinkies at the lower intensity workout.  You can see from this analogy that the same amount of fat is burned at both workout intensities.  However, with the increase carbohydrate usage comes increased calorie burning altogether.  The result?  Assuming the nutrition is dialed in, and without going into too much detail about the biochemistry of it all, the body uses fat stores post workout to replenish the energy lost during the workout and the overall body fat loss is higher than with the aerobic workout.  Understand that time plays a factor here.  5 minutes of high-intensity exercise is not going to necessarily negate an hour of low-intensity exercise.  But minute for minute, the bang for your buck is much higher.  The game you are trying to play is calories in versus calories out.  And any time you can maximize the calories out, like with a high intensity workout, the more effective body fat loss you will achieve.

J

(Note: Always consult your physician before engaging in a high-intensity exercise program)

Tootsie Pops and Sand Dunes- Setting Short-Term Goals

The marketing strategy for Tootsie Pops, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”, reminded me of a truth as it relates to our physical and spiritual lives.  We have already established that life is a journey.  A succession of smaller steps leading to a destination.  But to maintain direction, it is essential that we have milestones.  Markers to show the progress that we are making.  Especially when the destination is very far away.  A couple of months ago I was hiking with the family in the sand dunes of coastal Oregon.  We parked at the trailhead and began the journey along a well-marked path.  But it wasn’t long before the trail opened up to a sea of sand as far as I could see.  I stood for a moment, surveying the landscape wondering which way the trail went.  The constant wind had blown away all traces of footprints that would have marked the path.  Having a general idea of which direction to go, I climbed the first dune to the top and examined the surroundings.  Off in the distance, breaking up the smooth, blonde landscape was the dark, sharp image of a wooden pole stuck in the sand with a blue stripe at the top.  This was our only marker to show us the trail.  So down the dune we headed towards the pole.  Once we reached it, we again made our survey and were able to spot the next pole in the distance.  It was in this pole-to-pole fashion that we were able to reach our final destination, a beautiful, secluded beach.  Without these markers , we would have been walking blind, never quite sure if we were heading in the right direction or if we were making progress towards our destination.

In order to reach a goal in your journey towards optimal physical and spiritual health, it is essential to have these markers.  Smaller, more achievable goals that when combined together, lead the way to your destination.  Instead of looking at the 30 pounds that you need to lose, break it into more manageable 5-pound segments.  If you are wanting to read the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time, set a goal of 1 book a month or one chapter a day.  If you are starting from a position of not exercising at all, then instead of focusing on a weight loss goal it might be beneficial to just set a goal of exercising once, twice or three times a week for the first 2 weeks.  Achieve that goal first before moving on to the more difficult ones.  Same with the Bible goal.  Start with committing to read the Bible 3 times a week, two times a week, or even one time a week.  Then, reward yourself when you reach a goal.  It is an accomplishment!  When you stand on top of the dunes and see the ocean way off in the distance, it is sometimes easy to get discouraged because it looks so far away and you can see the many dunes that need to be climbed before you get to the end.  However, if you can set your sights on the one marker in front of you, once you reach it you will realize that the next marker doesn’t look that far away, and you will find the strength to make it to that next marker.  Like the Tootsie Pop, no one knows how many licks it will take.  Just take it one lick at a time.

J

Cardio is Not the Best Way to Burn Body Fat-Part 1

Nugget of the Day:  Cardio is not the best way to burn body fat.

I thought I would start this nugget on the positive side of things.  What is cardiovascular exercise good for, and why do we use it as our “go-to” exercise when we want to lose weight?  What we call “cardio” should be more accurately termed “aerobic” exercise.  The term “aerobic” literally means “with oxygen”.  The body can breakdown food into energy in the presence of oxygen or without oxygen present.  However, the fat molecule needs oxygen in order to be broken down into energy to be utilized by the body.  Because the intensity is not as high in aerobic exercise, the body is able to get enough oxygen to meet the energy demands of the body.  This allows fat to be utilized as a major energy source.  Carbohydrates, on the other hand, can be burned with or without the presence of oxygen.  But fats provide a little more whallop to their punch, supplying more energy per gram than carbohydrates, so it is a more efficient fuel source.  This makes it the more prevalent provider when the intensity of exercise is low enough to allow it to be utilized properly.

To see the big picture, you need to understand that it is a matter of proportions.  You never are just utilizing one energy source.  You are always using a combination of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins as energy at all times.  While engaged in aerobic exercise, you burn a higher proportion of fat calories versus carbohydrate calories.  As an analogy, let’s look at it like a dinner plate, with the food on the plate representing the amount and type of energy burned in an aerobic workout.  At a low intensity, the plate might hold three Twinkies and one granola bar (the Twinkies representing fat and the granola bar representing carbohydrates).  You might have as much as a 3:1 ratio of fats burned versus carbohydrates when engaged in aerobic exercise.  Fats are the major source of energy in this case.  Sounds like a good recipe for weight loss, right?  Wrong…and I’ll tell you why in the next post…

J