10 Nutrition Tips for January

Good news for coffee drinkers (yes, more), understanding the benefits of fasting, the dangers of stress, why you should eat brazil nuts, and much more.

10. Does drinking coffee reduce the risk of oral cancer? 

After adjusting for smoking, alcohol consumption and other factors, the researchers found that the risk of death from oral or throat cancer was 26 percent lower among those who drank one cup a day, 33 percent lower among those who drank two to three cups daily, and 50 percent lower among those who drank four to six cups daily, compared with those who drank no caffeinated coffee.

As a coffee lover, I love finding out news like this. I drink only a cup a day (it used to be much higher), and I can’t imagine going more than a day or two without a cup. Coffee (in its pure form without the sugar and additives) is healthy for many reasons. In moderation, of course. From the same study:

“We are not recommending that people start drinking coffee for cancer prevention,” she said. “But this is good news for those of us who enjoy coffee.”

9. Here is an interesting study on the impact of gluten on the body.

There is still a lot of debate in the nutrition community regarding gluten (some view it as evil for everyone, while others recommend a more personalized diet approach).

The study at hand provides a good reason to limit your intake of “healthy whole grains” and other gluten containing foods, regardless of whether you suffer from celiac or not. Whether the established detrimental effects of gluten on the integrity of the intestinal wall and the increased leakage of bacterially produced endotoxins from the highly unfavorably changes in the gut microbiome in response to the high fat diets (Hildebrandt. 2009) are part of, or even the primary cause of these observations still has to be elucidated.

The evidence against gluten isn’t conclusive, but it continues to mount.

The data in figure 1 (right) does yet also show that the gluten content of the diet did nevertheless have a significant impact on the total body mass, visceral fat mass, lipid content and most importantly the adipocyte size

8. What is CLA, and should you be supplementing with it?

First off, what is CLA?

CLA is a good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” that may be a potent cancer fighter. In animal studies, very small amounts of CLA have blocked all three stages of cancer: 1) initiation, 2) promotion, and 3) metastasis. Most anti-cancer agents block only one of these stages. What’s more, CLA has slowed the growth of an unusually wide variety of tumors, including cancers of the skin, breast, prostate, and colon.

You had me at “good fat.” One of the benefits of grass-fed beef is that it contains a higher amount of CLA. A study was done on CLA leading to weight loss in humans, and the results were interesting.

Repeated-measures analysis showed that a significantly higher reduction in BFM was found in the conjugated linoleic acid groups compared with the placebo group (P: = 0.03). The reduction of body fat within the groups was significant for the 3.4 and 6.8 g CLA groups (P: = 0.05 and P: = 0.02, respectively).

In layman’s terms, people who took 3.4 grams of CLA per day experienced significantly more fat loss than those who didn’t. As for supplementing with it, Mark’s Daily Apple offers his thoughts.

7. We all know stress is bad. But how bad is it, exactly?

Using data from two large studies, Danish researchers have found that higher blood levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP, are associated with a greater risk of psychological stress and clinical depression.

Elevated levels of CRP, a byproduct of inflammation in the body, are thought to be linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular illness.

Well, that isn’t any good, now is it? This study may also lead to an alternative way to treat depression.

“Irrespective of other factors, we found that basically healthy people with CRP levels above 3 milligrams per liter had a two- to threefold increased risk of depression,” said the lead author, Dr. Borge G. Nordestgaard, a professor of medicine at the University of Copenhagen. “Dampening inflammation may be one way of treating depression.”

6. Here is a list of some important foods to supplement your diet with.

Egg yolks, tumeric, seaweed, liver, and more. One of my personal favourites, brazil nuts:

Selenium, selenium, selenium. This essential little mineral is woefully absent from most people’s diets, and it’s a shame: selenium is vital for thyroid hormone production, the manufacture of endogenous antioxidants, and sex hormone production. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium.

Many of the previously listed foods are going to get you plenty of selenium, but brazil nuts are nice to keep around for those days when you haven’t been eating your lamb kidneys, mussels, and anchovies. Just pop two or three brazil nuts and you’ll have more than a day’s worth heading straight to your gastrointestinal tract. Easy peasy. Go for the ones in their shells if you can, since those are going to be fresher than the shelled nuts.

Brazil nuts also stimulate testosterone production. And they taste incredible.

5. Chad Waterbury offers practical advice for people curious about the benefits of fasting.

Fasting is more popular than ever, and for good reason. You can experience a myriad of health and body composition benefits by avoiding food for 16 hours or more. In fact, I consider a one-day fast each week to be the most beneficial nutritional strategy for my clients.

He recommends trying a one day fast, with seven things to keep in mind. Some notes to keep in mind:

If you’re worried about muscle loss, take 3-5 grams of branched chain amino acid (BCAA) pills 2-3 times spread throughout the day. However, I don’t think it’s necessary. I have 250-pound athletes do the one-day fast without BCAAs and there’s no problem with muscle loss, especially once their glycogen is restored the next day.

Finally, do not perform any type of strenuous exercise on this day of fasting. A brisk walk is a good idea, but weight training is out of the question. Let your muscles, nerves, and organs recover without any added stress of training.

I haven’t done much experimenting with fasting, but I am going to give it a try more so to say I have done it and share my thoughts from more of a first hand account.

4. Here is a solid four-step plan for off-season weight gain, regardless of your sport/activity.


A common conversation:

Athlete: I can’t put on weight no matter what I do.
Me: You need to eat more.
Athlete: I eat ALL the time!
Me: Not enough.
Athlete: You don’t understand, I eat SO much!
Me: Not enough.

I gained close to 15 pounds in a little over a month last year simply by eating a lot more (relatively healthy foods, of course). It isn’t rocket science – if you want to add muscle, you need to eat a lot of food. Smoothies are a great way to pack in a lot of calories. Making omelettes with five or six eggs is another way to do so.

3. Need another reason to give creatine supplementation a try?

A recent study found that people who took creatine for a week before undergoing an aerobic test performed better than those who took none, and they also exhibited lower extracellular water levels than those who took none (a common misconception with creatine is that it leads to looking “bloated” and full of water).

That being said…

As it is the case in so many of the complex processes underlying human performance and the effects of proven and purported ergogenics, these insights into the effects of creatine as a potential mediator of the exercise induced neurotransmitter-response are still very preliminary. That may be surprising if you take into accaunt that millions of consumers are currently using creatine monohydrate or supplements that contain it, but in the end it’s not much different from the way the same people use to train: Things that work will prevail – irrespective of whether or not the mechanisms have already been fully understood.

I believe in creatine 100%. I have taken it for years with zero side effects – I notice more energy, better strength and mass gains, and improved recovery when I supplement with it. I take five grams every day that I work out, and none on days that I don’t. There are other ways to take it too (cycling, loading, and so on), but I like to keep it simple.

2. Making long-lasting diet changes is really hard, especially with the endless array of products available in grocery stores and restaurants. However, it isn’t impossible.

Some helpful tips:

1) Become aware of your eating behaviors and eating environment. Sounds obvious, but it is an important first step.

2) Increase the effort to eat less healthful foods. Out of sight, out of mind. Get rid of all unhealthy foods in your house. That alone is a huge second step. You are much less likely to eat candy if you have to go to the store to get it compared to it being available in your kitchen.

3) Decrease the effort to eat more healthful foods. Instead of grocery shopping once a week, go twice (yes, you have the time). Buy less, and buy fresh. On Sunday, cook a lot of meals for the week and store them in containers – it is easier to eat healthy when you have food ready for you before or after work.

1. If you are looking for some added motivation for whatever reason, watch this video. Now.

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