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Please Fill Out This Form...

You've probably done this a dozen times already this week: If you went to the doctor, applied for a job, signed up for classes, applied for a credit card, opened a bank account - there's a gazillion reasons you may have filled out forms. And of course, depending on the instance for the paperwork, your responses could vary significantly. However, there's one form that should be filled out in a prescriptive and universal approach: the human body!

How would this look? It would start with a healthy diet and the essential steps of eating mostly foods derived from plants—vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils)—and limited processed foods. Balancing consumption of food from the different (good food) groups in the right quantities, encompassing a wide variety of fresh, organic, non-GMO foods, is not as boring or restrictive as it may initially sound. If you've been leading the lifestyle of a junk-food junkie extraordinaire, the food industry probably has you by the balls, making it a bit harder for you to change your habits due to the highly addictive nature of sugar and other chemicals used in highly processed foods for lots of bad reasons. None of those reasons are good for your body - or your mind. Here's a quick guide for cleaning up your diet:

  • Eat plenty of fresh produce, organic when possible.

  • Consume more whole grains-whole grains retain the bran and germ which means all (or nearly all) of the nutrients and fiber of the grain. Look for a product labeled “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain.”

  • Avoid refined grains and sugar. The refined carbohydrates in white bread, regular pasta and most snack foods have little or no dietary fiber and have been stripped of many nutrients. These quasi-foods will also strip your wallet (think $$$ in health care when consumed long term) and your health.

  • Include raw nuts and wild-caught fish.

  • Cut down on animal fat, primarily that found in red meat.

  • Nix all trans fats. You do know that a labeling law went into effect in 2006, right? It should read "The Surgeon General warns that trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and also reduces HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease."

  • Don't worry about cholesterol. There's abundant evidence that cholesterol in food has little, if any, effect on blood cholesterol in most people. The best way for most people to lower their blood cholesterol is to reduce saturated fats (as in meats) and trans fats (from partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods). A possible exception is people with diabetes.

  • Keep sodium down and potassium up. Excess sodium raises blood pressure in many people and has other harmful effects. The guideline is around 2,300 mgs/day for most everyone. Potassium-rich foods lower blood pressure.

  • Watch calcium and vitamin D intake. These nutrients are vital for bone health. If you can’t get 1,000 to 1,200 mg a day from foods, take a calcium supplement. It can be difficult to consume enough vitamin D from foods, and getting it from sunlight is risky. Many people—especially those who are over 60, live at northern latitudes or have darker skin—may need a D supplement (800 to 1,000 IU a day).

  • Do choose food over supplements whenever possible.

  • Be aware of portion size and pay attention to labels when determining what a portion size is for that particular food.

  • Be aware of liquid calories, primarily if you consume sodas, juices and alcohol.

  • Limit alcohol. Guidelines: one drink a day for women, two a day for men. Older people should drink even less. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of 80-proof spirits. While certain alcoholic beverages, in moderation, have heart benefits, higher intakes can lead to a wide range of health problems. Even moderate drinking may increase the risk of certain cancers.

  • Drink at least 8-10 cups of purified water daily.

It takes time to fill out most forms and the same goes for the human body. We can get away with a lot in our youth but studies show a gradual decline in muscle mass typically beginning by age 35! Consider the following facts:

Fortunately, sarcopenia can be reversed with a few natural and easy treatments. It is essential to consume adequate amounts of protein while also incorporating resistance training as this type of exercise is absolutely the most powerful way to address muscle loss. Within as little as 2 weeks, this can have a dramatic effect on your form. If the following photos don't inspire you to keep fit through the aging process, the list of top 10 reasons may be more convincing:

John Turner, age 65

Ernestine Shepard is the body-builder; woman on right is unnamed

1. Improve functional strength and flexibility. Super important because it can help keep you safe in your daily activities and make you less vulnerable to falls or other injuries. Can also keep you living an independent life. Sometimes we don't appreciate this enough until we've had someone else wipe our butt for us...

2. Build muscle strength. Adults lose between 5 - 7 lbs. of muscle every decade after age 20! Only strength/resistance training will prevent muscle loss.

3. Increase bone mass and density. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises can help protect against osteoporosis. Broken hip after a slip and fall is extremely common in the elderly and the mortality statistics after this occurrence point to death within 6 months or less!

4. Lower body fat. Studies in strength training point to an average 4 lb. fat loss after three months of training, even while participants increased their daily caloric intake by 15%.

5. Strength training reduces resting blood pressure.

6. Strength training has been proven to increase low back strength and alleviate low back pain.

7. Reduce the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Even conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be managed with weight training; this certainly helped me before my surgeries.

8. Reduce symptoms of other chronic diseases: depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and sleep disorders. The cumulative effect of strength training will also impact your overall use of the healthcare system as it provides benefits not achievable through pharmacological intervention or with solely aerobic-based exercise.

9. Increase serotonin - the ‘feel good’ hormone. I particularly love this one!

10. Glorify your personal appearance! Improving your strength and your physique is a plus for your self-confidence and self-esteem.

The following link to Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism will provide additional insight for advanced arguments pro-weight training in the elderly population:

Of course, diet is an important part of muscle maintenance/muscle gain and here is where quality protein plays an important role. Protein is made of building blocks called amino acids and some of these are called essential amino acids, which means they must come from food. This is what is meant by quality protein - one that supplies even the essential amino acids. The best sources for complete proteins are meats, eggs and dairy products. Vegans and vegetarians can also fill their protein requirements without worry and without the use of 'food-combining' which has been proven to be a fallacy. While it is true that many foods do not contain a complete amino acid profile, it is not necessary to combine foods at each meal to make complete proteins. For example, a food label may list a protein content of 9 gms/serving but not specify whether it is a complete protein or not. It is worth the effort to educate yourself on the topic of protein as an hour of reading can make a huge difference to the quality of meals you put together for the sake of protein. Over the course of time, if you tend to eat a lot of the same foods that may be low in essential amino acids, this could cause issues. Here is a great link for further information on protein, especially for non-meat/animal product eaters:

Claude Bouchard, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA, has authored several books and hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of obesity and metabolism. Bouchard states:

"Brain function makes up close to 20% of RMR (resting metabolic rate). Next is the heart, which is beating all the time and accounts for another 15-20%. The liver, which also functions at rest, contributes another 15-20%. Then you have the kidneys and lungs and other tissues, so what remains is muscle, contributing only 20-25% of total resting metabolism."

I've labored away at weightlifting and increased my muscle mass by an enthusiastic 10% yet this means only a 4% to 5% increase in my RMR. Since a 138 lb. woman has an RMR of roughly 1,300 calories, a 10% increase in muscle mass equals only a 55 - 70 calorie/day increase. Based on the biochemical and metabolic literature, a pound of muscle burns six calories per hour at rest and a pound of fat burns about two calories an hour. Say I'm carrying 25 lbs. of muscle tissue (6 calories x 25 lbs. = 150 calories) and 20 lbs. of body fat (2 calories x 20 lbs. = 40 calories) which shows muscle to be three times more metabolically active at rest than fat, not 50 times as is so often stated, based on misconception. In less than 15 seconds, I came up with these two so-called 'expert' opinions on fat vs. muscle caloric expenditures (opinion is NOT the same as fact...) from Google search and there were so many more that I just chose these to make a point:

The author above states you can burn >4 calories for each lb. of muscle compared to fat

This author claims you can burn 20 calories for each lb. of muscle compared to fat

As always, there is a lot of misinformation circulating in the universe of health, diet and fitness-related topics. It's important to know the background and training of who is providing the material you choose to study as so much is just propaganda spewed out based on personal agenda. Regardless of the calorie burn, I choose weight training for the host of benefits that have nothing to do with food energy:

Stacey, age 56

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