The Benefits of Gratitude

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We all have bouts in our lives where we feel gratitude towards others for doing something special for us but what would happen if we made gratitude a daily part of our lives? There are many different physical, emotional and mental benefits of practicing gratitude.

How can you add more gratitude to your life? It can be as simple as thinking about 1-3 things you are grateful for upon waking or before you fall asleep. It can also be more in depth by creating a gratitude journal, where you write down your feelings of gratitude on a daily basis. You could even write a gratitude letter to someone that has had an impact in your life. I've been thinking through three things in the morning and some days it's harder than others, but there are always at least three things I can be thankful for. I would like to involve my family so I'm going to add it to our dinner discussion, which currently includes the following questions: 

  • What was the most fun part of your day?
  • What was the hardest part of your day?
  • What was the silliest part of your day?
  • Now I will add - what or who are you most thankful for today?

Here are some other ideas to involve your kids, as kids that practice gratitude are more kind to others, get better grades and care more for the environment. 

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  • Share stories of others practicing gratitude to help younger kids understand what it means.
  • Make small, unexpected gestures of gratitude a part of your lives, such as leaving a post-it note of thanks when a family member helps you out.
  • Encourage kids to start their own journal.
  • Include a statement of thanks with bedtime hugs or prayers.

How Well Do I Burn Fat?

I test myself periodically to see how efficient I am at burning fat. This also helps me to prepare my race day nutrition. I tested myself in May 2016 and again in November 2016 and didn't see much change. When I did Boulder Ironman this past June, I had planned to do another test before the race but my training schedule didn't really have a place for it, so I just used my old data. I'll be (finally) posting my race report shortly, which will show that I took in a little less than I had in past Ironman races, which isn't a whole lot. You can see my prior IM intake here. Boulder Ironman 2014 race report and Ironman WI 2015 race report. To prepare for this last IM I used my test results from last November, which show that my calorie need at the targeted race power and HR was about 22-33 carbohydrate calories per hour. 

My ME test last November. I wasn't racing with power but was typically in the 125-135 HR on the bike.

My ME test last November. I wasn't racing with power but was typically in the 125-135 HR on the bike.

I retested myself on 7-17-17. I did more of a race day simulation and had coffee with half and half as I would typically do before training. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I had improved even after following my Fat Adapted Fueling plan for over 4 years. You can see below that my required carbohydrate calories decreased further (justifying my slightly lower intake in Boulder IM mid-June) and I was still burning more fat at higher power levels so my bike power has increased. I'm using power to race now and my target was between 140 and 150 watts for the full Ironman. Based on that, and my fat-burning efficiency, my required intake was approximately in the range of 12 and 35 carbohydrate calories per hour. 

My carbohydrate calorie needs per hour, 10% is the minimum and 30% the maximum. Since I'm very efficient at burning fat, I can take in closer to 10%.

My carbohydrate calorie needs per hour, 10% is the minimum and 30% the maximum. Since I'm very efficient at burning fat, I can take in closer to 10%.

What I found even more interesting was how much higher my power and heart rates were before I crossed over into burning more carbohydrate than fat. The pictures below show my data from last November and this week (July 2017). I increased my crossover point from a heart rate of 135 to 146 and from 175 watts to 220 watts. 

Crossover point in November 2016 was at heart rate of 135 and power of 175.

Crossover point in November 2016 was at heart rate of 135 and power of 175.

Crossover point in July 2017 was at heart rate of 146 and watts of 220.

Crossover point in July 2017 was at heart rate of 146 and watts of 220.

The other great result is how quickly I returned to predominantly burning fat after crossing over. I reduced the power from 220 to 140 watts and was burning more fat than carbohydrate within about 30-45 seconds. That's important to know if you walk through aid stations or take recovery breaks in a longer race. Once I further reduced the power to 120, I was using fat for more than 90% of my calories. That's pretty darn good!

I will admit that I've allowed myself a little more flexibility in my intake during the last few months of my IM training because my intensity was higher for this training cycle. I felt I needed to add a bit more carbohydrates strategically around my key training sessions. I wondered how that would impact my fat burning but clearly there was no negative impact. I believe my long term application of my Fat Adapted Fueling program continues to pay off. Also, the test done last November was at beginning my training season and had just completed my off season so that likely impacted my fitness negatively. 

Are you wondering how this affects the top end? I have done two sprint triathlons this year and was as fast as I have ever been, even two weeks post Ironman. I won my age group in both races. It felt good to go hard and empty the tank.

All this shows that long term, consistent dietary changes will continue to pay off. In addition, the longer one follows a program, the more it allows for occasional "splurges" while still progressing towards goals. 

The Value of Metabolic Testing

You may be wondering why you should consider metabolic testing. Maybe you don’t even know what it is… many people don’t. A metabolic test can be done at rest or during exercise and it will tell you how many calories you are burning from fat and carbohydrate. You may think that this type of testing is for only athletes but it can also provide information about your body’s metabolic health. If you are struggling with fatigue or the inability to lose weight, this test can help to shed some light on reasons why. From there we can make nutrition and exercise changes, specific to your test results, that can spark change in your body.

We can use the test to calculate your resting metabolic rate but most clients I see are doing some type of exercise so I like to do the test during a typical workout session. You may find that your body is burning through carbohydrates and does not even tap into your stored fat when you are working out. If this is the case, you are not able to burn fat so it’s difficult to lose weight. Even worse yet, if you are an athlete, you will bonk or hit the wall much sooner than expected because you burn through your stored carbohydrates too quickly. In addition, wouldn’t you want to know how many calories you are burning? If you struggle to understand how many calories you should eat before, during and after exercise, the metabolic test will help you to determine your exact calorie needs. Test... don't guess! 

This type of test is different than a VO2max test. A VO2max test tells you the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume during exercise. That may give you bragging rights with you buddies but it doesn't really mean much in terms of performance. The type of metabolic test we perform looks at the oxygen you inhale and the carbon dioxide you exhale. From there we can calculate the respiratory quotient, which tells us how much fat and carbohydrate you are burning. This also makes the calorie data more accurate

Once we have your test data, I can tell you how efficient you are at burning fat, how many calories you burn and how many carbohydrate calories you need to replace in a longer training session or race. We will also use the data for nutrition changes to become more efficient at burning fat. Contrary to what most believe, training has approximately 25% impact on the ability to burn fat and nutrition impacts this by 75%. I have seen multiple Ironman triathletes that burn more carbohydrates than fat at rest. This is because they are fueling themselves on carbohydrates on a daily basis. 

Here are some of the ways we can use this data.

Weight loss: This client was unable to lose weight by following standard nutrition recommendations and going to the gym 6 days a week. 
 

As you can see from the chart, she was not burning much fat at rest. We used this information to change her daily diet and exercise program. 

As you can see from the chart, she was not burning much fat at rest. We used this information to change her daily diet and exercise program. 

She came back for a follow up test 16 weeks later and this was her result.
 

She is now burning significantly more fat until she reaches a higher intensity on the bike. This metabolic change helped her to lose fat and improve her body composition.

She is now burning significantly more fat until she reaches a higher intensity on the bike. This metabolic change helped her to lose fat and improve her body composition.

Race day nutrition/Minimize GI distress: This was an Ironman triathlete that suffered from GI distress in prior races. She followed standard sports nutrition guidelines to take in 50 grams of carbohydrates (200 calories) per hour. 

She typically raced at a heart rate of 135 so we did a metabolic test that started at a low intensity and gradually increased the intensity to higher than her typical race intensity. From the data we were able to determine how many carbohydrate calories she needed to replace.

The test showed that the maximum amount of carbohydrate calories she can consume and safely absorb at her racing heart rate is about 100 calories.

The test showed that the maximum amount of carbohydrate calories she can consume and safely absorb at her racing heart rate is about 100 calories.

She was taking in twice the amount of calories she needed, which was why her body was rejecting the food and she ended up with GI distress. She used this test data for her next Ironman race, took in about 75 calories per hour and beat her best time by more than one hour. 

If you are suffering from fatigue, moodiness/hanger between meals, GI distress, confusion over how much to eat during and outside of training, this test can help you. Contact us to learn more. 

Probiotics - Yogurt is not enough

This is the time of year when we are exposed to more germs that can bring on illness if our immune system is not functioning at its best. One thing you can do is use a good probiotic to boost healthy bacteria to help combat the nasty little bugs that come your way. 

Most of you have heard that probiotics are a beneficial supplement and can improve digestion but did you realize that probiotics can also help to improve your mood, body composition, nutrient levels, skin, teeth, vaginal health, blood sugar regulation and more?

When I ask new clients if they are taking a probiotic, they often answer that they are eating yogurt. That's not enough, particularly if it's a highly processed yogurt, filled with sugar. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria and there are no live cultures after high heat processing. Here are some things you can do to help build a healthy level of bacteria in your GI tract.
•    Choose a good kefir, kombucha, Kim chi, sauerkraut or other fermented food.
•    Add in a professional-grade probiotic with live bacteria strains and change it up to ensure you are getting a variety of strains. Studies show more health benefits from a variety of probiotic strains in the GI tract. 
•    Eat prebiotic foods that feed the gut bacteria so that the good bacteria can thrive in your GI tract. There's no point in spending money on a probiotic if you don't give it what it needs to survive. Some good prebiotic foods: raw jicama, raw or cooked onions, raw asparagus, raw Jerusalem artichoke, raw leeks, raw garlic, green bananas, 
•    Minimize refined sugar intake and increase fiber intake in the form of vegetables. Any undigested fiber also works as a prebiotic. 
•    Get dirty! We are more sterile than our ancestors and they believe this has had a negative impact on our gut bacteria levels. 
•    Minimize antibiotic and NSAID use (ibuprofen, tylenol, etc.).

Lastly, more is not always better. I have had clients come to me taking multiple doses of probiotics each day only to feel gassy and bloated. If you are getting gassy and bloated from a probiotic supplement, that's an indication that something else is going on in the GI tract. We need to investigate further and address those issues first. Also, you don't need to take a probiotic every day if your GI tract is healthy and functioning well. That said, the following can negatively affect the gut microbiome: alcohol intake, stress, sleep deprivation, refined sugar and excessive exercise so be mindful if you are exposed to these things on a regular basis.

Remember you are only as strong as the good bugs inside you!