Yeah yeah, we’re the fun police, we get it. Take it or leave it, but at the end of the day, alcohol is a toxin. Here are three major reasons why alcohol is not your friend.
Increased energy intake
Pure alcohol is energy dense, containing 29 kilojoules per gram – almost equalling fat which contains 37 kilojoules per gram. Alcohols kilojoules are known as ‘empty kilojoules’ as they fail to provide nutrients that our body requires to perform important physiological functions. These kilojoules tend to stack up quickly because they are consumed in liquid form – liquid kilojoules don't elicit the same feeling or level of satiety as kilojoules from food. Because our hunger is not suppressed by alcohol we don’t compensate by reducing our food intake and our overall energy intake can increase significantly.
Altered brain chemistry
When we consume alcohol, our brain responds by releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine into our brains reward centre. The brain typically uses dopamine to reinforce healthy behaviours, however, alcohol triggers the release of very high amounts of dopamine. Excessive levels of dopamine block the expression of our negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, stress or insecurity and as a result, we feel relaxed and uninhibited. Because our inhibitions are lower, assessing our appetite and restraining from unhealthy food choices isn’t a priority. This is why after a drink (or six) you feel more comfortable reaching for a handful of chips or saying yes to that 2am dirty kebab. Far more comfortable than you did before drinking.
To make matters worse, alcohol is an excellent appetite stimulant. The body reacts to ethanol as a poison, prioritising its breakdown and removal over the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat. Breaking down alcohol is a demanding task that requires the full attention of the liver. This means that the liver ceases to perform other important jobs such as the release of glucose to maintain our blood glucose levels. Eventually, our blood glucose levels dip and we become hypoglycaemic (low blood glucose levels) – triggering intense feelings of hunger.
The combination of alcohols high energy content with its un-inhibiting and appetite-stimulating effects often lead to weight gain in the short and long-term. Reducing your alcohol intake is a small but realistic change which, when combined with healthy eating and regular exercise, will promote weight loss.
Drink in moderation and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with friends in a social setting. If you drink every night sitting at home, perhaps explore why you reach for alcohol at the end of the day. Our Healthy Lifestyle Challenge will help you learn what habits you’ve trained yourself to have in this space.
It was the night before my first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon. After 10 months of preparation, I was ready, albeit incredibly nervous. Sitting down to a home-cooked dinner with my support crew, I felt like the biggest kid eating my large bowl of pasta, side of garlic bread, all washed down with pasito (dietitians orders). As I forced it down (nerves!) I looked enviously at my friends casually enjoying their pizza and wine without a care in the world. All I wanted to do was grab the Shiraz and neck it myself! I called it an early night and before I knew it, the alarm was going off. With a blink it was race day. Ahhhh!!!
My first thought that morning was, “I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and not feel so nervous”. I knew I was prepared and I knew I would finish, but that didn’t stop the pre-race butterflies. I got myself ready, feeling like livestock being marked up; right arm tattoo, left calf tattoo, left ankle tag… It was soon time to leave for the final transition set up.
I couldn’t have asked for a better race day. Noosa definitely turned on the weather and whilst it was hot, the conditions were in my favour. Time flew that morning and before I knew it, I was standing nervously on the beach waiting for my wave to start, surrounded by my friends and family doing their best to distract me.
The swim, my weakest and biggest concern, unexpectedly turned out to be my favourite. The water was beautiful and clear. We were off and I found my own space, settling in quickly. I kept on course (mostly), made a bee-line for the beach and was stoked to finish in 30 minutes without drowning.
Quick transition (well, as quick as I could without doing a flying mount) and I was onto the bike course. I felt fatigue in my quads straight away so perhaps my taper wasn’t enough in the week leading up. Still, I was determined to maintain an average speed ~ 30km/hr and used everything I could to push through the burn, conscious to save a little for the run. Descending Garmin hill was my highlight and I even cracked a new PB top speed on the bike; it was so much fun! Coming off the bike, I checked to see I had done enough to hit my goal time of 1hr 20. Right on target.
I did some quick maths and realised that sub-3 hours was within reach. Yass! Running is my strength but it was hot (~27°C), my feet were burning, and my body was tired. Learning the hard way in previous run races, I knew I had to pace sensibly…These lessons paid off as it soon became apparent the run was going to be far more challenging than I’d thought. I needed every ounce of energy to make it to the finish line. A friend had given me some valuable advice the day before and this mantra repeated in my head; “Pain is temporary. Glory lasts forever”. I kept to a consistent pace and somehow even managed a sprint finish.
I went into race day hoping to finish around 3 hours. As I crossed the finish line, I sneaked a peep at my watch to see the time 2:55! I couldn’t believe it! I was ecstatic! Thank you Noosa,!
Whilst I exceeded my expectations at Noosa, there is always room for improvement.
Some of the key things I learnt from race day…
Go over the entire swim course (not just the first half) in your head before the start
Revisit taper week to ensure I’m feeling fresh and ready come race day
Stick more to the left on the bike course around tight turns. There were a couple of close calls…
Tighten up transitions and learn how to flying mount
I’ve definitely caught the triathlon bug and after having the time of my life on Sunday, all that’s left to decide now is …which race to do next!?
I stumbled across triathlon a little differently to most…
Last November my partner at the time encouraged me to sign up for Noosa Triathlon with him. You’re kidding right?! I couldn’t run 5km let alone 10km, could barely swim 1.5km, had never swum in the open water, am a little (OK a lot) afraid of bluebottles AND had only ridden a bike maybe 3 times since I was a kid. He persisted though and promised to help me with training so I thought, why not? Maybe it was time to try something new and with someone to help, how hard could it be? Half nervous and half excited, I signed up.
Three weeks later, he broke up with me. Not only was I completely heartbroken, I now had a $300 Noosa registration with no skills to use it. I deliberated for a few months about what to do. Some of my friends were incredibly encouraging whilst others disappointingly discouraging with comments like “Triathlon?! You can’t do that, you don’t even own a bike!” Gee thanks guys…Eventually after doing some confidence building laps in the pool, I decided it was time to bite the bullet. I was going to do Noosa; and I was going to do it for me.
I had ten months to train and teach myself three sports before putting them all together. Sounds simple, right? As my journey unfolded, it became very obvious I had a lot of work to do and absolutely no idea how to do it. There are shoes that clip you into a bike?!
I threw caution to the wind and entered a 1km open water swim. I nervously stood on the beach waiting for my race, feeling intimidated and out of place. There was an electric buzz in the air as everyone seemed to know each other, chatting away about “the chop”. What that meant, I had no idea and the thought quickly escaped my mind as the person standing next to me just mentioned the ‘B’ word; bluebottle. My Dad had surprised me and come to watch (I think he had to see it to believe it!) and I found myself at the age of 32, standing on a beach in my togs being counselled about what to do if I got stung mid-race. Not my finest adult moment, but thanks Dad…. I swam my little heart out and survived to tell the story. To this day, that swim is my 1km PB in both the pool and open water.
As time went on, I started to realise that there was more to this training than doing a session or two a week in each sport. The terms “double-session days”, “brick session” and “run off the bike” got thrown around. It also became very apparent that doing an Olympic Distance Triathlon as my first ever race wasn’t the smartest idea... My aunty Stacy, a seasoned triathlete, suggested I do a couple of smaller races for practice and exposure. Putting this all together with enduring guidance and support from her is how I found my coach, Dan McTainsh. It’s been the best decision I’ve made.
I can honestly say that I’ve never been so far out of my comfort zone. There has been blood, a couple of tears and a lot of sweat. There have been so many times where things haven’t gone to plan, but people have been there to pick me up off the ground when I’ve fallen, literally. These cleat things are hard! As time has gone on, I no longer freeze just thinking about getting on my bike and cycling has become my favourite of the three disciplines. I’m still pretty shaky and clumsy clipping in but once I’m clipped in, I’m off! I love every second.
If it wasn’t for the incredible support and encouragement from the people surrounding me, I may have thrown in the towel, making up some excuse to pull out. They have answered my endless questions (and I mean endless), helped with nutrition, training programs, fed me when I’ve been too exhausted to cook and given me kudos galore on Strava. This wonderful triathlon community has been so positive and encouraging when my “negative thought committee” has been in full-swing and believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.
I am so thankful to have such amazing people in my life who have helped me get to this point today. All of the hard work has been done and it’s just me and my mental game on race day this Sunday. Whilst I may have started this journey with a heavy heart, some fear, and a lot of self-disbelief, I’m ending it with a massive smile, huge sense of accomplishment, stronger relationships with old friends and family, many new friendships, believing that anything is possible, and a new-found love for this crazy world of triathlon. Honestly, what more could a girl want?
Many of my friends, colleagues and family have mentioned along the way how inspiring they’ve found watching my journey unfold. At first, I didn’t give it too much thought but as time has gone by, I’ve recognised that so many people have dreams and aspirations that they never start or finish because they’re so scared of failure. People worry that they’ll be judged, or are discouraged by others. It’s always so hard taking that first step but once you do, the world is your oyster. I hope to inspire you to take that step and don’t look back. The sense of accomplishment and empowerment is incredible.
Game face set
Stay tuned for Erin's recap after her first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon at Noosa this weekend! Good luck Erin!
Our body is made up of approximately 60% water. Our brain is ~85% water, blood is ~80% water and approximately 70% of lean muscle mass is water. Water plays an important role in all of these major systems and without water, they don't function efficiently. Even a mere 2% reduction in body water can decrease performance, affect short-term memory, focus and increase fatigue.
Some of the most important roles of water in the body include:Maintaining blood volume, nutrient transportation and waste removal
Water is the main component of blood and essential for transportation of nutrients and removal of waste in the body. Blood delivers nutrients such as glucose, sodium, potassium and amino acids to our tissues for cell life and function. Blood also carries toxins and waste products away from our cells to our kidneys and liver for filtration and removal. The kidneys regulate how much water we excrete or conserve to maintain blood volume and concentration.
Chemical and metabolic reactions
Water participates in hundreds of important metabolic reactions that occur in the body known as ‘hydrolysis reactions’. These reactions break down the carbohydrates, fats and proteins in our food so that our body can use them for energy and create the building blocks of life.
Protects tissues and joints
Water helps keep sensitive tissues such as your eyes, nose, mouth and brain moist. It also functions like a lubricant and cushions joints like your spine and knee so they can easily move against each other.
Water has a large heat capacity which helps control body temperature and allows us to adapt to changes in environmental temperatures. If the environmental temperature increases above body temperature, the body begins to sweat. Sweat evaporates off the skin surface which releases heat and cools the body down efficiently.
Consuming water regularly throughout the day is important to prevent dehydration. We lose water through sweat and breathing (insensible losses) and of course, urine. The insensible losses account for ~50% of the total water turnover.
The average adult requires roughly 2-3L of water per day to maintain water balance and keep the body systems functioning efficiently. This will of course vary with different environmental conditions, physical activity and your individual metabolism.
For ideas on how to drink more water, check out our 7 tips.
A ‘diet’ is a restrictive eating program used temporarily to lose weight. Diets are often gimmicky or have a certain theme such as the elimination of particular food groups or assigning points to foods. Some diets can be nonsensical, unscientific and downright dangerous – detoxes or juice cleanses anyone? *facepalm. Yes, these diets are restrictive, yes they may produce short term results, but why don’t they work long term?
We see so many clients with a history of yo-yo dieting. They’ve tried everything! Only to fall off the bandwagon, gaining more weight than they started with in the first place! It’s a shame they only come to see a Dietitian AFTER years of trying and failing at all these programs…
Weight loss is based on the first law of thermodynamics:
“Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but rather transformed from one state to another”
More affectionately rephrased as “calories in, calories out”. This, in theory, is true. When we consistently consume less energy than our body uses each day, weight loss follows.
So why don’t diets work?
The human body is smart. It thrives on balance or homeostasis. Our body has inbuilt appetite and weight regulating systems which constantly strive to restore the balance.
The role of hormones in hunger
There are two hormones responsible for regulating our appetite: ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is our appetite stimulating hormone; it is released into the stomach and sends hunger signals to the brain to produce ‘hunger pangs’.
Leptin is our appetite suppressing hormone, it is released by our fat cells after eating to send the signal that we’re full.
When we restrict our intake to lose weight, leptin levels plummet and ghrelin levels rise meaning our appetite soars. You’re up against strong feelings of hunger and it can become very difficult to resist extra snacks (or meals). Especially if you’re constantly thinking about what you can’t eat.
The role of metabolism
Our metabolism is clever and highly adaptable. It will respond to how much energy (calories or kilojoules) we consume. When our energy intake is high, the speed of our metabolism increases to ‘keep up’ with its energy workload. When our energy intake is reduced – our metabolism slows. One of the major reasons why metabolism slows relates to the effects of dieting on our body composition…
Losing weight on the scale doesn’t mean you’re only losing fat
Our body relies on energy from the macronutrients in our food (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to perform lots of everyday body functions such as breathing and digesting. Stripping kilojoules from our diet forces the body to utilise fat from our fat cells to fuel some of these physiological functions – hence the term ‘burning fat’. But poorly planned and restrictive diets can go too far and deprive the body of energy to take care of day-to-day tasks. This forces the body to increase the activity of catabolic hormones and break down muscle reserves to produce energy instead. So while the weight on the scales may go down, this can be a combination of a reduction of fat tissue AND muscle tissue – not ideal. Lean body mass or muscle tissue is very energy-demanding and losing lean body mass decreases your metabolism significantly. A dietitian can help you with a meal plan to ensure you’re only losing fat with weight loss and not valuable, metabolism driving muscle.
When we inevitably fall off the bandwagon due to our insatiable appetite or stop the diet, our metabolism is sluggish and we can gain weight quickly, typically as fat. Cue the vicious cycle of dieting, weight loss, weight re-gain and back to dieting again which leaves most people feeling defeated.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! Take a more holistic approach to your health which can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight long term. Enter the Dietitian Approved Healthy Lifestyle Challenge! A challenge designed to put in place consistent, daily habits for overall health. Nothing to do with dieting. People do lose weight on our challenge, which is a by product of these healthy habits.
Here are a few tips for more holistic and sustainable weight loss:
Ditch the food rules and concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Incorporate a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meat, fish, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds into your diet and allow yourself to eat foods which you enjoy in moderation mindfully.
Become more aware of your hunger and satiety cues and allow these cues to guide when to begin and stop eating. If you’re full, stop eating. You don’t need to finish what’s on your plate despite what your mother may tell you.
Be patient and take your time. Everyone wants to lose 5kg yesterday. Losing weight slowly is not only more maintainable, it prevents your weight loss from plateauing and allows your metabolism to adapt to its reduced energy workload. It's also far more socially enjoyable than severe restrictions.
Incidental exercise is the movement you perform as part of your everyday life that makes up your daily activities. These movements can be simple – from walking to the mailbox to gardening to playing with the kids – but together these bite-sized chunks can add up to a significant portion of your total daily physical activity. Physical activity has excellent health benefits and forms the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. It raises your daily energy expenditure and helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Sitting is the new smoking.Here are some handy ways to boost incidental exercise:
Set an alarm on your phone or watch to move hourly from your desk or chair
Invest in a standing desk
Take regular breaks to grab another glass of water
Take phone calls on your mobile and do laps around the office
Don’t install a printer at your desk, walk to collect printing
Catch up with work colleagues or friends over a brisk walk instead of sitting down at the office or coffee shop
Always use the stairs over the lift or escalators
Jump off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way
Multi task – instead of sitting down in front of the television, do chores like washing, ironing and folding.
Park further away from the shop entry
Leave the TV remote on the coffee table and get up to change the channel
It is well known that exercise increases your fitness and improves your overall health and well-being. Exercise is also an effective way to manage your mood and stress levels.
Virtually any form of exercise from weight lifting to running or even yoga, has powerful ‘mood-boosting’ effects. Exercise can help:
· Decrease stress and anxiety levels
· Ward off feelings of depression
· Boost confidence and self-esteem
· Increase productivity
· Improve sleep
So how does exercise work it’s magic?
Endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good neurotransmitters or chemicals. When you perform any type of physical activity your body responds by releasing these neurotransmitters. The endorphins interact with your brain’s opiate receptors and trigger feelings of euphoria and general well-being. They also suppress your ability to feel pain.
Although a demanding schedule sounds like the perfect reason to for-go exercising, setting aside some time to move every day helps turn your daily physical activity into a healthy habit. The current recommendations for healthy adults is 150 to 300 minutes of moderate or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Try breaking exercise up into smaller chunks, mixing up the intensity of your physical activity and alternating between morning, lunch time and evening activities to fit around your busy days. Whatever you do, don’t think of exercise as another chore – it is actually the key to de-stressing after a hectic day!
Yet consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol has detrimental effects on weight loss. The biggest problem with alcohol is not simply its energy density, it’s also how alcohol effects our body’s metabolic processes. Most importantly, its capacity to metabolise fat.
The reason why alcohol impacts our metabolism is linked to the way in which ethanol is processed. Ethanol is a toxic molecule and our body doesn’t have a storage place for it. Unlike fat, which is deposited into fat cells or carbohydrates which are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. Essentially the body has no choice but to prioritise the breakdown and removal of alcohol over all other macronutrients.
The major processing site for alcohol in the body is the liver. Up to 98% of alcohol consumed is transported to the liver where the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase converts alcohol to acetaldehyde. This molecule is then transformed into acetate, producing a sudden increase in blood acetate levels.
The body prefers to burn acetate over fat because it is more efficient. Acetate is a very readily available fuel source so the body doesn't have to do much metabolic work to use it. Our body suppresses fat oxidation (fat burning), sometimes by up to 73% (!), until the acetate is burned off. This means that for the subsequent hours after drinking, your body is in unable to utilise fat stores and any plans you had for fat loss come to a grinding halt.
But wait, there is more bad news…
When we drink heavily for an extended period of time, our body recognises alcohol as a consistent energy source and adapts to use it more efficiently. The body activates a system known as the ‘microsomal ethanol-oxidising system’ in order to redistribute and remove excess alcohol and promote body fat storage. The most common site of fat storage is around your mid-section (hence why lovers of alcohol usually sport a "beer gut").
If you’re a part of our Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, these are just a couple of good reasons why alcohol intake scores so poorly. While for some it may be hard to avoid, it wouldn’t be called a ‘challenge’ if it wasn’t challenging, right? We only have your health at heart. Plus it’s only 30 days out of your whole life – you’ll thank us for it later.
For some, drinking enough water each day is easier said than done. Maybe you dislike the taste, get too busy or just plain forget about drinking until bedtime, when chugging eight glasses is highly impractical (and not advised!). To help you drink more water, we’ve put together 7 tips you can use to develop this healthy and essential habit.
Buy a water bottle (and use it) Invest in a high-quality, stainless steel or heavy duty BPA free plastic water bottle and take it with you everywhere! If you regularly forget to drink water, find ways to keep your water bottle visible. Keep it on your bedside table, on your desk and in the car. Increase your availability of water and opportunity to drink and chances are you will.
Add sugar-free flavour If plain water isn’t your thing, try flavouring it with fresh fruits and herbs. Try these tasty combinations:
Cucumber and mint Fresh lemon or lime wedges – squeeze some of the juice into your water first Frozen berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries. These also double as ice cubes and are great for summer Fresh lemon and ginger root range slices & blueberries Watermelon and mint Rosemary and grapefruit Kiwi and cucumber
Switch things up and go for a sparkling mineral water. Soda streams are all the rage at the moment and are a cheap way of making your own bubbly water without the wastefulness of buying numerous bottles from the supermarket.
Add water to your daily routine Adding water into your morning and night time routine is an easy way to ensure you drink at least two glasses of water each day. Get into the habit of drinking a glass of water before you have breakfast and another right before you brush your teeth at night.
Turn your water bottle into a timer You can create drinking goals and mark them on your water bottle to hit targets by certain times of the day. Use tape or a permanent marker to mark how much water you aim to drink by a particular time. This is a helpful way to keep track of whether you are going to hit your goal water intake (or not). You can also buy motivational water bottles pre-marked or even fancier products with inbuilt computers that track your water consumption.
Create mental triggers Identify some mental prompts to drink water. For example, if you feel hungry opt for a glass of water before eating. Not only will this keep you hydrated it will could also possibly curb your hunger.
Be active We lose water in sweat which needs to be replaced during and after exercise. If you're struggling to drink, go for a brisk walk or do some exercise in the gym. This will help drive thirst as your body works to restore its hydration balance or homeostasis.
Fruits and vegetables naturally grow in cycles and ripen during a certain season each year. Purchasing your fruits and vegetables when they naturally ripen is called ‘eating seasonally’, and eating with the seasons has some serious perks to it.
1. Bang for your buck
Choosing seasonal produce can help you get the most value out of your dollar. Fruits and vegetables picked during their season are in peak supply and this means the cost of growing, harvesting and transporting produce is much lower. If your produce is sourced locally from Australian farmers, the cost of transporting and storing the crops is reduced too. All of these savings are passed on to you, the consumer. For example, buying berries when they are in season is much friendlier on the wallet than buying in their off season when prices can double or even triple!
Non-seasonal produce typically must be harvested before it is ripe, cooled to stall ripening, stored and transported significant distances to where it will be sold and consumed. The ripening process is then controlled by hot rooms, humidity and ethylene to cause even, uniform ripening. The other way seasonal fruits and vegetables are farmed in Australia is with the assistance of green houses. While there are no food safety issues with either of these methods, seasonal fruit and veggies are naturally ripened on the plant, tree or vine and harvested when they are in their prime. This means tastier, crispier vegetables and sweeter fruits. Strawberries are a great example of how sweet and delicious in-season varieties are.
3. More nutritious
Buying out-of-season fruits and vegetables can mean your food has travelled thousands of kilometres with controlled aging in that time. This can affect nutrient density – particlarly some antioxidants. Green leafy vegetables like spinach are rich in folic acid which decays over time and the vitaminc C content of spinach can decrease by up to 90 percent! In-season produce is fresher and this can mean it’s higher in nutritional value.
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