Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday: @CaraAnselmo

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In the wake of the election results I feel like we could all use a little ray of sunshine in our lives. Cara is always a ray of sunshine in my twitter feed. Even when she’s having a bad day, she always manages to find the positive. It makes sense that she’s a member of Earthathon‘s Runshine team and is always dedicating her miles to her tweeps.

As an RDN, Cara specializes in oncology nutrition and has blogged about related topics on her website. She’s also a certified yoga instructor which may be of interest to those of you in NY.


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Of running and hot yoga

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A couple of news articles about fitness have irked me recently. So, while my main focus is obviously nutrition, I just wanted to quickly comment on them.

This article: Jogging Outside Could Make You Dumber was written back in 2012 but my friend just shared it with me as apparently it’s making the rounds on twitter. Sigh. The study compared 12 runners who were asked to run in an urban setting to 12 who were asked to run in the countryside. It was found that there were greater levels of brain inflammation, and lower IQ scores, in those who were running in the urban setting. Problem: there could be many other differences between the two groups which caused the discrepancy in IQ and inflammation. In addition, this was a very small study. It’s entirely possible that if more people were looked at that these results would disappear. It’s also important to note that, contrary to the title of the article, the researchers do not recommend ceasing jogging or running outside. Perhaps I’ve become too stupid from running outside but I don’t think that we should stop running.

The other article that bothered me was about how there were no additional benefits to hot yoga over “regular” yoga. The study found that, based on cardiovascular data, hot yoga was actually no more strenuous than traditional yoga. In a way this is actually a positive finding; it means that people who have been medically advised not to participate in hot yoga are probably safe to do so after all. Yes, it’s important to be aware that the massive amounts of sweat you accrue are not indicative of burning a massive number of calories. Still, the study didn’t look at injuries sustained during yoga practice. Many people find hot yoga loosens the muscles and makes it easier to get deeper stretches. This may help to prevent against injury. It also makes for a nice relaxing shavasana at the end of a class. Yoga is not the best activity for weight loss but it can help people with balance, flexibility, and stress; be it hot or cold.


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A few more myths about metabolism

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A little bit more on metabolism…

After writing my OptiMYz edits last week a friend alerted me to an article on their website listing 7 Easy Ways to Boost Your Metabolism. I just want to address a few of the claims the author (for whom I can find no online footprint, by the way) makes.

1. Weight lifting builds muscle and the more muscle, the more calories burned. Research found that those who did resistance training burned an extra 100 calories each day, whether they exercised or not. Strength training causes micro trauma to muscles, and your body will attempt to rebuild the tissue by burning protein and carbs.

Yes, exercise is probably one of the best ways to increase your metabolism. That being said, it’s pretty damn hard to increase your metabolism and the effects of increased muscle mass tend to be grossly overstated. As Tim Caulfield states in his excellent book The Cure for Everything: If you were to gain 10 lbs of muscle you would then burn an extra 60 calories a day. “In cookie terminology, that’s one Oreo. Live it up”.

3. Adding spice to meals can boosts your metabolism by 20% to 25%. Cinnamon, cayenne and mustard seed promotes fat burning and increased the effectiveness of your metabolism.

Again, adding spice to meals can boost your metabolism. However, the effects tend to be much less than this and quite short-lived. An article in the NY Times gets at the truth of this claim: “Generally, studies have shown that on average a meal containing a spicy dish, like a bowl of chili, can temporarily increase metabolism by about 8 percent over a person’s normal rate, an amount considered fairly negligible.”

7. The Yoga position ‘downward-facing dog’ gets your metabolism going. Those who participated in a 50 minute yoga session saw a drop in the stress hormone cortisol, known to block fat burning.

I suppose it’s plausible that yoga might reduce cortisol levels by alleviating stress. It’s highly unlikely that downward-facing dog is going to get your metabolism going. Yoga tends to burn very few calories.

All of these things are great for you and I don’t want to discourage anyone from lifting weights, doing yoga, or eating spicy foods; I certainly do all of these things (yoga less than the others because I find it simultaneously boring and hard). I just hate seeing false claims about huge metabolism-boosting effects.