You’ve heard about coffee’s benefits. But have you heard them all? What about its fat-burning potential? Earl Williams, owner of Georgetown’s Definitions Personal Trainers’ Gym, interviews Katherine Tallmadge (me), about coffee, the scientific facts about its health and fitness benefits, and 9 tips for how you can make coffee work for you.
Earl: I developed Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) to help clients optimize fat burn and I’m always looking for other ways to complement this. What are the benefits of drinking coffee for those who exercise with the goal of fat loss?
Katherine: The caffeine in coffee enhances physical performance. “Caffeine may act directly on muscle to enhance its capacity to exercise,” according to “Essentials of Exercise Physiology,” by William D. McArdle and Frank L. Katch. It facilitates the use of fat as fuel for exercise, thus sparing the body’s limited glycogen reserves, according to McArdle and Katch. “Coffee can be a positive part of a sports diet if a person chooses to drink a cup of coffee before they work out,” said Nancy Clark, author of Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Coffee / caffeine also increases metabolism causing the body to burn more calories, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1).
Earl: Coffee drinkers commonly add sugar, artificial sweeteners, milk, syrups, etc. How do these additives affect the benefits of drinking coffee?
Katherine: Most of them add calories. So, keep in mind that one syrupy, high calorie drink (some as high as 500 calories — 1⁄4 of one day’s calorie needs) can make the difference between losing and not losing weight. That said, a Latte or Cappuccino are especially good to drink, not only because of the caffeine, but also because of the protein, carbohydrate, potassium and other nutrients contained in the milk.
Earl: Is there a window of time before, during, or after the workout that coffee should be consumed?
Katherine: “People have different sensitivities and reactions to caffeine,” said Clark. But, “peak concentration is within 30 and 120 minutes after ingestion to exert an influence on the nervous, cardiovascular and muscular systems,” according to McArdle and Katch.
Earl: Any guidance on the daily amount consumed?
Katherine: That would be personalized and depend on a person’s tolerance level of coffee/caffeine. But “drinking the amount of caffeine (330 mg*) in 2.5 cups of coffee one hour before exercising significantly extends endurance in intense aerobic exercise,” according to McArdle and Katch. Which means you can exercise longer before feeling its effects, thus increasing endurance.
Earl: Caffeine in coffee helps mobilize fat in tissues and the bloodstream making the fatty acids available as fuel for exercise—thus sparing and making accessible—muscle and liver glycogen for performance. What are fatty acids?
Katherine: Fat, called triglycerides, partly comes from food and ends up in the bloodstream. When you exercise regularly (every 24 hours), fat/triglycerides are sent into the muscles where it is burned as fuel. If you do not exercise often enough, the triglycerides stay in the bloodstream causing obesity, high bad (LDL) cholesterol and high blood triglycerides – all associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Earl: The fitness community once thought coffee was a diuretic and could not provide the hydration water could. Is this still the case?
Katherine: Coffee and tea are now considered good hydrators, according to the most recent scientific analysis and report by the National Academy of Science’s Food and Nutrition Board (2).
Earl: Under what circumstances should coffee be avoided?
Katherine: You should ask your doctor if you should avoid or limit coffee, especially if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant.
Earl: What are some of the other health benefits of drinking coffee?
Katherine: The research is promising. Some recent studies suggest that coffee may be associated with a reduced incidence of all causes of death and cardiovascular disease (3), of Type 2 Diabetes (4), Parkinson’s Disease (5), Alzheimer’s (6), Multiple Sclerosis (7), liver cancer(8) – the second leading cause of cancer deaths world-wide – and perhaps other health conditions. Of course, though exciting, the research is just in its beginning stages. More controlled human clinical studies are needed to learn more specifics as to why and how coffee may or may not work to improve your health.
Earl: Any other thoughts about coffee?
Katherine: It is important that the exerciser test the effect of different levels of coffee/caffeine on their performance several times to determine the ideal amount and achieve the best level of performance before any major competition or long term bout of exercise.
(1) Normal caffeine consumption: influence on the thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postboxes human volunteers. AG Dulloo, CA Geissler, T Horton, A Collins and DS Miller. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1989:49:44-50;
(4) “Changes in coffee intake and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes: three large cohorts of US men and women,” Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, An Pan, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, Rob M. van Dam, Frank B. Hu, Diabetologia, online April 24, 2014, DOI 10.1007/s00125-014-3235-7
(5) Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With the Risk of Parkinson Disease. G. Webster Ross, MD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Helen Petrovitch, MD; David M. Morens, MD; Andrew Grandinetti, PhD; Ko-Hui Tung, MS; Caroline M. Tanner, MD, PhD; Kamal H. Masaki, MD; Patricia L. Blanchette, MD, MPH; J. David Curb, MD, MPH; Jordan S. Popper, MD; Lon R. White, MD, MPH JAMA. 2000;283(20):2674-2679. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2674.
(8) World Cancer Research Fund International’s Continuous Update Project (CUP)
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A new study confirmed what I’ve suspected for the twenty (or more) years I’ve been a diet counselor. Eating hearty meals earlier in the day instead of in the evening leads to weight loss and better health, even when the same foods and same calories are eaten.
A recent study published in the scientific journal, “Diabetologia,” found people with Type 2 Diabetes eating a large breakfast and lunch – and no dinner, as compared with those eating six small meals with the same calories – lost more body fat, liver fat, and improved insulin sensitivity.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be eating dinner, as scientists often exaggerate conditions to get measurable results in their studies. But you can likely use the study’s conclusions to make positive changes for your health and weight, as did my client, Mark Indre.
“I lost more than 35 pounds and have kept it off for more than two years,” said Mark Indre.
Some points to consider…
Does this sound familiar? You get home from work, stressed and ravenous. You head straight for the kitchen, grab a bowl of nuts or a plate of cheese and crackers. You nibble as you’re preparing dinner. After dinner, you settle on the couch, most likely in front of the television, and zone out with some favorite snacks, such as popcorn, chips, nuts, ice cream, peanut butter or sweets—whatever is tasty and easy to grab.
Welcome to the typical American evening! For many people, it’s an endless graze that doesn’t stop until they go to bed.
Evening overeating is an issue that contributes to many peoples’ weight problems. I’ve been surprised at just how many people struggle with this. I used to myself. Even disciplined people who carefully watch their intake during the day break down at night. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard these refrains: “I’m fine during the day, my problem’s at night,” or “If I could control my eating at night, my weight problem would probably disappear…. ”
This is important because more and more research is confirming the importance of eating lighter at night and heavier during the day – for health, not just weight. A recent study published in “Diabetologia” found people who at a large breakfast and lunch – and no dinner, as compared with people with type 2 diabetes who ate 6 small meals – lost body fat and improved insulin sensitivity. This occurred while eating the same calories, just distributed differently.
It’s become clear to me that evening overeating is not just an isolated problem but the convergence of a host of lifestyle issues—stress, exhaustion, loneliness, disorganized eating and hunger.
In today’s fast-paced world, many people are constantly hopping from meeting to meeting or from chore to chore during the day and don’t have time to sit down and eat a decent meal. So we become ravenous. In the evening, there’s more time for eating, so we not only eat larger meals, but continuous ones. Those who are tired or stressed find that food is an easy way to reward themselves at the end of the day. Food can provide a little companionship for the lonely or depressed. Researchers who have identified “night eating syndrome,” the most severe form of evening overeating that affects about five percent of obese people seeking treatment, say it is stress-related.
“We believe it’s a stress disorder which causes people to eat more than one-third of their calories after the evening meal,” says obesity researcher Albert J. Stunkard, who has studied nighttime overeaters since the 1950s and recently co-authored “Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome: A Step-by-Step Guide to Breaking the Cycle” (New Harbinger Publications, 2004).
Evening overeating is an important problem to solve because Americans who eat most of their daily intake of food at night eat more overall calories, according to a study reported in the Journal of Nutrition. And that makes them more susceptible to weight problems.
“The late-night period was when the highest-density foods were eaten. Eating a high proportion of daily intake in the late evening, compared to earlier in the day, was associated with higher overall intake,” researcher John M. de Castro concluded in the study, which analyzed food diaries of about 900 men and women.
De Castro, professor and chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso, also found that evening eating was less satisfying for people, which may help explain why they eat more.
“In the evening, you get lower satiety. People tend to eat very large meals but then eat again shortly afterward,” said de Castro.
For those who succumb to nighttime overeating, I recommend you attack this problem by assessing why this may be happening to you and then devising specific personalized strategies for eating lighter at night. Some points to consider:
Breakfast: De Castro’s study found that a “high proportional intake in the morning is associated with low overall daily intake.” This finding confirms my experience of 25+ years: Eating a bigger breakfast is the single most effective way of curbing evening overeating. Other studies have confirmed the importance of breakfast for maintaining weight loss.
I advise my clients to eat one-third of their daily calories in the morning. For most people, that’s at least 600 calories, much more than they’re used to consuming.
While solving other issues such as end-of-day stress, exhaustion and emotional issues are important, too, I’ve found that nothing works unless morning eating is beefed up first. Eating more in the morning is a scary proposition for many people who fear that they’ll continue their evening overeating on top of the bigger breakfast. But my clients who bite the bullet and give it a try are amazed to find that it reduces cravings and gives them a sense of control, so that it is easier to eat more moderately later in the day.
Interestingly, de Castro found that people are more sated with the food they eat in the morning. “If they eat a large breakfast, they’ll wait a long time before eating again. They get a lot of bang for the buck,” says de Castro.
Organized eating: Researchers have found that most people with the more severe “night-eating syndrome” don’t have regular meal and snack times. I have also found this is true for evening overeaters. Most overeating is due simply to undereating throughout the day and poor planning. I hear so many people say “I have no will power,” or “I hate myself because I have no discipline.” But they somehow regain their “discipline” and “will power” by simply planning and eating regular daytime meals and snacks.
That’s why I advocate cooking in large batches and regular grocery shopping so that you have healthy and delicious foods at your fingertips when you get home from work in the evenings.
Trigger foods: Many people who overeat in the evenings have “trigger” foods, specific foods they crave and are more likely to overeat, such as chips, chocolate or peanut butter. The experts find the avoidance of trigger foods can reduce evening overeating.
Assessing hunger: Your body lets you know what it needs. One key to lasting weight management is being in touch with your body and its signals. In the evening, before eating, get rid of distractions, take a few deep breaths and stop to think if you’re physically hungry. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not, or if you’re not sure, you shouldn’t eat.
Stress management: Many people overeat in the evenings as a way to cope with the stress and exhaustion they may feel or to reward themselves at the end of a hard day. But this is a self-defeating response to stress or rewards. When you come home, never head straight for the kitchen. Instead, hop in the shower or tub to decompress, take a walk or stretch. Once relaxed, then decide what you’d like for dinner. Better yet, hopefully you’ve already planned your dinner.
Of course, these actions are only possible if you’ve fed yourself properly during the day and you’re not ravenous.
Reducing behavioral associations: Like Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov’s famous dogs, we can train ourselves to salivate and crave food in connection with just about any activity. Playing cards, eat. Watching a movie, eat. Going to the mall, eat. Talking on the phone, eat. Reading in bed, eat. Watching TV, eat. The experts recommend you eat only when seated at your dining or kitchen table, without distractions, so that you don’t develop an association between eating and any activity, place or person. The only stimulus for eating should be hunger. Distractions tend to reduce inhibitions to overeating.
When to eat: There is no hard-and-fast rule governing the timing of your last meal in the evening. I recommend that evening calories don’t exceed lunch or breakfast calories and that you eat at least two-thirds of your day’s calories before dinner. It’s important to go to bed feeling light, not full. This way, you awake hungry for a big breakfast.
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People are always asking me if fruit is too high in sugar to eat, especially if you have diabetes. This fear of fruit, I believe, is leftover from the Atkins craze, making foods like fruits, and even vegetables like carrots, verboten. This is one of the most tragic consequences of this diet fad, because avoiding fruit can actually damage your health.
People who eat fruit have a lower incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, the most common form of the disease, according to a recently published Harvard study. But this study isn’t alone in its conclusions. It corroborates decades of research showing the nutritional value and health benefits of fruits.
Fruit is high in water content and fiber, which help you feel full with fewer calories. Even though it contains simple sugars and carbohydrates, most fruits have a relatively low glycemic index, that is, when you eat it, your blood sugar raises only moderately, especially when compared with refined sugar or flour products.
Fruit is loaded with nutrients scientists believe protect people from major chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and more. The potassium in fruit helps lower blood pressure and actually helps neutralize the blood pressure-raising affects of sodium.
Eating more fruits and vegetables – as high as 5 cups per day or more – is a habit which could help you stabilize and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes. Yes, it is possible!
And, the best part of fruit? It’s delicious! It’s easy to eat, to pack in your lunch box for the office or school, and it’s such a refreshing snack or dessert. What could be better?
Dietary flavonoid intakes and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women
Nicole M Wedick, An Pan, Aedín Cassidy, Eric B Rimm, Laura Sampson, Bernard Rosner, Walter Willett, Frank B Hu, Qi Sun, and Rob M van Dam
From the Departments of Nutrition, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA; Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; the Department of Nutrition, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom; and the Departments of Epidemiology and Public Health and Medicine, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore.
Supported by NIH grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Background: Data from mechanistic studies support a beneficial effect of specific flavonoids on insulin sensitivity. However, few studies have evaluated the relation between intakes of different flavonoid subclasses and type 2 diabetes.
Objective: The objective was to evaluate whether dietary intakes of major flavonoid subclasses (ie, flavonols, flavones, flavanones, flavan-3-ols, and anthocyanins) are associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes in US adults.
Design: We followed up a total of 70,359 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, 89,201 women in the NHS II, and 41,334 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who were free of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer at baseline.
Results: During 3,645,585 person-years of follow-up, we documented 12,611 incident cases of type 2 diabetes. Higher intakes of anthocyanins were significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes after multivariate adjustment for age, BMI, and lifestyle and dietary factors. Consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods, particularly blueberries and apples/pears, was also associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. No significant associations were found for total flavonoid intake or other flavonoid subclasses.
Conclusion: A higher consumption of anthocyanins and anthocyanin-rich fruit was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
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It’s official. Now that I’ve met Robin Ellis in person during his recent Washington, D.C. visit, I have gone completely gaga over this talented and elegant actor, chef, and author, and his warm and lovely collaborator and wife, Meredith Wheeler. But I’m also charmed by his cookbook, website, and blog. I believe you will agree, and feel transported… inspired… to live a better, healthier life.
When I heard Robin Ellis was coming to D.C. to promote his new Mediterranean cookbook, I jumped into action, and so did a group of generous, community-minded people who came together to give Ellis and Wheeler a warm Washington, D.C. welcome. Washington Fine Properties’ Nancy Taylor Bubes opened her home and her heart to more than 80 guests, the American Institute of Wine and Food co-sponsored, Bistrot Le Zinc Executive Chef, Janis McLean, demonstrated one of Ellis’s signature recipes, and at least twenty guests and fans brought dishes from Ellis’s book.
Ellis is known worldwide as the swashbuckling Captain Ross Poldark, the lead character in the classic BBC Masterpiece Theater series, “Poldark,” originally aired in the 1980s, but recently hailed as “a cure for your ‘Downton Abbey’ blues,” by Los Angeles Times media critic, Robert Lloyd, after viewing the series for the first time. I agree with Mr. Lloyd: but expect a LOT more action, excitement, and ribaldry!
“Over 29 episodes, social and political intrigue ensue, with heaving bosoms and rugged landscapes and a soaring musical score,” said The Washington Post’s Bonnie Benwick. I’ve enjoyed watching the new DVD version of “Poldark,” available from Acorn Media, where I’ve incidentally conducted wellness programs (it’s a small world, isn’t it?).
For the past twenty years, Robin Ellis has lived in the south of France with his American wife, Meredith Wheeler, and their menagerie of animals, where he has collected and tested recipes while becoming an accomplished chef. I feel so fortunate he was willing to share his time, his talents, and his evocative stories and photos of his life in the south of France. His culinary experiences and travels, and even step-by-step recipe instructions, have been an inspiration.
Ellis was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes twelve years ago and has managed to keep the disease controlled, stay healthy, fit, and even optimistic. “After a few weeks of shock, and ‘why me,’ the diagnosis became an opportunity to get into shape,” said Ellis. “It opened up a whole new culinary path.” His new book, “Delicious Dishes for Diabetics: Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011) is for anyone who loves Mediterranean classics. The Mediterranean diet is one I heartily endorse for anyone for superior health, but also, satisfying dining. I’ve witnessed the surprise, relief, and joy when my clients stabilize, and even reverse their Type 2 Diabetes. Robin Ellis did it and you can too!
See a few recipes and a beautiful video montage of Robin Ellis cooking in the south of France
Read The Washington Post’s story about my March 7 Robin Ellis event in Georgetown which contains details about Robin Ellis’ life and new cookbook
Read about the Robin ‘Poldark’ Ellis cookbook reception in The Georgetown Dish
Nancy Taylor Bubes’ dining table was brimming with simple yet sublime Mediterranean dishes “Roasted Eggplant Slices with a Walnut and Garlic Spread,” “Grilled Lamb Chops with Rosemary,” “Tzatziki,” “Fennel Salad with Parmesan Shavings,” “Minestrone,” “Grilled Strips of Duck Breast smothered in Walnut and Garlic Sauce,” “Rice and Spinach Torte,” “Tuna and White Bean Salad,” “Spinach Salad with Bacon and Avocado,” “Goat Cheeses served with Apple and Pear Slices,” and more…
Debbie Weil, Lisa Lambert, Hostess Nancy Taylor Bubes, Roxanne Fleming. Photo by Johanna Medlin