A Calorie is a Calorie Myth

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It has been well understood that in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, one must reduce overall calorie consumption and increase calorie expenditure through physical activity. One pound of body weight equals 3500 calories (so to lose one pound a week, one must decrease food intake by 500 cals/day), but not all calories are created equal!

Get the Most Bang For Your Buck

When trying to lose or maintain weight, it is best to choose your calories wisely; this means that in order to get "more bang for your caloric buck", choose foods that will positively affect your health. If most of your calories come from fatty foods like red meat, sausage, fried foods, baked goods, and creamy dishes, then blood cholesterol levels tend to be higher, which in turn can lead to clogged arteries and other cardiovascular diseases. Consuming most of your calories from healthier sources like lean protein (beans, nuts, white meats), vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, and whole grains will have a positive effect on cholesterol and blood sugar levels which leads to a steady release of energy and an overall feeling of wellness.

Another benefit of selecting healthier foods towards your daily calorie goal is that you will feel full (not hungry!) even while losing weight. Calories that come from sugary, refined foods like candy, white breads, sugary cereals, and white potatoes will cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels followed by a surge of insulin to bring blood sugar levels back down. When blood sugar rises and falls at rapid rates, you tend to feel hungry more often and have less energy. On the other hand, a diet that is rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy (unsaturated) fats will allow blood sugar levels to rise and fall at a steadier, more controlled pace, leaving you feeling satisfied between meals and more energetic. 

UFO’s

Beware of dietary “UFOs”, or Unidentifiable Food-like Objects. This term refers to foods that are highly processed, contain many chemicals, and offer very little (if any) nutritional value for the calories they contain. Choosing whole foods that are closer to their natural state will help maximize the health benefits of the foods you are eating. The calories that come from whole, natural foods will help you in meeting your health goals and feeling the best you can.

 

 

A Calorie is a Calorie Myth Graphic

image sources: http://www.ihearexercisewillkillyou.com/2013/05/peanut-free-chewy-granola-bars.html, http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/rabbis-without-borders/2013/02/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SnackWells, http://talesfromthelou.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/the-nasty-nine-food-additives-to-avoid/

Your Brain on Sleep

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Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and the Army Performance Triad. Signs of sleep deficiency such as lack of energy and concentration are usually pretty apparent. However, research has demonstrated the negative effects of sleep loss extend much further than feeling a little tired. Sleep plays a crucial role in both mental and physical performance. Without the proper amount of sleep, the body is prone to injury, fatigue, stress, muscle weakness, and poor focus. In fact, the body declines in physical performance by 25% every 24 hours that it is deprived of sleep. Conversely, a fully rested body can think more clearly, make better decisions, and perform at a physically optimal level.

Sleep and Mental Performance

Memory

During sleep, the brain consolidates long-term memory into storage, removing the short-term memory stores to allow for the absorption of more information. Being well-rested also improves working memory.

Mood

A lack of sleep can increase irritability and mood swings. A general absence of emotion can also result from not getting enough sleep. During sleep, the body releases hormones. Premature waking can disrupt the delivery of these hormones, causing moodiness.

Focus and Concentration

Having a full night of rest increases the brain’s ability to concentrate. Sleep also improves alertness and reaction times.

Multitasking

During sleep, the brain prioritizes information. Sleep is also important in the formation of new ideas and the ability to multitask.

Logical Reasoning

Without sleep, it is harder for the brain to perform higher level cognitive functions, such as mathematical concepts. A well-rested brain is able to reason and think more clearly.

Sleep and Physical Performance

Energy and endurance

Sleep increases energy stores in the body used to fuel physical activity and exercise.  Without enough sleep, insulin resistance and a decrease in glucose tolerance occurs. This means the body cannot readily utilize fuel for physical activity as efficiently as when it gets a full night’s sleep.

Muscle recovery

During sleep, the body is able to recover and repair damaged muscles and bones.

Stress

Sleep reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Without enough sleep, cortisol levels increase, which can lead to slowed healing, increased risk of injury, and poor memory.

Accuracy and reaction time

Sleep can also improve brain function, which helps improve accuracy and reaction time related to focus and athletic performance.

Bottom Line

Sleep loss impairs both mental and physical performance. After 24 hours without sleep, mental and motor skills are impaired at the same level as someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10-legally drunk in all 50 states. For those who are struggling with sleep or simply not prioritizing it to the top of their list, start by setting some simple goals tonight!

Try to keep these sleep practices on a regular basis:*

· Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.

· Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual (such as a hot bath).

· Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.

· Avoid caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening.

· Wind down. Spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.

 

*Resource: The National Sleep Foundation

Army H.E.A.L.T.H. and the Performance Triad

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As introduced in a previous Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog post, the fundamental components of the Performance Triad are nutrition, activity, and sleep. Emphasis has been placed on these three elements due to their ability to impact mental and physical performance. Interested Soldiers and their family members can utilize the tools on the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. website/mobile app to aide in the practical application of these three essential elements to their lifestyle.

How? Army H.E.A.L.T.H. works in conjunction with the Triad to offer custom nutrition and fitness plans in addition to sleep material specifically designed for military personnel. Whether looking for a new exciting fitness routine, or ideas for healthy, energizing meals, Army H.E.A.L.T.H. is the bridge that connects the Performance Triad to Soldiers and their family members.

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Eating a healthy diet is imperative for maintaining peak physical and mental performance. Soldiers face their own unique set of environmental factors that may either help or discourage healthy eating practices. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers make the right dietary choices. The custom meal planner provides a detailed list of foods tailored for an individual’s specific requirements. For those with specific food preferences or needs, foods can easily be removed or modified.

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Most Soldiers share the common goal of maintaining a high level of physical fitness. However, no two Soldiers have the exact same fitness needs, routines, equipment, etc. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers achieve their fitness goals by providing a custom made fitness plan according to each person’s individual goals. The fitness plan provides a detailed exercise routine that is made specifically for each individual. Exercises are easily removed or modified to accommodate for injury or lack of equipment. The Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Fitness planner even takes each Soldier’s next scheduled APFT into consideration when creating a new plan.

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Most service members know that it is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night…a recommendation that is often easier said than done. In the Army, lack of sleep often results from operational requirements or high-operations tempo training. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. provides information regarding how to improve sleep quality and quantity under the most difficult, military specific situations. Resources are also provided for working with commanders and peers to ensure that Soldiers are enabled to get enough sleep and, therefore, function optimally.

What is the Army Performance Triad?

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The Performance Triad is a comprehensive plan that encourages Soldiers to make healthy choices regarding their physical activity, nutrition, and sleep habits. The Triad focuses primarily on activity, nutrition, and sleep because these components all interact to influence performance and health.

Nutrition

Whether training to be a Soldier Athlete or striving for a higher level of personal fitness, it is important for Soldiers to stay hydrated and fuel their body with the right food for the right job. It is especially imperative to build an eating strategy that will complement the requirements of each individual mission. Focusing on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole wheat carbohydrates is fundamental to building a healthy plate.

Activity

Practicing a safe and effective fitness routine is essential to prevent injury and overtraining, maintain physical readiness, and improve overall health. But, physical activity encompasses more than just PT or exercise at the gym. Moving more (at least 10,000 steps/day) throughout the entire day has been linked with improved health outcomes such as reduced blood pressure, improved glucose levels, and maintenance of a healthy weight.

Sleep

The adverse effects of chronic sleep loss include poor mental and physical performance, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and increased risk of obesity, to name a few. Barriers such as noise, light, and dietary choices may interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Add the diverse, demanding lifestyle of a Soldier in the mix, and things only get more complicated. Practicing healthy sleep habits can be the key to ensure clear thinking and optimal performance. Sleep 8 to be great!