Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Canadians are overweight, out of shape, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and are weak.

Other than that we're doing great.

According to a recent Statistics Canada report on a huge nation wide survey done between 2007 and 2009 (Canadian Health Measures Survey), the following represent Canadians:

Cholesterol and Triglycerides 

  • Over 40% of Canadians aged 20 to 79 have an unhealthy level of total cholesterol and about 25% have an unhealthy level of triglycerides. Link

Body Weight

  • Almost 45% of Canadian women aged 18 to 79 had a normal weight for their height as did 31% of men.  Link

Um.. Why is that the way this data is written?  Is it good that 45% and 31% of woman have "normal weight for their height"?  Doesn't that mean that 69% of men and 55% of woman are overweight?

No. Some people are underweight. How many?  The Stats Can chart says 0.8% of men and 2.2% of woman.  Oh.. heh.. I guess that does mean 69% of men and 55% of woman are overweight, save for a mere fraction.

An what about reporting on the trending?  Have we been stable at this percentage of the population being overweight? Are there more or fewer people over weight now compared to the last few years?

Check out these quotes: Link

  • "At ages 40 to 69 years, the percentage of males and females whose waist circumference placed them at a high risk for health problems more than doubled between 1981 and 2007-2009; at ages 20 to 39 years, percentages more than quadrupled.
  • Between 1981 and 2007-2009, the percentage of Canadians aged 40 to 69 years categorized as fair or needing improvement according to their body composition (BMI, waist circumference and skinfold measurements) more than doubled. Among males aged 20 to 39 years, the increase was fourfold, and among younger females, sevenfold."
SEVEN FOLD? Are you kidding me? a 700% increase in body fat measurements in younger females?

At the bottom of the body composition summary page Stats Can has this blurb:

  • "Several anthropometric measurements were taken as part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey—height and weight, waist circumference, hip circumference and five skinfolds—on a sample of 3,700 adults aged 18 to 79 to obtain an overall picture of body composition, which can be linked to health benefits." Link

Linked to health benefits? Does that mean the measurements taken revealed healthy Canadians? What? how can a population where 69% of men are overweight by the same database also be referenced as being linked to health benefits?  Younger females 700% increase in body fat composition measurements from 1981 to to 2007-2009, can be linked to health benefits?

OH.. right they don't actually say that.  Hmm.. is this what is called "weasel words"?

I think so. Sure, if the actual measurements taken were low enough to be linked with health benefits, then yes such measurements, could then be associated with health benefits.

It's like saying, "Price tags can be linked to good deals, and boy to we have a lot of price tags."  UH huh. Wanna buy a watch?

You actually have to dig fairly deep to get the whole picture. Lot's of links to follow..  Not to worry, I've done the work, and now you can see the real summary of the data.

I am bothered by the inconsistency in reporting style. I don't think it serves the average Canadian well to report on our health status with the ambiguity I have pointed out here.  Good fodder for making quips though..

The fact is anthropometric measurements can also be linked to health risks; bigger is generally worse, and we're bigger for sure.

Aerobic fitness ratings

  • "In Canada, 31.1% of women aged 15 to 69 and 32.2% of men were categorized as having a "Good" health benefit rating. This category represents the largest proportion of Canadian adults. When looking at both ends of the spectrum, more adults have a "Needs Improvement" and "Fair" health benefit rating as opposed to "Very Good" and "Excellent".  Link

Both ends of the spectrum?  Give me break!  The big news here is that about 50% of the population, most likely more, is grossly out of shape.  And just what does "good" and "excellent" mean anyway? The average person aged 20 to 39 had estimated VO2 max (how much oxygen the body can use during all exercise like running at top speed) between 38.45 and 44.08 mL/kg/ min (females and males respectively).

You are considered sedentary when VO2 max is 40 mL/kg/min (this means your body can burn through 40 millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of your body mass over one minute of all out physical effort).  A reasonably fit persons VO2 will be around 50 to 55 mL/kg/min- someone who exercises regularly and would have no problem running 5K at fair pace, or equivalent depending on the activity they like to do.  Pretty good athleticism starts at about 60 mL/kg/min- these would be your committed weekend warriors and recreational athletes.

Although some elite athlete's have comparatively low VO2 levels - between 60 and 65, the upper levels of elite athlete fitness starts at around 70 mL/kg/min and goes up to about 80.

More lowest common denominator standards, if you have the VO2 max of a sedentary person, you're in "good" health. 

Muscular Strength (tested by grip strength)
  • "Among those aged 20 to 39, mean muscular strength is 97 kg for males and 56 kg for females. The average muscular strength for males aged 6 to 79 is 84 kg, and for females, it is 51 kg." Link
I frankly don't believe these numbers. This data does not represent what I have seen personally, and does not match other population grip strength studies.  These numbers are DOUBLE what is usually seen.  Either there was an error in collecting/ recording the data, or for some funky reason the average Canadian who does not exercise somehow has freakazoid grip strength.  Maybe they measured in pounds but somehow messed this up and recorded the pounds as kilograms.  Maybe they used a new testing device that is totally different than the current standard.

Whatever the case, there is no way the average male can squeeze out a 97 kg grip strength result. 

Muscular endurance

  • "Over one-third of women aged 20 to 39 and the majority of those aged 40 or older were unable to complete even one partial curl-up. Less than a third (31%) of women aged 20 to 39 completed the full 25 curl-ups, and at ages 60 to 69, the percentage was 4%.
  • More men completed the full 25 curl-ups: 55% of men aged 20 to 39 and 11% of men aged 60 to 69."

What can I say about that? How bad do we have to get before we smack ourselves in the face and get with the program to save our health, save our bodies?

We are far to accepting of excessively low standards for our health and fitness.

Moreover the very second the average Canadian actually does something positive about their health they are likely to be admonished by at least some if not most of their peers. We're not supportive of others trying to live healthy, they're called fitness freaks or nuts.  So not exercising and developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being so weak you can't do an abdominal crunch is the norm to be compared to, and if you're any further ahead than that you are freak?

I don't know people.. Despite some unique choices of wording for this report, the data shows we suck rocks big time.  Is this incentive enough to change?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Vitamin D; Canadians are not getting enough says a Stats Can report

How much Vitamin D do you need?
That depends, as usual, on a whole lot of things.  I’m taking 5000IU/ day myself; I’ll tell you later how I came up with this number, which included a consult with a physician.

I've read a crap load (that's a lot) of data on vitamin D lately. A couple hundred pages. So here is not everything, but nearly everything you need to know about vitamin D today..
A caller on the Richard Cloutier Reports show CJOB radio ( March 23, 2010, where I was a guest talking about a Stats Can report on the health of Canadians, asked the question, “what about the Inuit?  They have been living in total darkness half the year for generations.  How do they get vitamin D?”  It’s a great question.
The traditional Inuit diet had lot’s of seal and whale blubber, seal liver, bird eggs, fish eggs, arctic char, and other marine life that is high in vitamin D.  However since the Inuit diet has become more westernized we now see vitamin D deficiencies in the Inuit.
This leads me to letting you know that we can, in the most technical sense, get enough vitamin D from foods we eat, if we eat whale blubber, seal liver.. (and all the above) in sufficient quantities. What.. no whale blubber at the corner store?
OK so probably not so realistic to get enough enough vitamin D in the winter from the foods that are readily available and normally consumed by most Canadians.  I don’t like the idea of swallowing a pill in the place of food. After all I’m the guy who has said for decades that unless you have a specific medical condition, there are pretty much no circumstances where you can’t get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy diet.
In fact studies show us that we absorb and utilize nutrients from whole unprocessed foods far better than popping pills.
I do advocate taking vitamin D pills in the winter for northern latitude, or equally distant from the equator southern dwellers.
Did I sell out?  I’m not driving my dream Tesla Roadster yet, so no, I have nothing to gain personally from encouraging Canadians to take vitamin D supplements in the winter.  Well I do have something to gain.. gratification.  Call me a sap if you will, but it makes me feel to good to know I have influenced someone to do something to improve their health.
This isn’t a food versus pills dilemma.  We get the vast majority of our vitamin D from sun exposure, not food.  That is how our biological need for vitamin D is met.  Winter = inadequately intense sunshine to stimulate vitamin D production.  This is a pills versus sunshine dilemma.  We could all move close to the equator during the Canadian winter, but who want's to do that? I've got a tongue-in-cheek picture around here somewhere..
I don’t get caught up thinking I could be getting my 5000IU of D from food because currently that is unrealistic.  I know it isn’t lack of poor nutrition, it is lack of sunshine that prompts the need for D supplementation; this is a critical difference between the reasoning for popping D pills versus say, C pills.  I can easily get enough vitamin C from diet.  That’s easier than falling off a log..  which I have done. And it was pretty easy.  It didn’t benefit my health though..
If you ask a registered dietician for an “official” recommendation for vitamin D they are bound by professional standards to tell you only what Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada say.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.. we need strong standards that are proven through a rigorous scientific process.
But what to do when the scientific community is the midst of change and the new recommendations are not yet confirmed “officially”, but the published research and the medical consensus is clearly different than the current recommendation?
Anytime you have a government behemoth trying to act on something current, “current” doesn’t seem to be part of what they do.  To Health Canada’s and Stats Can’s credit recommending dietary intakes of vital nutrients is not something you want to rush, but when in the midst of change waiting for bureaucracy to conclude it can be trying. My experience in reading reports released to the public from Health Canada regarding diet and exercise is they seem to never hit the mark.  They have great data, I know because I’ve sifted through pages and pages of it, all available for any Canadian on their web site.  
They end up making poor results seem ok.  It’s a lowest common denominator philosophy  that I just don’t get.  In the case of vitamin D, this hasn’t changed, by looking at the recent Stats Canada release of the largest study in Canada in over 30 years (called the Canadian Health Measures Survey) on the status of the health of Canadians, including vitamin D status.  Stats Can is often afflicted by the same lowest common denominator virus.. maybe Health Canada sneezed on them.
  • “Deficiency” by 1997 standards is blood plasma having lesser than 27.5 nmol/L of vitamin D.  Go this low and you most likely will develop osteomalacia (softening of the bones.  Also called rickets in children).  An estimated 4% of Canadians are below 27.5 nmoL/l-  that’s good news
  • “Adequate bone health” at least 37.5 nmol/L.  Almost 90% of Canadians met this standard.  Good news again, but there is a definite “but”.
  • “Optimal health”  75 nmol/L - 65% of the population is below this level.  Euphemistically, Stats Can reports this as “35% of the population had levels above 75 nmol/L”
This looks great!  So much for the all reports on Canadians not getting enough vitamin  D.  Only 4% of the population is “deficient”  so don’t by vitamin D pills, you don’t need them.
Or do you?
Just to be thorough I checked my calendar and sure enough it isn’t 1997 anymore.  A moment please.. calculator.. hey!  What?  That was 13 years ago!  I wonder if anyone has published a paper on vitamin D since 1997.  A little tongue in cheekyness there.  Hope you don’t mind.
Indeed, yes.  Lot’s of studies.  In fact much of what we are beginning to understand now about vitamin D was simply not known in 1997.  No, Stats Can is not in the dark about the new data, in fact they reference it and give lot’s of detail on the joint US -Canada committee currently tasked with sorting this all out.. it just wasn’t sorted when this data was released on March 23, 2010.
Health Canada and pretty much any Registered Dietician will say that you might need up to 600 IU of vitamin D per day depending on your age, body mass, dietary intake of vitamin D, medications you’re on, and summer sunlight exposure.  Health Canada does fully disclose that until new recommendations are made they can only fall back on the old recommendations. OK.  Good enough for them, not good enough for me.
Which brings me to my 5000IU per day dosage in the winter.  The research shows there’s not really any chance of toxicity at 5000IU per day.  Consider this; 20 minutes in the sunshine in summer and your body will make 20,000 IU.  Studies show you would need to take 30,000 to 40,000 IU per day for months to achieve toxic levels.
So 5000IU isn’t going to hurt me.  Will it help me? I don’t know yet.  I’m waiting for my vitamin D results to come back, which by the way takes longer than a Winnipeg winter.
Apparently the labs in Canada that do vitamin D testing are so backed up it could take up to one year to get your results back.  Hmm.  Seems to be a bit of a rush on the bank there.  Public panic?  Or are doctors doing do-diligence and testing vitamin D levels in their patients because of the widely reported vitamin D deficiencies in the Canadian population?
Some reports suggest that it could take 3000 to 5000 IU/day to raise vitamin D levels high enough (starting from sub optimal levels) to see maximum benefit in terms of overall health, which in the case of vitamin is:

  • Cancer prevention
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Optimal absorption and use of calcium
  • Muscle strength and exercise tolerance
  • Balance and coordination (reduces risk of slip and fall in seniors)
  • Optimal sleep quality
  • Prevention and possible treatment of MS, and more.

What has been discovered is that there are vitamin D receptors in nearly every system of the body, thus vitamin D’s influence on all the above.
This isn’t only about bone health, it’s about our overall health.  That’s why saying that 90% of Canadians have adequate vitamin D levels with todays knowledge doesn’t make any sense.  Adequate for bone health, yes.  But to optimally absorb and regulate calcium vitamin D levels are suggested to be around 80 nmol/L.  Cancer prevention and other health outcomes may be better affected by up to 120 nmol/L of vitamin D in our blood.  Considering this, nearly all Canadians are deficient in the winter.

  • Cancer Canada says adults should take 1000IU per day.
  • Osteoporosis Canada says adults should take 800IU per day.
  • The Canadian Pediatric Society says pregnant woman should consider 2000 nmol/L/ day.
  • You should have your physician test your vitamin D levels.  Ask for the 25-hyrdoxyvitamin D test. 
  • Vitamin D levels are the lowest in March for most Canadians
  • A BC study revealed that up to 97% of Canadians become vitamin D deficient in the winter

New information on which new vitamin D level recommendations will be influenced by:
Blood levels of vitamin D and health outcomes:
  • 80 nmol/L for optimal absorption and regulation of calcium
  • 90 to 124 nmol/L for cancer prevention
  • 75 to 95 nmol/L of vitamin D is where parathyroid production is maximally suppressed. Too much parathyroid production (hyperparathyroidism, which is linked to osteoporosis, kidney stones, hypercalcemia (increased calcium levels).
Many studies have shown Canadians to have sub optimal vitamin D levels, with the lowest levels occurring in the late winter or early spring as it takes a winter to work through our vitamin D stores we built up in the summer months.  Don’t read that the wrong way, it’s not as though we have enough to last through the winter, we still blow through about 5000IU per day of vitamin D as the big D does all that it does and by the time spring rolls around we’ve already been deficient for a few months, reaching our lowest levels just before we start spending more time outdoors and making our own D.
A note on this, You could stand outside naked in the middle of winter in Canada on a sunny day and you still would not make your own vitamin D.  The tilt of the earth changes the angle of the sun and the UV rays we need are filtered out by the atmosphere, at least filtered enough so it doesn’t do us any good.
On the note of filtering rays, any window does the same thing, so does most clothing, and most sunscreen.  Clouds filter as well, but not enough to stop vitamin D production (in summer).
Vitamin D counsel does a good job of summarizing all the study references and explaining details about vitamin D. the Vitamin D Society
So that’s why I’m on 5000IU per day. Nearly all Canadians are deficient in the winter: it was winter when I started taking D; 3000 to 5000IU is need to raise levels from deficiency to at least 80 to 90 nmol/L- optimal levels for calcium regulation and cancer prevention, and there is no harm at 5000IU per day.  I started with 2000IU on my own accord, then talked to my doctor about whether I needed more.  Based on my needs the doc said do 5000IU per day, then we’ll look at my vitamin D test results and re-adjust supplementation accordingly. Needs will vary with age, gender, body mass, medical conditions, and of course actual vitamin D status.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ready For Summer Injuries?

Ahh.. Summer..

Or should I say, D'oh! Summer!

Marathons, triathlons, cyclethons.  They're the things of lore.  Popularity of these events grows every year, which is great because we need more people getting into active, healthy lifestyles.

Do you sense a "but" coming?  You're right.  If you take on one of these challenges there is a very good chance you will be injured.  Not in the event its self (although that happens too), but in the training leading up to it.  It doesn't need to be this way.  When properly prepared these events are very rewarding and health promoting.

Studies show that many people enter the events and training for these events without enough preparation.

A study done at the University of British Columbia showed that 30% of runners participating in running clinics designed to minimize injury became injured during a 13 week program.  Moreover 50% of runners had previous injuries when they singed up for the clinic.

Ok.. I can see those who have been injured before enrolling in a clinic designed to minimize risk of injury.  Once bitten, twice shy, right?  How about, "please bite me again.. no really.. bite me now, pleeeaassse bite me!".  A little masochistic.

I'm exaggerating.  Trying to poke a little fun at the running/ injury myth.  :-)

Actually.. no.  42% of the previously injured runners reported that they were not completely rehabilitated upon starting the running clinics.

Been reading the popular news articles extolling the apparent super benefits of intensive interval training?  Are you thinking you can train for mega events with half the training via doing high intensity training?

A study on triathletes showed that those who did more intensive running and cycling intervals had more injuries.

Recently I was talking with a person who was preparing for a half marathon in a few months.  They had not been a regular runner prior to taking on the "challenge".  They were injured within the first four weeks.  The pain from their foot injury is intermittent.. hurts on some days not on others.

The question they had for me?  "How do I keep running with this injury?"  SMACK!  It's like I was slapped in the face with cold fish.  After I did the brief change in posture and blank facial expression that says, "are you kidding me?"  I asked, "why do you want to run when you're injured?  Why not fix the injury?"

They weren't prepared to consider that option.  To them the days they had no pain were reason to continue running.  To them pain free days meant they were not injured.

More importantly after 10 minutes or so of talking about it the neophyte runner admitted the idea of delaying this years half marathon in favour of being healthy did not sit well with them.  It was emotionally disturbing.

And such is the case for many who exercise regularly or are in preparation for pretty much any sporting event.

There is a strong sense of guilt when injured or fatigued and a strong sense of anxiety when confronted with the idea of training less or taking a break when fatigued or injured.

It's true that some minor injuries have only a minor influence on training programs.  With some careful modifications to the program and rehabilitation you can work around and through some injuries.

You have to have the mind for it though.  If rehabilitating an injury is seen as interfering with performance instead of enhancing it, you're not a good candidate for a successful outcome.

There is so much hype around overcoming all odds associated with these events that the event takes on its own persona and becomes more than the person.  This is supposed to be fun and rewarding, but when injury and pain are perceived as rewards, something is wrong.

The best advice is to start slow.  Build a base of health and fitness.  See your doctor for a check up.  Don't think you can get fit in 13 weeks because you can't.  You can increase your fitness over 13 weeks, and if you're already really fit you can do a 8, 10, 12 week program to help fine tune your existing fitness for a big event.

Marathons and cyclethons will be here likely forever, with a large variety of choices from shorter to very long events to choose from every season.  There is no need to start with longest, hardest event right away with the sentiment that the next event is the one you must do.  That makes no sense.

What about after the event?  What we usually see, save for the minority, is a return to far less physical activity after the event.  Was all that love for the event in vain? Why go through the same cycle every year?

How 'bout this.. "yeah.. I ran the marathon/ did the cyclethon.. it was tough, but I finished" (boasting).  Ok.  But you're out of shape and rarely exercise now.  So what good did it do you?

The health and fitness benefits of regular exercise far outweigh the temporary sense of bliss from completing one or two of these events here and there.  Why not get healthy, get fit, and enter these events well prepared and without injury?

Why not give yourself a lifetime of gratifying physical accomplishments?

Yeah.. I'm lecturing.  I know.  I'm sort of sorry about that and not really sorry at the same time.

Hear's how I see it.  The vast majority of our population is totally out of shape and suffering because of it. Many who start fitness routines or take on mega event challenges continue to suffer when they become active because they push too hard too soon.

This makes no sense.  Being fit isn't about suffering. Maximizing human performance on the other hand..  yes, that is hard work and involves some controlled suffering, but this is reserved for those who are fit enough already to safely tolerate such intensity.

You don't need to suffer to finish a marathon or cyclethon.  These events are no problem for the average person to prepare for and enjoy.  Just take your time, form realistic goals based on your current fitness level, and think about being active for the rest of your life.  You don't need to rush into these mega events, they are annual events and will always be there.

Br J Sports Med. 2003 Jun;37(3):239-44.

A prospective study of running injuries: the Vancouver Sun Run "In Training" clinics.

Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jan;24(1):30-6.

Triathlon event distance specialization: training and injury effects.

Faculty of Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Cruz Quebrada, Portugal.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pediatric sports injuries: the silent epidemic

Pediatric sports injuries: the silent epidemic

"Year-round sports and increased exposure leading to more adolescent sport-related injuries"

New studies show that youth who participate in year round sports or play on multiple sports teams at the same time are at higher risk of injuries.

I've seen many young athlete either push themselves or be pushed by their social network of parents, teammates, and friends.. right to the point of injury or overtraining.

While many are able to recognize they have overdone it and scale back their training and competition + add more preparation conditioning and injury prevention exercises, a large number of athlete's will simply assume that injury and feeling really fatigued is part of the game.

It's true.. if you're involved in sports chances are you will sustain an injury at some point.. probably more than once.  Training hard is tiring so being tired from competition and training is also par for the course.

So is there really an issue here?

Yes.  The issue here is overtraining and overuse injury due to training and competing too much.

When you play 3 or 4 sports it's nearly impossible if not entirely impossible to manage effective recovery time.

Preparing for one sport is difficult enough, but if you have soccer practice on Monday, volleyball on Tuesday, Basketball on Thursday, and game days on weekends and other week days, where's the recovery?

There isn't any.

"Go hard or go home", "more is better", and "suck it up", seem to be the age old axioms that still undermine those involved in sports.  For many the mere suggestion of recovery time is like threatening the fibre of a persons existence.

Let me give you a personal example:

I had a young athlete see me in the gym for a strength training appointment.  This athlete was enrolled in multiple sports simultaneously and thus had ongoing consecutive weekdays of intense practice time for different sports, as well as competitions.

The day they came to see me for strength training they were so fatigued they could barely do 5 abdominal crunches.  We tried some other exercises and sure enough they could not do any exercise, even at a light intensity without showing significant signs of fatigue.

I told them, "you need rest more than you need training today.  If you train today you'll get less fit and more tired.  Let's cancel todays session so you can get some rest."

Instead of the athlete agreeing they were completely devastated emotionally.  They had placed so much pressure to train on themselves that the idea of recovery time seemed like punishment.

What's worse is the parents did not seem to understand the risk of overtraining to their teenager. 

When I discussed the idea with the athlete and the parents that perhaps they had taken on too many sports and need to give more consideration to recovery time each of them seemed dismayed. 

In fact when I suggested the athlete consider taking some time off training and sports to recover and get healthy so they could come back stronger, the athlete become visibly upset and drawn to tears.

The outcome?

That was the last time I heard from that athlete.

Tell someone to push through pain, fatigue, and injury and you're a hero.

Ask a compulsive exerciser to take a break to get out of a fatigue rut and you're talking to the hand.

When a person feels compelled to exercise despite being so tired they can't complete the exercise, or they feel stiff and sore, or they haven't been able to recover normally from prior training, they are a compulsive exerciser.

This young athlete was certainly compulsive, and this compulsive behaviour was being enabled by their parents and team coaches.

This wasn't the first time I had experienced this.  In fact it's pretty much an everyday occurrence.

We need more youth involved in physical activity, but once we get them there overall there seems to be too much emphasis on training hard, competing often, and enrolling in as many sports as can be handled.

I've seen this "silent epidemic" first hand, and it's worrisome. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

March is Nutrition Month

Dietitians of Canada

Every year Dietitians of Canada dishes out helpful info on healthy eating with their Nutrition Month campaign in March.  You can visit their website any day for healthy eating information, they just step it up a little in March.

This year the mantra is "Celebrate food... from field to table!"  The media release says that cheese, apples, corn, fresh veggies, lobster and beef are our Canadian favorites.

The campaign urges people to learn more about where food comes from, food safety issues, knowing the nutritional benefits of food, and how to best plan, purchase, and prepare foods to promote optimum health.

Sounds good to me.

I remember the first time I visited a registered dietitian over 20 years ago..  my nutrition was a disaster. 

Concerned about eating too much fat I had actually cut my fat intake too low.. a mere 15% of my total calories were from fat.  The dietitian bumped this up to 25%.  On the positive side I met nearly all of my vitamin and mineral needs, but not because I had an optimal choice of foods; I trained so much that I needed thousands of calories on most days (around 4000 cals) so I simply ate and ate... mmmm gooood.

Not really..  I could be doing better.  When I ate my favorite pancake or french toast breakfast I would go hard core on the butter and syrup and justified the mega calorie intake via my mega calorie output on the bike.

What changed?  Drop the number of pancakes, reduce the butter down to 1 tablespoon (it was at least 3X that much), reduce the syrup, and add fruit and veggies.  (I no longer buy or eat butter*.)

After a couple weeks of eating more veggies (way more veggies), upping my fat intake (healthy fats; nuts, seeds, olive oil),  decreasing my saturated fat intake (too much butter at breakfast), my energy level increased significantly. 

More energy through the day, better recovery from exercise, and better performance.

I also dropped the multi vitamins I was taking.

When the dietitian said I didn't need the one a day pill I was surprised.  "I thought you would give me bonus points for taking in extra vitamins."  "Cris, your dietary analyses shows you are getting what you need from food.  You don't need the pill."  It's true I needed a bit more greens and beans to increase magnesium and folate, which I did, but the one a day I was taking was a waste of time.

Recent research actually shows that a one a day vitamin has no health benefit at all compared to healthy eating.  

It took me a couple weeks of pondering to get over the popular notion that vitamin pills "might help, can't harm".  Once I "got it", I thought how silly I had been to down unnecessary pills when I should have been thinking about what foods I should be eating to provide optimum health.

The visit, (and subsequent visits) to a dietitian helped me learn how think about my food choices.  I switched from being primarily concerned with food making me feel full and tasting good, to meeting my nutrient needs and tasting good.

The switch to healthy eating is actually far more rewarding flavour wise as eating healthy means lot's of variety, which means lot's of flavours to explore.

Instead of relying on different fatty salad dressings to add punch to my salads I learned to change up the veggies, add fruit like strawberries and blueberries, throw in some almonds, apple slices, etc. 

Salads went from wet leaves to a fantastic palate pleasing nutrient dense mainstay in my daily food intake.

I'm glad I went to that dietitian to get me on the right track as much of what I thought was right wasn't quite right.  Evidently this is the case for most of us.. 70% of Canadians don't eat enough veggies, about 60% of the population is overweight, and we're too concerned with feeling full rather than being healthy.

It's worth it to change the way we look at food though.. It really does improve your life to eat healthy; more energy, better sleep, protection from disease, longer life, and better quality of life.

Footnote on butter..

*No butter!  What?  You some kind of freaky extremist!? I get the eating healthy thing, but you don't have to give up butter!  No, you don't have to.  But I did.  Why?  I looked at the nutrient density of butter compared to peanut butter and almond butter, and other fat sources such as ground flax seeds and olive oil.  The nuts are more nutrient dense than butter. So now I get the satiating and pleasing flavour of fats that our taste buds appreciate, plus mega vitamins and minerals.

Comparing 1 tbsp of Sunflower seed butter to butter (source: USDA Nutrient Database)

Sunflower Seed Butter
Units1.00 X 1 tbsp

Total lipid (fat)
Carbohydrate, by difference
Calcium, Ca
Iron, Fe
Magnesium, Mg
Phosphorus, P
Potassium, K

Nutrient: ButterUnitsValue per
16 grams





Total lipid (fat)


Carbohydrate, by difference

Fiber, total dietary
Sugars, total

Calcium, Ca

Iron, Fe

Magnesium, Mg

Phosphorus, P

Potassium, K

I would rather have Sunflower seed butter on my toast than butter.  Same calories (a little less actually), and not a huge amount of vitamins and minerals, but some.  There is more flavour variety when switching out peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower seed butter compared to the same old boring butter.

Get out of the butter trap.  Learn about the nutrient density of highly flavourful healthy foods; you'll soon learn that butter is most certainly not a "must have", but rather a boring, pedestrian ingredient that lacks imagination.  It's the cheap and dirty way to add flavour.