Welcome to the 100-best-ab-exercises blog. We post regularly in three categories:
All of the posts should help you in one way or another on your journey to a healthier lifestyle and flatter abs and tighter waistline.
This week we have a guest blog post from Taryn Haggerstone. Taryn is a personal trainer, CrossFit Coach and competes at both Olympic Weight lifting and CrossFit. Taryn has a great blog http://www.gohardgetstrong.com with advice on training and competing.
Taryn gives us some insight on gluten free eating. In short gluten can cause water retention in the abdominal region and may be preventing you from burning fat. Have a read of her article to learn more.
Take it away Taryn…..
Rewind 5 or 10 years…Do you remember hearing about ‘celiac disease’, ‘gluten sensitivity’ or the gluten free diet? Do you have any recollection of seeing bakeries and grocery stores touting that they now have ‘gluten free products?’ I don’t, although I did have a good friend who had been diagnosed with celiac so I was familiar with the term, but other than that I never heard much about it.
In today’s world however, it seems we can buy a gluten-free alternative to pretty much any thing we can think of and most people are aware of the gluten free diet (even if they don’t follow it themselves). So what changed, over the past decade, and perhaps more importantly why?
But First Things First
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat and other grains such as rye, triticale, barley and it is what’s responsible for ‘holding things together’
I.e. makes our bread nice and chewy and keeps muffins from falling apart
Because of these properties gluten as a thickening agent in many processed foods such as lunchmeats & vegetarian meat alternatives.
So Why is it Bad For Us?
Recently gluten has been getting a lot of bad press because a lot of studies have linked the consumption of wheat (and other gluten containing grains) to things like
And so on – sounds pretty unpleasant huh. But despite all that gluten containing carbs still make up a large portion of the average daily caloric intake (approximately 20%).
Then Why is it Still Being Eaten?
I believe it is partly because we are reluctant to change, humans are creatures of habit and if we grew up eating something we will naturally continue to do so because its convenient and familiar. Also, its easy to hear about how bad gluten is for us and assume that the studies are talking about ‘other people’ because we eat pasta for dinner all the time and are just fine, so what’s the big deal? But the thing is even though most people aren’t ‘deathly allergic’ to wheat, it can still have some undesirable effects on our bodies when eaten.
For a small percentage of the population (approximately 1 in 33 Canadians) the consumption of gluten can be fatal due to a condition called Celiac disease because gluten damages the lining of the small intestine and interferes with the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients. For these people eating gluten (in its natural or processed form) can cause
And these symptoms will only get worse so eliminating the cause is crucial.
Luckily however, most people do not fall into this category and eating gluten is not a ‘serious’ life and death issue. That being said even though the number of Canadians living with celiac disease is approximately 35 000 the number of people suffering from “gluten intolerance” or “sensitivity” is estimated to be around 300 0000. For these people the consumption of gluten is, while not life threatening, usually accompanied by similar (if less severe) symptoms as those of their celiac peers and removing gluten from the diet improve quality of life greatly. Its difficult to determine exactly how many people in Canada could be considered sensitive to gluten because the majority of cases go undiagnosed and many people following a gluten-free (or reduced gluten) life-style through a process of trial & error/elimination
E.g. “I don’t feel as bloated when I remove bread from my diet”, “I feel full for longer if I don’t have wheat” or “I’ve lost weight and feel more energetic and awaked since eliminating gluten”
So what’s actually going on when we eat Gluten?
Insulin Spikes & Appetite Swings
Gluten contains a polysaccharide (form of carbohydrate) called Amylopectin A, which when eaten is converted into blood sugar (insulin) more rapidly than almost all other carbs (including white table sugar). Essentially what this means is that eating a high carb meal (even if its more than sufficient) will only keep us feeling satisfied for a few hours because the high levels of gluten causes a rapid spike and then crash in our insulin levels. This peaking and crashing of insulin is a viscous cycle because when it crashes we crave more high carb foods to get it back up which (if we give in) is inevitably followed by another crash…and so on and so forth
Heart Disease & Increased Abdominal Fat
In addition to increased appetite eating excessive carbs and gluten has been shown to increase the amount of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) in our bloodstream. In order to function properly our bodies need a certain amount of LDLs, however, an increased concentration can cause a hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which puts people at higher risk for heart disease and strokes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an elevation in our LDLs also associated increases our body’s tendency to store fat viscerally (around the abdomin) and carrying additional fat in that area is also a risk factor for developing heart disease (double whammy).
Ever notice that when we’re
Starchy & carb-rich foods (high gluten) suddenly seem really appealing? And that when we get on a new health kick and try to eliminate our daily muffins, bread or pasta we can become ‘cranky or irritable’? Well guess what, there’s an actual ‘scientific reason’ for this and its not just because they ‘taste good’ or ‘remind us of when we were kids’.
Studies have shown that consuming carbs & gluten can actually have a temporary euphoric effect on us (i.e. we feel happy) because of the way carbs interact with certain opiate receptors in our brains. These are the same opiate receptors associated with drug addictions (e.g. heroin) although the level of euphoria is slightly less intense, but in both cases people addicted because we are ‘hooked’ on that happy feeling. A 6-month study in which test-subjects opiate receptors were blocked revealed that without this interaction most people no longer craved carbohydrates and on average test subjects lost about 22.4 lbs.
So We’re all hopelessly addicted to wheat?
Yes and no, if we look at the average North Americans diet its true that a lot of our daily calories come from carbs and wheat and this is due to a number of reasons
But that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause in fact it can be the exact opposite. When wheat and other carbohydrates are eliminated from the diet most people find it most difficult to ‘stick to their plan’ during the first week due to
But after about 5-7 days the body will becomes accustomed, feelings of ‘withdrawal’ subside and overall health begins to improve.
Just Give it a Shot
So even if you’re not celiac, and you don’t think any of the symptoms I’ve described in this article are relevant to you why not give it a try and see how your body feels. I’m not saying its going to be easy, because it wont (especially at first), but you never know until you try and what’s a couple weeks of eating gluten free if you discover a new less bloated, crampy and cranky you in the process? I’ve spoken to a number of people who had no idea how good their bodies could feel until they tried taking a ‘break’ from their relationship with carbohydrates.
Taryn Haggerstone is a personal trainer, CrossFit coach, Olympic Lifter and CrossFit athlete in Vancouver. She is also a blogger at www.gohardgetstrong.com and here at www.100-best-abexercises.com /blog