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Understanding Calories and Weight Loss

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Understanding Calories and Weight Loss

When it comes to losing weight, understanding calories and weight loss is important. But is it really as simple as “calories in, calories out?”

Well, yes. And no.

Counting calories to achieve a deficit is a proven way to lose weight. But if it’s so simple, why do so many of us struggle to shed pounds?

In this post we’ll explain everything you need to know to understand how calories work and achieve your weight-loss goals.

achieve your weight-loss goals

What are calories?

A calorie is simply a unit of energy.

While most of us equate calories with food, technically speaking, anything that contains energy has calories!

When we talk about the calories in food, we are actually talking about kilocalories (1,000 calories). A kilocalorie (we’ll just call them “calories” from here on out) is the amount of energy required to raise one kilogram of water by one degree celsius.

When you eat and drink things that contain calories, you are putting energy into your body.

Your body needs energy to function, even at rest. Breathing, circulation, and growing and repairing cells all require energy. And of course, your body burns energy with physical activity — and the more intense the exercise, the more calories you burn.

But when you consume more calories than you spend, your body stores the excess as fat.

One pound of fat comprises about 3,500 calories.

How many calories should you eat

How many calories should you eat each day?

The National Institute of Health (NIH) says that the average woman should consume about 2,000 calories per day and a man 2,500 to maintain a healthy weight. But every body is different!

To understand how many calories you need, you first need to determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories your body burns each day just performing basic functions. You can use an online BMR calculator to get a general idea of what yours is, or for a more accurate assessment, talk to your doctor or dietitian.

In addition to your BMR, your caloric needs are determined by your age, weight, sex, and activity level — and, of course, whether you’re trying to lose, gain, or maintain your current weight.

When you consume and expend roughly the same amount of calories in a day, you are in caloric balance. This is how you maintain your body weight.

If you consume more calories than you burn, you are in caloric excess and your body will store those extra calories as fat.

If you burn more calories than you take in, you are in caloric deficit and will lose weight.

Counting calories for weight loss

Counting calories for weight loss

So it serves to reason that the fewer calories you consume, the more weight you’ll lose. Right?

Not so fast!

When you don’t get enough calories on a regular basis — called extreme caloric restriction (consuming less than 1,000 calories a day) — your body tries to protect you by going into what is often called “starvation mode,” shedding muscle, increasing its fat storage efficiency, and slowing down your metabolic rate.  Not a good thing.

So simply restricting your calories isn’t always the answer to losing weight. It’s more of a balancing act.

Generally speaking, men shouldn’t eat fewer than 1,500 calories and women shouldn’t eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day.

To lose 1 pound of fat per week, you need to create a weekly deficit of 3,500 calories — or 500 calories per day. There are three ways to accomplish this:

  • Eat 500 fewer calories each day
  • Burn 500 extra calories each day
  • Eat fewer calories and exercise to create a deficit

For example, you can create a 500-calorie deficit by eating 200 fewer calories and burning 300 extra calories at the gym.

proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

Does it matter where my calories come from?

All calories are not created equal.

Most foods fall into one of three categories of macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram.

Protein requires more energy to digest and metabolize, so it helps you feel fuller longer. Fats and carbohydrates, on the other hand, are metabolized faster, so you feel hungry again sooner. A lot of junk food (soda, candy, etc.) delivers calories to your body but few (if any) nutrients. These are called “empty” calories.

When every calorie counts, you want to get the most bang for your buck. Stay away from empty calories and fill up on nutrient-dense foods to keep you feeling satisfied and help your body function properly.

But it’s hard to stick to a diet when you feel deprived. It’s okay to treat yourself now and then, and if you can treat yourself with healthy, high-protein snacks, all the better!

Happy counting!

The Nutrition Gap: Nutrient Deficiency and How to Avoid it

by Le-Vel 0 Comments
The Nutrition Gap: Nutrient Deficiency and How to Avoid it

Do you eat 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day?

It’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends we eat to avoid nutrient deficiency — but most people don’t.

The typical American diet is deficient in potassium, Vitamin D, calcium, and dietary fiber. Source: USDA and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Even if you are among the few that follow the USDA guidelines, it’s difficult to get all the nutrients we need through diet alone.

Nutrient Deficiency

For example, you would have to eat 3 bananas a day to get the recommended daily value of Vitamin B6!

But things get even trickier when you limit the types of foods you eat — if you’re a vegetarian, for example.

Not consuming all the vitamins and nutrients you need lands you in what’s called the “nutrition gap,” which can put you at risk for serious health problems.

That’s why it’s helpful to know what nutrients are in the foods you do eat, so you can make the best choices and supplement where necessary. In this post, we’ll talk about common nutritional deficiencies that occur when following some of the most popular diets.

Nutrient Deficiency in Vegetarians and Vegans

People who avoid meat and other animal products can easily find themselves lacking key nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, and iron. To avoid deficiencies, it’s important for vegans and vegetarians to fill up on a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods (as opposed to processed foods like bread and pasta).

Pump up the protein: In addition to protein-rich soy, vegetarians and vegans can ensure adequate protein intake by eating legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds, quinoa and whole grains. There are also many vegan- and vegetarian-friendly protein snacks and protein powders that can be used to supplement your diet and ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition.  

Nutrient Deficiency

Increase your iron: Iron is found in dark, leafy green vegetables, lentils, peas, and whole grains. Vegans and vegetarians should consume twice as much, whether through food or iron supplements, because plant-sourced iron (non-heme iron) is harder for your body to absorb than iron found in red meat (heme iron).

Increase your iron

Boost your B12: Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products, so it’s common for vegans and vegetarians to be deficient. B12 deficiency can cause anemia and nerve damage, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough. Fortunately, there are lots of vegan-friendly B12 supplements on the market, like THRIVE Lifestyle Capsules!

Boost your B12

Low-Carbohydrate Considerations

Of course carbohydrates are in pasta and bread — but you also find them in nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eliminating these from your diet can cause deficiencies of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium.

Get enough fiber: It’s difficult to get enough fiber through low-carb fruits and vegetables alone. Make sure to also eat high-fiber grains like bran cereal or flax, or take a fiber supplement to keep your digestive system healthy.

Get enough fiber

Take your vitamins: Multivitamins can help you get the nutrients you need no matter what diet you follow, but are especially helpful when limiting your intake of carbs — particularly in the restrictive early weeks of a low-carb diet.

THRIVE Lifestyle Mix

Don’t forgo fat: Not all fat is bad! Good fats (found in avocado and olive oil) are important to a healthy diet, supplying energy and cell support. Plus, they help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).

Don’t forgo fat

The Problem with Paleo

 Paleo diet (the “caveman diet”) followers stick to lean meats, nuts, fruits, and veggies to mimic our early ancestors’ diet. This means they eliminate all processed foods — including dairy and wheat products. This can result in calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D deficiency.

Calcium is crucial: In addition to being vital to bone health, calcium supports heart, muscle, and nerve function. Edamame, bok choy, and dark, leafy greens like spinach and collard greens are rich in this vital nutrient. Calcium supplements are also widely available.

Calcium is crucial

Don’t forget vitamin D: Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and helps support a healthy immune system. Paleo dieters can find it through supplements or eating fatty fish (like salmon) and soybeans.

Don’t forget vitamin D

Ramp up your riboflavin: Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin helps your body metabolize food and produce energy. It’s in lean meats, eggs, almonds, and spinach.

Ramp up your riboflavin

Whatever your diet, the THRIVE Experience was created to fill in nutritional gaps with more than 100 premium-grade vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, digestive enzymes, protein, fiber and more. Try it today to boost your nutrient intake and live, look, and feel your best!

The ABCs of Vitamins: What Do They Do for Your Body?

by Le-Vel 0 Comments
The ABCs of Vitamins: What Do They Do for Your Body?

We all know that vitamins are important for good health, but we might not totally understand why. What do vitamins do for your body, exactly?

Your body needs nutrients to grow, function, and fight off diseases. Since your body can’t produce vitamins on its own, you have to get them through food or supplements.

There are two kinds:

Fat and water soluble vitamins

Fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) are stored in your body’s fatty tissue. They are more easily absorbed when consumed with dietary fat.

Water soluble vitamins (B, C) are not stored in your body. If not used right away, they are passed through urine, so they need to be replenished daily.

The body needs 13 essential vitamins to function properly. Understanding what each of them does can help you make better food choices to get the vitamins you need to feel your best.

Let’s take a look at these vitamins, what they do for your body, and where you’ll find them:

 Vitamin A (Retinoids and carotene)

Vitamin A (Retinoids and carotene): Promotes healthy teeth and bones as well as healthy vision and skin. It also helps support your immune and reproductive systems, heart, kidneys, and lungs. (Good sources: beef, carrots, dark-colored fruits, dark leafy vegetables, egg yolks, fish, fortified milk and dairy products, liver, pumpkin, squash, spinach)

 Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Supports your heart, skin, hair, muscles, digestion, and nervous system. (Good sources: dried milk, eggs, enriched bread and flour, lean meats, legumes, nuts and seeds, organ meats, peas, whole grains)

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Good for your skin, hair, nails, eyes, and helps convert food into energy. (Good sources: cheese, fish, leafy green vegetables, liver, milk, yeast)

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Helps maintain healthy skin and nerves and lower cholesterol. (Good sources: avocado, eggs, enriched bread and fortified cereals, fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts, potatoes, poultry)

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): Promotes metabolism and the production of hormones and cholesterol. (Good sources: avocado, broccoli, kale, eggs, milk, poultry, potatoes)

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Plays a vital role in sleep, mood, appetite, and cognitive function, supports the immune system, and helps prevent heart disease. (Good sources: bananas, chicken, fish, legumes, pork, whole grains)

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Vitamin B7 (Biotin): Increases absorption of protein, fat, and carbohydrates and promotes healthy hair and bones. (Good sources: chocolate, egg yolks, legumes, milk, nuts, organ meats, pork)

Vitamin B9 (Folic acid, folate, folacin)

Vitamin B9 (Folic acid, folate, folacin): Helps your body make DNA and works with B12 to form red blood cells, which prevents anemia. (Good sources: asparagus, broccoli, beets, leafy green vegetables, lentils, oranges, peanut butter, wheat germ)

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): Supports healthy nerve function and metabolism, and breaks down fatty and amino acids, which helps lower your risk of heart disease. (Good sources: meat, eggs, milk and milk products, organ meats, shellfish)

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): Bolsters your immune system to fight infections and heal wounds, and helps your body absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue. (Good sources: citrus, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes)

Vitamin D (Calciferol)

Vitamin D (Calciferol): Promotes the absorption of calcium, which is vital for bone health, and helps reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. (Good sources: fatty fish and fish liver oil, fortified cereals, fortified milk and dairy products)

Vitamin E (Alpha-tocopherol)

Vitamin E (Alpha-tocopherol): Supports your immune system and protects cells from damage, which helps fight cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. (Good sources: avocado, dark green vegetables, corn and sunflower oils, mango and papaya, nuts and seeds, wheat germ)

Vitamin K (Phylloquinone, menadione): Promotes bone health and helps your blood to clot. (Good sources: beef, cabbage, cauliflower, cereal, dark green and leafy vegetables, eggs, fish, liver)

So the next time someone asks, “What do vitamins do for your body?” You can tell them!

Often, we aren’t able to get all the vitamins and nutrients we need through food alone. For example, it’s not uncommon for people who follow a vegetarian diet to be deficient in Vitamin B12, since it is mostly derived from animal products.

That’s where supplements come in!  The THRIVE Experience provides vitamins (as well as minerals, plant extracts, anti-oxidants, enzymes, probiotics, and amino acids) to help fill nutritional gaps and keep your body functioning at its highest level. Try THRIVE today!