Healthy Classic Shortbread Cookies (v, gf)

If there’s one thing we all love, it’s Christmas baking. Am I right?

I recently asked my private coaching group on Facebook what their favourite holiday treat was. I would pick one and make a healthier version of it to enjoy, guilt-free.

The popular vote? Shortbread.

Cue the macro-friendly magic. 

This recipe is gluten free if you use GF oats for the oat flour, and can be vegan if you use plant-based margarine instead of butter.

macro-friendly, gluten-free shortbread cookies. 3 cookies is 1 serving!

For those on a meal plan with EVLV fit, three (yes, 3!) cookies is:

1 serving of fats + 0.5 servings of “any” carbs

Don’t have coaching, but looking to team up? Head over to our coaching page to see if we can help you!

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©2019 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Low-Carb Peanut Butter Cookies

These low-carb, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, soy-free, leto-friendly cookies will be the best part of you day! Eat cookies and still lose weight.

How to Stay on Track During Any Holiday

The Holidays can be Stressful.

In more ways than one. The impending dread of endless treats. The uncontrollable noshing on high-calorie baked goods that we just KNOW won’t fit into our normal calorie budgets. Not only the dread around food, but the time we get together with family can be stressful and a little more than emotionally draining. This can increase anxiety and lower our usually-much-stronger self control (the control we would NORMALLY use to resist the temptations laid out in front of us). 

Let’s add in the ease in which we feel obligated to go back to our normal, lazier habits when we are away or with family members, and our whole healthier routine we had started goes out the window.  

candy corn halloween candy holidays treats weight loss

And I’m not just talking about Christmas.

New Year’s drinks and Appies, Easter chocolate, Thanksgiving, Halloween candy, National Holiday Barbecues. Even Valentine’s day and birthdays are a reason for people to get together to eat, drink, and be merry.

Talk about a recipe for disaster. 

But it doesn’t have to be if you can implement a few health-saving tips for ourselves. 

Below are 8 helpful hacks that I use around the holidays to ensure I don’t make myself sick and over indulge on things I don’t actually want to. Keep these tips in mind for yourself when you’re in a different routine or environment over the holidays (where it’s easier to pretend the 5 peppermint brownies don’t count in our macros). 

8 Tips To Stay on Track During the Holidays

1. Stay Moving!


Whatever you do, try to make it as active as possible.

This means something as simple as opting for stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away than you normally would and walking into the mall, or going for a brisk walk around the block of your parent’s neighbourhood when you’re over for festivities (hint: this is also a good excuse to get away from cousins you don’t like..).

2. Stick to Your Regular Routine

You know all those things we do that helps us feel good everyday? Whether it’s meditating in the morning, going to the gym, showering, or even something as simple as eating 2 eggs with oatmeal in the mornings, keep doing it through the holidays! Even if you’re away from home or have people over, do as much as you can to maintain your healthy habits.

winter exercise holidays stay moving

The more you can keep up your daily routine the easier it’ll be to bounce back into everything after the holidays are over. Plus it may help you maintain a sense of control and normalcy in a flurry of screaming inlaws.

3. Choose your Foods Wisely


Don’t stay away from everything you LOVE, but be rational about what you TRULY want to indulge in.

Be mindful with your serving sizes and don’t mindlessly bite into things you could easily pass on. Save your calories for grandma’s christmas cake and leave those dense, plain Christmas cookies from WWII on the coffee table in the tins where they belong.

4. Eat treats LAST, not First

Always have a rule: ONLY eat the goodies AFTER you’ve nourished yourself with something wholesome and nutrient-rich. This will save you a lot of grief when it comes to blood sugar and insulin regulation. Spiking blood sugar with high-calorie foods are a sure-fire way to lead to the well-known sugar crashes and cravings later on in the day. s well as over-indulgence on the sugary things.

easter candy treats control indulge

5. Bring Your Own Snacks


Whether it’s for your day of Christmas shopping or your weekend at the siblings house for Easter, bring healthy snacks to tide yourself over. Eat things you know you love instead of shoving chocolate eggs into your mouth with everyone else.

Remember, they aren’t working as hard as you to better their health. Don’t expect them to have healthy snack for you. 

Healthy snacks could be low-fat, low-sugar protein bars, homemade granola bars or healthy cookies, hummus and vegetables, beef jerky or even vegetables and dip!


For most of us, Christmas is not a time that we are absolutely excited about when we think about getting together with family. More often than not they’re the worst ones when it comes to heckling you for healthy choices and forcing you to eat/drink way more than you normally would.

I’m personally here to tell you IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO!

And some people might secretly admire you for making healthier choices….

say no to family pressure

7. When it comes to DRINKS, choose wisely

be wise about alcohol consumption

Holiday drinks like alcohol and eggnog stack on copious calories without any nutrient benefits.

And after one or two, those calories can add up fast.

Choose lower-calorie or light alcoholic drinks, diet sodas or juices, and don’t forget to always drink a glass of water in between every mixed drink you consume.

8. Forgive yourself and MOVE ON

So you overindulged. Don’t sweat it, unless you are literally doing so from all the sugar/meat (but seriously I hope no one has to suffer through that).

The best thing to do is forgive yourself, don’t get down on yourself, and return to regularly-scheduled programming tomorrow and the next day.

As long as it doesn’t become a habit, one day of too much Christmas cake or BBQ surf and turf wont kill your progress.


There are many time throughout the year that test our willpower (and ability to put up with relatives). 

Having a coach is an affordable way to help you plan appropriately for your holidays, and stay away from shoving too many treats in your mouth without noticing.

The more we can prepare ourselves for the holidays, the less torturous it will be. and the less likely you will be to overindulge on the things you could’ve passed on. I know it’s cliche, but if you FAIL to PLAN, you’re PLANNING to FAIL.  



Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 


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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Simple Sweet Potato Muffins

I think sweet potato was meant to heal the cracks in my soul. Well, that and peanut butter (let’s be real, PB is the OG for most people).

We may not think of sweet potato as a good alternative to butter/flour in a muffin recipe but it totally works. These muffins are slightly sweet, with a moist, perfectly-dense texture that will make it hard to eat just 1 in a sitting (seriously- hide them from yourself- meal plan-ers get to eat 2 at once! ).

With the option to use a gluten-free oat flour, these muffins are sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free, guilt-free, and seriously GOOD. My only piece of advice? TRY THEM NOW. 

And with only 99 calories per muffin, what’s not to love about these quick, tasty, sugar-free treats? 1.7F/14C/6.3P – all you need is a blender or magic bullet (well… and an oven)!

(To cook the sweet potato beforehand, I always just pop them in the microwave for a few minutes, until soft, and peel them after they’ve been cooked.) 



For those on a meal plan with EVLV fit, two (yeah, 2!!!) muffins is only 1 serving of “any” carbs + 1 serving of lean proteins for your day!

Don’t have coaching, but looking to hire one? Head over to our coaching page to see if we can help you!

Want More?

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Black Bean Chocolate Cake


Okay, so I’m not a big fan of chocolate 🍫.

I know, I know, who am I?

But seriously, if I could choose vanilla every day I TOTALLY would. While I don’t necessarily LOVE chocolate, I AM a big fan of experimenting with “healthy” foods and food alternatives.

Therefore, I’ve experimented with HEALTHY Black bean chocolate cake 🍰. It’s my latest experiment, and it turned out pretty dang good if you ask me- and I don’t even love chocolate!

This cake is moist, chocolatey, and absolutely delicious; Without all the guilt of eating a giant piece of regular chocolate cake! Packed with fiber and good-for-you micronutrients, you wont even notice it has no flour and you made it with beans.

When people hear “black beans”, they usually shy away from using them in baking. I mean, I agree that’s probably not what they were meant for. But as a healthy, high-fibre alternative to using just flour and butter, this cake adds in a little health to the line up of treats and lower-cal desserts. Plus, higher fiber in our diets is extremely important to our overall health, just see my post here.

If you choose to use gluten-free oats for your oat flour, coconut oil, and Enjoy Life chocolate chips, this recipe will be Wheat/Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, guilt-free, and 100% delicious. If you choose to use dairy or non-GF oats, it’s still soy-free, guilt-free, and delicious, don’t worry.

It’s way easier than it seems to bake with black beans (and not be able to taste them in your cake, duh). The most important thing is to have a good food processor or blender. So without further ado (honestly I never read those long blogs before a recipe anyway), here is my version of black bean chocolate cake for YOU:

healthy black bean chocolate cakehealthy black bean chocolate cake

For anyone on a meal plan with EVLV fit, one piece is 1 serving of “any” carbs + 1 serving of fats for your day!

Don’t have coaching, but looking to hire one? Head over to our coaching page to see if we can help you!


Want More?

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

The Importance of Fiber in your Diet

Ever been.. ahem.. “plugged up” and taken a fiber supplement like Metamucil or bran to help get things moving again? Ever binged on an excessive amount of your favorite fruits in the summer and “paid for it” later? 

I think we’ve all been there once or twice. 

FIBER is an important part of our diets, and we always hear that we need to get more of it, but what is it really and why is it so beneficial? Turns out there’s a much more substantial side to dietary fiber than just helping us, uh, “go”.

Fiber is a component of plants that the human body cannot digest in the same way it digests our regular food. Therefore, animal products like meat and eggs do not contain any fiber.

Fiber is thought to promote beneficial health effects like:

Cholesterol reduction: Research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet can significantly lower your risk of heart disease, and increasing fiber in your diet can help to lower total blood cholesterol (here and here).

Improved blood sugar control: Fiber may help slow the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates (and therefore sugars) in your gut. This can help treat or prevent insulin-related conditions such as diabetes.

Increases in digestive health and functioning: Fiber may reduce your risk of developing nasty intestinal problems like diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. It has also been shown to help improve these illnesses if you already have them.

Skin health: It may help in moving yeasts and funguses out of your body, which helps prevent acne, rashes or eczema.

Weight management: fiber intake is associated with weight loss among populations. It may help stabilize blood sugar levels to reduce cravings and premature hunger. The jury is still out on whether it helps increase satiety, but it can definitely help some people feel fuller for longer. 

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. 

Soluble fiber readily dissolves in water. When water is added to it, it thickens and becomes sticky, gummy, and/or gel-like. It can help slow the digestion of food and MAY help you feel fuller for a longer period of time. It is important for controlling a spike in blood sugar levels after you eat a meal. 

 Some foods high in soluble fiber include:

Whole grains (Oatmeal, psyllium, oat bran, brown rice, flax seeds are generally highest)

Beans and peas (Lima and kidney are generally highest)

Vegetables (Plantain, artichoke, Brussel sprouts, squash, asparagus, broccoli, sweet potato, onions, and carrots are generally highest)

Fruits (Blackberries, oranges, passion fruit, grapefruit, apricots, mango, prunes, apples, and blueberries are generally highest)


Insoluble fiber helps to add bulk to your stools and therefore allows food to pas more easily through your digestive system. It is also cited for removing wastes in our intestines as it passes through. It may also aid in keeping your intestines at an optimal pH, which is important for healthy functioning.

Some foods high in insoluble fiber include:

Wheat bran

Beans (Kidney, Broad, Pinto, soy, and Navy are generally highest)

Lentils and chickpeas

Most whole grains (Barley, wheat, millet, bulgur, popcorn, oats, and flax seeds are generally highest)

Vegetables (Beetroot, spinach, Turnips, peas, squash, and okra are highest)

Fruits (Apples, raspberries, figs, kiwi, mango, bananas, pears, and strawberries are highest)

Nuts (almonds are highest)

Have you ever heard of the term “net carbs” ? This is the popular belief that fiber, since it is mostly indigestible in the small intestine, does not need to be included in your daily carbohydrate count. For example, if you ate 50 grams of carbohydrates in a meal, but 10 grams of those were fiber, then 50g – 10g = 40g of “net carbs”.

Well that’s neat! So I can eat more carbohydrates during the day and just subtract the fiber content? Awesome! More carbs!

But not so fast. This concept isn’t accurate at all. Here’s why.

Dietary fiber passes through the small intestine (where the other nutrients are digested) and is instead fermented in the large intestine. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, the energy content (aka calories) from fiber is still absorbed and utilized in our bodies.  

Generally, men and women over the age of 18 should aim for at least 25-50 grams of dietary fiber per day in their diets (that means both soluble and insoluble fiber combined).

Be sure to increase your intake of fiber slowly and to drink more water as you do this, which can help prevent gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Also be sure you are getting your fiber from a variety of sources, as you want a good balance of both soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet. 

It is important to note that not all fiber acts as a stool softener or laxative. In fact, a lot of fiber can help regulate your bowel movements to be more “normal” if you’re having too many. 

Turns out fiber has a lot of hidden benefits that make it important to include in our diets. Besides keeping us regular, it can help us live a healthier life altogether.


If you’re tracking your macros or calories, it’s paramount to also be tracking your fiber. If you think your gut health is lacking one way or another, take a look at how much of the “fun” stuff you’re getting in. you’ll be able to see it on your nutrition-tracking app. Aim for 25-50g daily from your diet. And if you want to fit “junk” foods into your diet, be sure to get in enough fiber first. That way you (hopefully) won’t have to pay for it later! 



Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 


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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

What to Look for on Food Nutrition Labels


Now that you’ve discovered the basics of macronutrients and how they relate to your caloric intake, let’s talk about some different aspects to look at regarding our food nutrition labels. 

The food industry is sneaky. While it has to disclose most information about its food products, it doesn’t have to educate you on how to decipher its labeling. Remember, the more educated you are about your foods the less the food industry can persuade you with savvy marketing ploys. So being conscious of what you’re digging into will allow you to make more informed decisions of what (and how much) you’re consuming.

Here’s a little bit of information on what to look at/for when you’re reading those obscure numbers on the nutrition labels of your foods.


Let’s start at the top and work our way down:

Serving size 

The information listed on the nutrition label is usually for one serving. Many foods will have more than one serving per package. The best way to determine your serving size is to follow the label instructions for measurements (ex: grams, oz, or mL) as opposed to products numbers (ex: 15 chips), as each individual food item is not always uniform in size (and if you’re like me, I am going to pick the biggest, crunchiest …. carrots [chips] …. first)




Remember, this number is rounded. So now that you know how to calculate your macros and why it’s more important than simply tracking calories, just use this number as a general reference if you want to know how much energy you’re consuming.




Total Fat

This first number is going to be your TOTAL amount of fat in the serving suggestion. this includes unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.

a.) Saturated fats: Saturated fats have been given a bad rap for the wrong reasons, blamed for causing heart disease and contributing to obesity. Recent research is proving this not to be so true. In fact, eating too much of anything (more calories than you burn) is the leading contributor to these diseases.

Fun fact: Saturated fat has recently been shown to improve brain functioning, nerve signalling, and immunity just like other fats do. It could also be a possible precursor to increased testosterone in males. Some reviews (here, here, or here) found that those who consumed higher amounts of saturated fats have no higher rates of cardiovascular diseases than those who consume less. Other studies (here, here, or here) concluded that replacing saturated fats with healthier types of fats lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. One thing that’s know for sure, is that it is paramount to consume adequate amounts of omega-3 fats in the diet to ensure a healthy heart and blood.

Bottom line: don’t worry so much about saturated fats as long as you’re getting in an appropriate level of unsaturated fats like omega-3’s every day too.

The saturated fats listed on your nutrition labels have already been included in the total grams of fat listed above it, so don’t count them separately.

b.) Trans fatThis fat is a byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils, and is added to foods to help increase flavour and shelf-life stability. It has been banned in many countries and the FDA no longer recognizes it as “safe”. It has been shown in many studies to increase our risk of cardiovascular disease when commercially produced. It naturally occurs in small amounts in some animal products, but a recent review didn’t find any links to increase health concerns with it. Bottom line: Try your best to avoid it. So far, science has done a great job linking the commercially-produced trans fats  to the increased risk of many health problems. Like saturated fats, any trans fats listed will have already been included in your total fats above.

The trans fat and saturated fat in your food product usually WON’T add up to your total fat numbers. As we can see above, 0.5g of saturated fats + 0g trans fats DOESN’T add up to the 7g of fat listed above. This is because most nutrition labels don’t include grams of unsaturated fats in their foods. They would merely be included in your total fat numbers.  



While it has a bad rap, cholesterol is a molecule naturally made in the body, and it’s critical for our cells to adapt to temperature fluctuations, produce hormones, and even help us digest our food. There is NO convincing research to support the claims that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease and atherosclerosis. In fact, many natural sources of cholesterol (like eggs) are more beneficial than harmful for us- not to mention they contain important vitamins and minerals along with healthy fats). So unless you have a pre-existing heart or artery condition and your doctor recommends you avoid cholesterol in foods, don’t worry so much about it.



As a mineral, it doesn’t contain any calories. Just like saturated fats and cholesterol, it has a bit of a bad reputation. While many studies in the past have correlated sodium intake with high cholesterol, one must realize high sodium usually comes with an unhealthy diet overall, which will increase your risk for many chronic diseases. But sodium intake itself has actually not been proven to cause fat gain over long-term ingestion, and frankly, your body needs it to function. Sodium is crucial for every single cell in your body, especially for nerves and muscle to function optimally. Consuming excess salt has not been linked to hypertension either, and it has been found to be especially beneficial in bodybuilders. Yes, inconsistent levels of sodium (say, an irregular amount in one or two days) will cause short term weight gain due to water retention. 

The bottom line: Unless you already have high blood pressure, kidney problems, are salt-sensitive, or have another condition that requires a low-sodium diet, I wouldn’t stress too much about your sodium intake. always make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. 



The number of carbohydrates are going to be your TOTAL carbohydrates, including sugar, fiber, and starches. 

Dietary fiber: Fiber is extremely important in the diet, and is cited to be a big indicator of regulating your digestive health and increasing feelings of satiety (so you’re fuller longer). I have a full post about the importance of fiber. But, bottom line, make sure you’re getting enough! Fiber will give you a LOWER caloric value per gram than other carbohydrates, but still include your fiber count in your overall carb intake, as it is broken down and utilized quite well in the large intestine for energy.

Sugar: This is a huge discussion topic for me (check out my post on sugar here), and the source of many health misconceptions. Sugar is not inherently “BAD” like many people preach. Yes, too much sugar is not going to help you or your blood sugar levels so moderation is probably best. But sugar in all forms is a carbohydrate and news flash: ALL carbohydrates you eat will be broken down into glucose before it enters your blood for transport to the rest of your body. As long as you’re getting in enough fiber throughout the day and staying within your caloric limits (hitting your macros), you won’t be gaining weight if you eat a little bit of the sweet stuff. Fun fact for all you agave-loving fructose-hating people: The type of sugar you’re consuming doesn’t make you gain any more weight than another type, since they all have the same caloric value per gram. 

Ensure ALL of your carbohydrates don’t come from sugar- getting in enough fibre is paramount to your health. The bottom line: don’t freak out over the sugar content of foods, but don’t go on a candy binge either. Sugar is just another carbohydrate, so eat it in moderation with enough fibre-rich foods. If you have any problem regulating your blood sugar, then please listen to all medical advice from your doctor and not me. (Read our full article on sugar by clicking HERE)



If you’ve read my post on the basics of macronutrients, you know the importance of protein in your diet, so be sure to look out for higher-protein foods if you have trouble getting in enough!





What are those numbers on the right? 

Those are your percent daily value, or %DV. This value is based on your country’s valuation of a “healthy” standard diet. It is usually based on a 2,000 calorie diet. If you are tracking macronutrients, then you will have been given a specific nutrient and caloric amount that is INDIVIDUALIZED to you. Therefore, I usually find it helpful to just ignore these numbers as they will only confuse you. If your nutrition labels states percentages of your “standard daily value” on the right, they will more than likely explain their nutrient breakdown below the label or somewhere else on your food packaging. 


Being able to fully interpret nutrition labels is going to be an important tool in your arsenal of dietary intelligence. It is not obsessive, it is being aware of what you’re buying and consuming on a daily basis (and that’s why companies HAVE to put nutrition facts on things). The more aware we make ourselves, the less we can be coerced by unrealistic marketing. So go forth, interpret your nutrition labels, and conquer the convoluted world of human nutrition.  


Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 


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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Is PROTEIN really Muscle-Building Magic?

PROTEIN. It’s the answer to all things bodybuilding, and maybe life in general for those living the “Bro way”. The golden chalice of youth and gains is filled with chocolate-flavoured whey and chicken breast. But how do us mere mortals know how much protein we need to take in every day? And why is protein such an important aspect of getting that optimum, muscular physique?
Is protein the golden macronutrient for muscle growth?
Eating protein does one essential thing for our bodies: it increases Muscle Protein synthesis (or MPS). MPS refers to the rate of protein synthesis of actual muscle fibres. This is used as a marker of muscle growth. Consistent increases in MPS will result in visible muscle growth over time.
*In order to have muscle GROWTH, our MPS must exceed muscle breakdown.
Layne Norton released a study in 2012 suggesting Leucine, an amino acid (there are 21 that make up proteins in foods), may be the most important determinant of MPS in the body.
The bottom line? Amino Acid availability (aka protein we consume) has been found to increase the stimulation of MPS and can result in higher muscle anabolism (building) than if we don’t eat adequate amounts of protein.
So we increase our MPS by eating more protein, and lots of it, right?
Well, yes and no. Just like everything else in the science world, nothing is that black and white. Yes, consuming bolus amounts of protein DOES increase our muscle protein synthesis, but there are other factors that also play a large role, like:
Resistance training increases MPS up to 24-48 hours

1. Resistance training has huge effects on increasing MPS 24-48 hours after your lifting session. Resistance exercise and proper nutrient intake has been shown to be significantly more effective for increasing MPS than simply nutrition or exercise on their own.

2. Hormones also play a huge role. Insulin and testosterone are the two most important.
The effectiveness of MPS is not maximized without the presence of insulin, which is increased the most with ingestion of carbohydrates. Studies using protein ingestion paired with carbohydrates tended to increase lean body mass more than just a protein source alone (here, here, here). This may be through insulin’s ability to stimulate nutritive flow into muscles and receptor signalling. Research suggests insulin can inhibit the increase in muscle breakdown following exercise also.
Increases in testosterone are seen after bouts of resistance exercise like weightlifting. Testosterone plays a role in our physique by decreasing protein breakdown, increasing MPS, and may improve the efficiency with which our bodies use animo acids to build new proteins. While the role of testosterone is still not fully understood, studies have shown that supplementing with testosterone increases lean body mass in test subjects (no pun intended), yet some studies have failed to see an increase in MPS just from higher testosterone levels alone. But like anything about the human body, reactions are not usually dictated by one single mechanism or hormone but rather a cascade of stimuli. 
So, how much protein do we NEED?
Higher performance needs? You probably need more protein too

The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein intake is 0.8g per kg body weight, or 0.36g per lb. This is considered the absolute MINIMUM to meet your daily nutrient requirements. It does NOT take into account physical activity, let alone resistance training. So if you don’t do anything active and aren’t looking to change your physique in any way, use those guidelines.

The higher your performance needs (or the more intensely you workout) will affect your protein requirements. If you are any kind of athlete, you need to consume more than the RDA in order to reach your physique or performance goals. 
Eric Helms released a systematic review finding sufficient levels of protein for resistance-trained athletes to be 2.3-3.1g per kg (about 1.05-1.40g per lb) of fat free mass (NOT total bodyweight). Menno Henselmans’ article regarding the current research found that 0.82g per lb bodyweight to be sufficient for maximizing protein synthesis. Anything more ceases to yield any benefits, even when dieting.  
So the general “golden rule” of 1g per lb bodyweight circulating the gym-rat world may not be entirely necessary, but if you’re a beginner it may be a nice round number to start off with.
What about protein timing?
Nutrient timing may be beneficial when it comes to gaining muscle

A 2006 study showed an increase in muscle mass and strength in people who consumed protein pre- and post-workout (versus people who didn’t, but still ate the same amount of protein throughout the day).  A 2010 study found that consuming protein immediately after a strength training session improved recovery compared to a placebo. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether it was the timing itself of the protein, or the overall protein intake that resulted in the faster recovery. Either way, there is a multitudinous amount of research pointing towards pre- and post-workout nutrition as being an important factor in your fitness goals. Research points to MPS rates being elevated up to 24 hours after your weights session, so ultimately it’s your overall intake throughout the day that matter the most. 

To MAXIMIZE your protein synthesis, Layne Norton’s research suggests consuming at least 3g of leucine per meal, and eating larger doses of protein every 4-6 hours may help maximize muscle protein synthesis (aka an anabolic effect). If you have the extra time, meal frequency might help you maximize your MPS. Eating a bolus amount of protein (30-60g) in one sitting every 4-6 hours may help to keep MPS elevated throughout the day, making your muscle building potential more consistent throughout the day. 
What happens if you eat MORE protein than the recommended amount?
Well, first let’s get this out of the way for you #bros: ** EATING EXTRA PROTEIN DOES NOT MEAN BUILDING MORE MUSCLE ** The key is to balance out your daily caloric intake between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in order to maximize your physique or performance goals.
But on that note, let’s address the critics on too much protein. 
Too much protein – bad for the kidneys?

The biggest concern with too much protein is kidney damage, as protein does modulate renal function. if you have healthy kidneys and are not on a protein-restricted diet, there isn’t much research to suggest higher protein intake over time is damaging. Research suggests that potential damage occurs when subjects eat “too much, too fast” as opposed to increasing your protein intake over a time period. A 2000 review suggests that protein intake under 2.8g per kg (1.27g per lb) does not impair renal function in athletes. 

Same goes for the liver. There is no current evidence to suggest consistently “higher” (but still normal) protein intake is harmful to the liver, unless you consume a ton of protein after a 2-day fast of no food at all or have an unhealthy liver to begin with. 
There is also some evidence that regular exercise can help to alleviate any possible adverse effects of a higher protein intake on organ function. 
Truth or myth? Our bodies can only absorb so much protein at one time.
Pair your protein with other macronutrient sources, like carbs and fats.

Well, kind of but not really. The small intestine, where protein is digested and absorbed into the blood stream, is very efficient at slowing digestion over time in order to absorb all the protein you consume. Keep in mind, though, that eating more protein in one sitting won’t increase your MPS past its maximum, which is usually achieved at 30-40g of animal protein to get the minimum benefit from leucine, as stated above. 

Since the potential benefits of consuming higher levels of protein include building and preserving muscle mass, burning fat, and increasing performance output, why is 20% of our daily intake suggested?
Well, for one protein is a terrible energy source. If we only need specific levels to maximize MPS, then the rest of our calories should be coming from fats and carbohydrates (Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Macronutrients for a breakdown of why they’re important). Other aspects of health like proper digestion (and getting enough fiber), blood sugar regulation, hormone regulation, brain function, and diet variety should also be considered- their ideal functioning needs to come from other macronutrients. Other than the present-day cave men, who really wants to eat chicken breast and tuna all day, every day? Not me, that’s for sure #GiveMeBread&PeanutButterAmIRight?
Protein intake won’t matter is calories aren’t controlled too

So, Protein = muscles, right? Yes, protein is a fuel for your body. But you still need to pair it with consistent resistance training and recovery over an extended period of time to see real physique changes like weight loss or muscle growth. 

The biggest thing to remember, though, is that protein will have no effect on your physique if your caloric intake is not controlled. Simply eating more protein may land you in an over-eating phase and cause you to gain fat. No matter the macronutrient, calories are calories and extra calories will be stored as fat. Also keep in mind that consuming foods high in protein doesn’t mean protein is the ONLY macronutrient in that food- it could land you in the high-fat or high-carb levels as well, so be sure to do your homework on nutrition (learn how to interpret nutrition labels here) before raising your whey-filled chalice of gains.
Some High-protein Foods Include:
– Meats (Chicken, beef, fish, pork, etc)
– Dairy (Yogurt, cheese, milk, etc -preferably low fat options)
– Soybeans/soy products
– Eggs/Egg whites
– Protein Powders or bars (vegan or non, like whey)
– Roasted Peanuts (while low in overall protein and higher in fats, peanuts contain the highest levels of leucine per gram of protein)
– Beans/Lentils (keep in mind these are also higher in carbs)


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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

The SKINNY on Sugar

If I had a nickel for every time a client told me that “sugar makes you fat” I’d probably be on my way to affording my very own candy shop. Anyone who hasn’t done their research on the components of sugar and human physiology would agree: If you want to lose weight, cut the sweet stuff out of your diet first and poof! The pounds will melt off. 

The war on sugar is trending right now. Are you in?

But is it really that simple? In my years as a researcher and science student, I’ve come to learn that nothing is as black and powdery-white as it seems. I’ve said before that the health industry has an obsession with demonizing foods. Is it possible that sugar has been caught in the crossfire?

Let’s break it down and look at the claims regarding the sweet stuff.

First of all, we need to understand what sugar IS before we make any rash decisions.


Discussion topics in this post:

                                               What IS sugar?

What happens when we EAT sugar?

Why Does Sugar make you fat (supposedly)?

Is Sugar addictive?

What about Blood Sugar?

Are some sugars worse than others?

Concluding thoughts

What even IS sugar?

Sugar is simply a blanket name given to a group of typically-sweet carbohydrates (a biological molecule consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen), and it comes in many forms in nature (and the store). There are three main groups of sugars- MONOsaccharides, DIsaccharides, and POLYsaccharides. Sugars are categorized into these groups based on their chemical structure: Anyone who knows basic Latin has already figured out that MONO- means “one”, DI- means “two”, and POLY- means “many”.

MONOsaccharides cannot be broken down into a smaller molecule in the body. DIsaccharides are two joined monosaccharides and can therefore be split into two separate molecules in the body. POLYsaccharides are simply many monosaccharides bonded together to form a chain that can be split apart into numerous smaller molecules.

There are three main MONOsaccharides in the human diet:

  1. Glucose is the most important molecule to organisms (including humans). It Is the most widely-used carbohydrate in all living things, and functions as an energy source through three metabolic pathways. For humans, glucose is the KEY source of energy for ALL of our cells. When you talk about your “blood sugar” that’s glucose circulating in the blood. Glucose is imperative – it supplies almost all the energy for our brains to properly function. Therefore it influences all of our psychological processes. Studies have found that when glucose is low, processes like decision-making and self-control are impaired.
  2. Fructose is sweeter than glucose, commonly found in “natural” food sources like honey, fruits, flowers, and vegetables. It is absorbed directly into your blood from your intestines and is changed into a molecule that can be inserted into the same energy pathway as glucose.
  3. Galactose is a building block to lactose, commonly found in milk and its by-products. Like fructose, galactose is absorbed by the digestive system into the blood and converted to a molecule that can be inserted into the glucose-energy pathway for cellular energy.

*Before we move on, let’s reflect on our monosaccharides- notice that all three of them can be inserted into the SAME metabolic pathway in the body. Got it? We will revisit this later. 

There are 2 main DIsaccharides in the human diet:

sucrose is added to many packaged foods for extra sweetness and preservation. Lactose is found in milk products
  • Sucrose is composed of one molecule of glucose and one molecule
    of fructose. It plays an important role in our diets; it is a common food additive, used as a sweetener, preservative, and thickening agent for other foods. It has a long history in our diets- dating back almost 2,000 years.
  • Lactose is a combination of a glucose and a galactose molecule. This sugar is the main component of mammalian milk products like breast milk and the dairy we consume from other animals.

There are three common POLYsaccharides in the human diet:

  1. Glycogen is made up of a long chain of glucose, this is the MAIN form of glucose storage in humans. It is stored mainly in the liver and muscles, but has also been found in other tissues like the brain, kidneys, heart, and erythrocytes. Glycogen is our bodies’ primary energy source in the body, as it is broken down quickly into individual molecules of glucose for energy.

    “starchy” foods are technically sugars
  2. Starch is composed of multiple glucose molecules. Plants tend to use starch as their glucose storage molecule. This is why we consider potatoes, other root vegetables, and breads “starchy” carbs.
  3. Cellulose is used as a structural material in plants. Humans cannot digest cellulose (it’s also called fiber) but many grass-eating animals (more specifically ruminants) contain bacteria in their gut to digest it. Most people don’t know that cellulose is also made up of glucose,  but human digestive systems cannot break the structure apart and can therefore not access the energy those molecules of glucose could provide.

Some of you may be surprised. Starch? Fiber? They’re made up of glucose just like table sugar? Basically what I’m saying is that the carbohydrates we eat in our food are all glucose-based molecules. All of them. And going purely on true scientific definition, ALL carbohydrates are sugars. Not just that white stuff you keep hidden in the back of the pantry. That includes the carbohydrates in your raw, organic, gluten free, magical-properties-possessing quinoa energy balls.

*Since sugars are carbohydrates, they contain the same caloric values: 4 calories per gram (excluding cellulose or other fibres).

What happens when we eat sugar?

What happens to the sugar we eat?

Every single living cells that makes up our bodies is in a state of ceaseless activity, depending on a constant series of impeccably-coordinated biochemical reactions. The carbohydrates we consume are a crucial aspect of what fundamentally drives these reactions.

So, let’s say we grab a handful of gummy bears or chow down on an apple as a snack. What happens to that sugar once it has been swallowed?

Sugars are broken down into their monosaccharide forms in the small intestine, where they are then absorbed into the blood stream. Remember, I stated above that all monosaccharides are eventually inserted into the same metabolic pathway for energy as glucose. For the sake of simplification, let’s just focus on glucose itself. 

Once glucose is transported from our bloodstream into our cells, it undergoes a process called glycolysis. This cycle consists of ten (10!!) reactions that create ATP – our main energy source. Now, the rate of ATP synthesis in your cells directly parallels the intensity and amount of exercise you do. In other words, the more you exercise, the more energy your cells need to make (While fats can also synthesize ATP, it is too long of a process to be done during physical activity). It then makes logical sense that research shows a low-carb diet is associated with a decrease in performance and training volume thresholds in athletes. 

So, glucose is essential for us to perform physical activity. And the easiest way to obtain glucose is from eating sugars. But then- Why does everyone say sugar makes you fat? 

is SUGAR making us all fat?

Now I’m sure that, while I’m sitting here telling you how essential it is to our bodies, the person beside you on the elliptical is raving about how “sugar is causing weight gain”, and that low-carb is the way to go, especially the Ketogenic diet that’s gaining ground as of late. So why does sugar have such a bad reputation?

To the public majority, sugar has been associated with increased rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and [the big one] obesity

So the logical explanation for this is, obviously, that sugar gives you cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and makes you fat, right? If we cut it out of our diets, we can essentially optimize our health and physique.

HOLD ON! Stop there, because what I’ve just provided to you is called correlational research data. This is simply the relationship two variables have with one another. This does not link any CAUSATION with sugar and ill health. Just because we find two different trends together (high sugar consumption and obesity) doesn’t mean we can immediately jump on the sugar-hate bandwagon and start burning down gingerbread houses with a low-carb vengeance. 

People who over-consumer calories from sugar tend to have other bad habits too, like smoking and inactivity.

High sugar consumption is considered a “marker” for an unhealthy lifestyle. Those who consume excessive levels of sugar tend to have other not-so-healthy habits too– like inactivity, lack of proper sleep, smoking, and over-eating unhealthy foods. Sounds like a recipe for cancer, type-2 diabetes, and obesity to me.

Another thing to understand is there is a difference between sugars and added sugars. When people demonize the sweet stuff it’s usually in regards to added sugars in foods, which provide “empty calories” to whatever you’re eating. What does that mean? In sugar’s case, it means the sweet stuff adds calories to foods but contributes no nutrients for optimizing health. Sugar has been shown to have very little affect on satiety, as well as low levels of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. It is also very low-volume, meaning you can pack a lot of it into a small amount of food. Eating or drinking something that’s small, high in calories, and won’t help you feel full? I can’t imagine a better recipe for disaster. 

Complex vs Simple Carbs

While it is easy to label SIMPLE carbs as “BAD” and COMPLEX carbs as “GOOD”, the actual distinction between them is random. It is merely a medical tradition, you could say. “complex carbs” simply have 3 or more sugars, whereas “simple carbs” only have one or two sugars. 

So that begs the question, is it sugar itself that is the enemy, or is it simply the extra calories that tend to come with it? 

Liquid calories don’t fill you up and are easy to drink gallons of

Consider Gatorade: a common sports drink consumed by those perusing the world of any athletic endeavour. One bottle has 38g of carbohydrates, all coming from sugar.

The same goes for Cola: a single can serves up 39g of carbs in the form of added sugars. One or two gatorades or colas a day can add on almost 500 calories to your daily consumption! And do those drinks make you feel full? Heck no they don’t! 10 minutes after chugging a can of soda you’re ready for some real food, am I right?

So aside from sugar being easy to over-consume, what does the research say about the sweet stuff itself when we control for other variables like caloric consumption? 

Let’s talk about two recent studies that controlled for overall caloric intake.

  1. A 2000 study that recruited 390 (!!) people over 6 MONTHS (yep, that’s right) found no significant difference in body composition between groups that consumed simple carbs (like fructose and lactose) versus those that consumed complex carbs (like oatmeal and rice). They measured body weight loss, fat loss, and blood lipid levels in all groups. Changes in blood lipid levels were also not different between the treatment groups. That study concluded that simple vs complex carbs did not produce any difference in body composition or blood lipids levels, although the diet itself (lower calories) had a signifiant impact on body composition of the candidates (It is important to note that in this study, calories, protein, and fiber were the same across diet groups).
  2. A 2001 study recruited 95 people to partake, one group consuming a low sugar diet (with 5% of total energy from sucrose) and a higher sugar diet (with 10% of total energy from sucrose). All diets put subjects 600kcal under their maintenance calories and all candidates received 33% of their energy from fat. After 8 weeks, the higher-sugar group actually lost MORE weight, although not enough to be statistically significant. The study concluded there was no justification for excluding added sugar in weight-reduction diets as long as overall calories were controlled.
  3. A 2006 study found that moderate carbohydrate/sugar diets AND ketogenic diets (severely low carb) were equally effective for weight loss in subjects once calories were controlled. In fact, the moderate-carb group suffered less inflammation, less energy loss, and less emotional strain than those on the keto diet. This particular study goes so far as to warn against low-carb or ketogenic methods of dieting.

So sugar doesn’t make us fat then? Well, that’s where science falls short. Unfortunately, research isn’t very good at telling us EXACTLY what’s going on. It does a much better job at pointing us in the right direction and eliminating variables or hypotheses we may have previously had. ALL studies have short-comings, and they must be taken into account. Most studies like this aen’t performed in controlled environments, and research relies on subjects telling the complete truth and following the plan 100% for the duration of the study. I don’t know about you, but if I was told to go on a diet and then set free, I don’t think I’d be very strict about following it unless there was a sizeable amount of compensation at the end of it all (in money or peanut butter, it really wouldn’t matter). 

Is sugar addictive?

Is sugar really as addictive as cocaine?

Here’s my favourite one. Ever heard the line pulled: “But sugar is more addictive than cocaine!” ? I have. Sadly, more than once.

Here’s where this belief came from. Some scientists decided to give rats 2 options: Water sweetened with sucrose OR water containing cocaine (a highly addictive compound). Surprise surprise, 94% of the rats chose the sweet water over the cocaine water. Maybe because it tastes better, or rats can perceive its relative safety or nutritional value over cocaine? Who knows, but the uncontrolled variables in studies like these are nearly endless. We apologize now for such flawed science – linking an association to direct causation, no less- coming out into the world. News stations and health gurus were like kids at a candy store, with sugar suddenly becoming “more addictive than cocaine”. 

A 2016 systematic review (meaning it compiled all the present studies and research into one review) found “little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans” even when it comes to psychological stimulation, and argue against anyone prematurely incorporating the “science of sugar addiction” into published literature.

turns out sucrose has a lower GI score than brown rice

What about Blood Sugar?

We all know that sugar causes a major blood sugar spike, followed by the tell-tale crash a short while later. But based on research, this is actually a MYTH. Sugar (or sucrose in this case) has a glycemic index (GI) of ~65 (+/- 4). That falls under “medium” and not “high” when it comes to effect on our blood sugar. For reference, boiled brown rice is 68 (+/- 4), and the higher the number, the more extreme of an effect it has on blood sugar. 


Are some types of sugar worse for us than others?

Well, not really. Turns out there isn’t much evidence to support different types of sugars having different effects on blood sugar. In fact, experimental evidence has indicated that the source of sugars in foods has no affect on the rate of absorption of the sugars. the biggest factor in rate of blood sugar rise was the properties of the foods eaten WITH the sugars. Therefore, worry less about what type of sugar you’re consuming and more about the whole foods you’re going to pair with it- that are high in fiber, protein, and fats, right? [so not the entire bag of M&M’s on its own….] 


The Bottom Line

Sugar isn’t the devil, but it’s no heavenly substance either

Sugar isn’t bad for you, but it’s not necessarily good for you either. It’s not nutritious, contains little micronutrient content, no fiber or volume, and isn’t satiating at all. But it also has no direct causation to chronic disease, cardiovascular health, or weight gain. At the end of the day, an apple or a snickers bar is going to be broken down into the same metabolic pathway as glucose for energy.

There is little concrete evidence to prove that a moderate amount of sugar, when combined with adequate levels of protein, fats, fiber, and micronutrients as part of a healthy lifestyle is BAD or UNHEALTHY. Sugar is no more fattening than any other carbohydrate or food you consume, and if your diet consists of sugar in moderation, you’re not harming your body, organs, or physique goals in any way.

Don’t avoid fruit, dairy, or added sugars solely because you think it’s going to kill you. Fruit consumption as a main staple in human evolution dates back more then 6 million years.  Many cultures all over the world, even today, rely on diets high in simple carbohydrates, like the Hazda from Tanzania that rely mainly on honey for their nutrition intake. 

Sugar content of foods should NOT be your sole determinant of health – rather than just focusing on a single energy source, you should consider balancing your entire diet as opposed to cutting out only one nutrient in particular.

Hopefully you can now make more informed decisions about what sugar is and how it affects our bodies. And next time that zealot on the elliptical wants to sell you more KETO-drink powder because “sugar causes fat gain” you can drop some hard knowledge right on his low-carb head. 

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.