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Q&A: Should I use a posture corrector or posture brace?

Overworked woman with back pain in office sitting on chair with bad posture

Q: My posture at work is terrible. Should I use a posture corrector or posture brace?

A: Back pain is now the second most common reason North Americans visit the doctor (after the common cold). With an estimated 80% of North Americans sitting for their work and with screen viewing averaging more than 11 hours per day (we have never been so stationary in our entire existence!), it’s no wonder that posture-related health issues are going through the roof—but no matter how much our parents have nagged us to “sit up straight”, our bodies weren’t designed to sit, they were designed to move!

Almost all previous work involved moving constantly (bending, lifting, standing, walking), so posture-related pain in the workplace is a relatively new thing. When our spine is chronically out of its natural alignment (hunching over our laptop or looking down at our phone), the muscles that support our spine become imbalanced. Some muscles atrophy while others are in constant strain. The result is pain, lack of energy flow, muscle exhaustion, headaches, bad mood, osteoporosis, a lack of balance, and even compromised immune function.

Recently there have been a plethora of products invented to remind us to get up and move, buzz us to straighten up, alert us to stretch, or brace us into a ‘neutral spine’. While these devices can give us a glimpse of correct posture, they do not fix the underlying issues—they are like bandaids, and should only be used temporarily. Here are 6 actions that you should try to habituate to make your good posture permanent:

  • Learn what neutral spine is (get a C.H.E.K postural alignment assessment)
  • Lengthen some of our chronically tight muscles (sign up for weekly gentle Hatha Yoga class)
  • Strengthen our core and stabilizing muscles (sign up for a weekly pilates class and strengthen your back and neck muscles, not just the chest)
  • Move (functional fitness and HIIT classes), and remind yourself to stand and walk whenever you are on a phone call
  • Ergonomically adjust our workspace (standing desks, elevated computer screens, forearm supported keyboard)
  • Build your mindfulness practice to constantly scan and readjust our body posture until it becomes habituated

Once you implement the above, you will notice your back and neck pain subsiding substantially. If you’d like to read more about the dangers of sitting, read our article, Why Sitting Is Bad For You and 5 Ways To Fix It.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: My Body Feels Toxic—What Should I Do?

closeup of a label-shaped chalkboard with the text time to detox written in it, placed on the branch of a pine tree

Q: My body feels toxic—What should I do?

A: The topic of detoxification is old and new, detailed, and confusing. All modalities of detoxification are essentially supporting the eliminatory systems of the body to release unwanted substances that are taxing the body’s health and energy. Our body naturally filters all chemicals and bio-toxins via the kidneys, liver, and lymphatic system. We expel particles of waste via breath, our urine, feces, and sweat. In our modern world, we are ingesting thousands of chemical compounds from the food industry, inhaling toxic chemicals from our urban atmosphere, and even absorbing elements from the other periodic table from cosmetics to cleaning products via our semi-permeable skin.

Our filtering organs are taxed.

Here are seven simple lifestyle tips to help your body avoid the negative effects of hormonal disruption, cancer cell stimulation, and organ duress from the accumulation of excess minerals, heavy metals, plastics, and petroleum chemicals:

  • Drink a minimum of 10, 8 oz. glasses of filtered plain water to help your kidneys flush water-soluble toxins.
  • Aim to get 2-3 bowel movements a day with a fiber-rich diet so that the fat-soluble toxins that the liver filters and releases into the intestines don’t get reabsorbed.
  • Go for a fitness hike in a clean natural environment whenever you can to expel unwanted waste via your lungs.
  • Enjoy a relaxing sauna or steam once a week to purge toxins through your sweat glands.
  • Include natural “chelators” into your diet like cilantro, garlic, spirulina, chlorella, or miso. Chelators bind to heavy metals and pull them out through the digestive system in a process called chelation.
  • Relax with a full body massage that includes lymphatic drainage to support bio-toxin removal.
  • Do a simple 24-hour water or juice fast once or twice a year to give the eliminatory organs a break.

We hope these tips help you feel cleaner, inside and out.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What are the best hiking shoes and hiking poles?

Hiking-in-British-Columbia

Q: What are the best hiking shoes and hiking poles?

A: Hiking Footwear is all about function and fit. Since we all have wildly different feet, there is no one best brand, but there are ideal shoe types for what we aim to get into. If you are hiking on smooth trail surfaces (gravel) and have reasonably strong ankles, a very light “trail-runner” would be fine. As their name suggest, trail-runners are a hybrid between street running shoe and hiking boots. They offer great traction and are lightweight, but aren’t as stable as a hiking boot. Here are some trail-runners we recommend. If your trails are more technical and have loose rock, roots, rock steps, are quite narrow, and your ankles are prone to rolling, an over the ankle light to medium-weight hiking boot will best serve your needs. If you are planning a multi-day backpacking excursion on the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails, a well broken-in, heavier-duty, stiffer over-the-ankle hiking boot will over the traction and support you need for a long journey.

Once you have determined your function needs, we suggest you try on as many different brands of that style of footwear as possible (with your moisture-wicking wool hiking socks, of course—we highly recommend Darn Tough). Every brand uses a different size and shaped sole and footbed, and since each of us has differently shaped feet and toes, it’s paramount that you try your shoes on to find the right fit. A poorly fit boot and low quality sock is a guaranteed recipe for blisters. Here are the critical things to look for when trying on your shoes:
  1. Ensure the fit is snug when laced. You want to lace your boots firm, but not tight—somewhere around an 7 or 8 out of 10 on the pressure scale. Ideally the shoe will have even pressure across your entire foot once laced and not have “hot spots”, or places where your boot will rub excessively when hiking, causing a blister.
  2. The right size will need to find a good middle-ground. It needs to have a bit of room in front of your toes so they don’t hit against the shoe/boot when going downhill, but not so roomy that the heel lifts when walking uphill. Read our full guide on how to properly select a hiking shoe.

Most larger retailers (MEC, REI) will have fake rock ramps for you to demo your fit on. Make sure you use this, so you can see how the boot performs on all angles. After choosing the best fitting shoe, ensure that you can take them home to wear around the house for a couple of days to ensure the fit is optimal (and still return them if not).

Trekking poles are a fantastic addition to your hiking gear arsenal. They distribute workload and force, allowing you to hike farther and faster while providing additional stability and protecting your joints. They propel you forward on flat and uphill terrain, and become a brake, or shock absorber on downhills, unloading our knees from upper body weight. 30% of your effort should be distributed to your arms when using trekking poles, so they provide a full-body workout while hiking.

Choosing a hiking pole is less personal than choosing hiking shoes or boot. When choosing your poles, follow these tips:

  1. Ensure that when they are extended, your arm can be bent at 90 degrees while holding the handle.
  2. Look for poles that have built-in shock-absorbing springs or cushion. This addition will keep the jarring out of your shoulders, elbows, and wrists when the poles make contact with the ground and is well worth the small cost increase.
  3. Carbon poles are nice, but not necessary. While these poles save weight, which is great if you are doing a multi-day backpacking trip, their increased price tag isn’t usually worth.
  4. Choose a cork grip if available. Cork is a great, and natural, material for hiking poles that offers both good grip, breathability, and traction when wet.
  5. If you want the full-body workout when you go for your evening walk around the neighborhood, choose a set that comes with rubber tips that you can put on for urban fitness hiking.
We hope these tips help you find the right footwear and poles for your hiking needs. Nordic trekking, which is what hiking with poles is called, just like it’s winter counterpart, Nordic Skiing (Cross-Country skiing to most of us), is one of the best full-body, cardiovascular endurance exercises out there. Couple these physical benefits with the mental benefits of nature immersion, and it is arguably the most overall healthy exercise option possible. Proper footwear and trekking poles will only heighten your experience.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I make or break a habit?

image of dice spelling old habits

Q: How can I use this period of isolation and working from home, to make or break some healthy habits?

A: This time of restricted travel and socializing is an ideal time to add or delete 1-2 actions or behaviors that we want to change. Creating or breaking a habit requires consistency and repetition, but this isn’t usually easy with our normal hectic lives. With this mandated break, we have the benefit of consistency right now—no racing to the airport for a work trip for the next two days, no commute to work, and no random party or gathering we feel obligated to attend. To fully capitalize on our newfound consistency, there are a few other things we can do to dramatically increase our chances of successfully forming a new habit or breaking an old one.

First, focus your attention on a maximum of two specific actions that you could commit to doing on a daily basis for the next 4 weeks. Before COVID, we needed 3-6 months to solidify an action into a habit because our work life was in constant flux and flow. By finally having some consistency in our life, we can significantly shorten the time needed to make or break a habit.

Next, ensure you could continue your specific actions into your lifestyle once the travel and work restrictions are lifted.

Third, call it a 30-day ‘experiment’, to take the pressure of perfectionism off.

Fourth, set a 2-week reminder in case you fall off the wagon.

Fifth, take a tip from Ultralearning, by Scott H Young, and remove an unwanted habit by understanding and replacing the needs that it services. For example, if eating Ben & Jerry’s while watching Netflix gives you a sense of reward and relaxation after a productive day of work, you could replace those needs with some restorative yoga and a candlelit Epsom salt bath—both great ways to reward yourself and relax. Another one of his suggestions that we support at Mountain Trek, would be to remove the temptation all together in the first place, e.g. just remove the Cherry Garcia from your freezer in the first place.

I suggest diving deeper into proper habit formation by reading our article: Building Healthy Habits in 6 Easy Steps


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I control my snacking?

Young man taking potato chip out of glass bowl while sitting on sofa in front of laptop on table and having snack

Q: Why do I crave snacking so much now that I’m working from home because of coronavirus and how can I stop it?

A: Firstly, Mountain Trek supports snacking! In fact, in our approach to mindful Balanced Health, we don’t judge food or eating to be “good” or “bad”. It’s all about what, how much, and when that makes what we choose to eat either positive and healthy, or derailing. If you’ve ever been to Mountain Trek, you have heard our nutritionist, Jenn, say to eat a mix of foods every 3-4 hrs up until dinner in order to provide a consistent blood sugar (energy requirements) throughout the day. Varying blood sugar is what gets us in trouble with caffeine (hello 2 pm crash) and snacking. This means we actually need to snack in order to optimize our mental and physical health, and vitality! But we need to ensure we’re eating the right amount of the right thing at the right time. Ideally, each meal or snack will have a little protein with a variety of colorful items from the plant kingdom. As stated above, we should be eating snacks 3-4 hours after breakfast and then again after lunch. Timing our snacks will balance our energy levels and prevent over-snacking. If we can take the time to organize our snacks on the weekend, we can make healthy and timely grazing even easier. Pre-cut and containerized veggies and protein dips and a variety of fruit choices with nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butters, hard-boiled eggs are all great, healthy snack options.

As for your “craving”, the reason you find tasty, but unhealthy snacks, on your mind is that we all get attracted to the “Carb-Fat-Salt Trifecta”. There is a biological wiring from our tongue’s taste buds to the neurotransmitter release of our “feel-good” hormones, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These mood enhancers bathe our brain with a positive and uplifting break from the vigilant and diligent state that we typically experience throughout the day, when we’re under the influence of our stress hormone cortisol. So eating potato chips, which hit the trifecta on the head, makes us happier, chemically at least. Emotional eating is real! When we feel blue (disconnected, compressed, inundated, lonely, bored, exhausted, uncertain, etc), we are emotionally stressed. It is normal to unconsciously reach for a little something something to pick our mood up and feel satisfied. But that short term pleasure turns to long term pain.

Setting ourselves up with actions that we can habituate while we have the kitchen so close to work can pay dividends when we go back to the office or begin traveling again. Prepare snacks and set timers to remind yourself to step away from the screen to refuel. Make your snacks nutritional, but also pleasurable; pre-cut and containerize veggies and protein dips (like above), a variety of fruit choices with nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butters, and hard-boiled eggs are all great, healthy snack options


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

What is Intermittent Fasting and How to Do it Right

 

looking at wrist watch in nature

At Mountain Trek, we hear a lot of guests say they’re “intermittent fasting.” To some, this means skipping breakfast; to others, this means eating just dinner. Which is right? Which is wrong? Mountain Trek also practices intermittent fasting (IF), and has developed a specific method over the past 20 years proven to help guests ignite their metabolism. Here, our Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Jenn Keirstead, gives us the scoop on Mountain Trek’s approach to IF:

Jennifer-Keirstead-Nutritionist

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting has become the latest health fad that allegedly assists with weight loss. It has even ranked as the “trendiest” weight loss search of 2019. The dietary term is used to describe the cycling between periods of fasting and eating.

Experts say: it’s not all hype. In fact, many agree that the diet can be helpful in boosting longevity, maintaining blood sugar levels, and reaching a healthy weight.

Not surprisingly, given the popularity, several different types or methods of IF have been established. Explained below, are a few of the most popular methods:

Time-restricted eating: Fast for 16+ hours each day

This method involves fasting every day 16+ hours and restricting your daily “eating window” to 8 hours. For example, if you finish your last meal at 8 p.m. and don’t eat until noon the next day, you’re technically fasting for 16 hours.

The 5:2 diet: Fast for 2 days per week

For one to two nonconsecutive days per week, you consume just water plus 500 calories, (200 of which are protein), either in one meal or spread out over the day. The other five or six days a week, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

Alternate-day fasting: Fast every other day

For the first 24 hours, you consume just water plus 500 calories, (200 of which are protein), either in one meal or spread out over the day. For the second 24 hours, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Repeat the cycle every two days.

After reading about a trend, I always like to ask myself: is this diet restrictive in anyway, and is it sustainable long term? These are always good points to ponder before you find yourself in yet another diet + binge cycle.

Also, a word of caution from Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Hu explains: “It’s human nature for people to want to reward themselves after doing very hard work, such as exercise or fasting for a long period of time; so there is a danger of indulging in unhealthy dietary habits on non-fasting days. In addition, there’s a strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods. Your appetite hormones and hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food. He also comments, “Part of the fascination with IF arises from research with animals showing that fasting may reduce cancer risk and slow aging. One hypothesis is that fasting can activate cellular mechanisms that help boost immune function and reduce inflammation associated with chronic disease.”

How to do Intermittent Fasting correctly

Here at Mountain Trek, we too have our opinions about the structured fasting and eating cycles. Program Director, Kirkland Shave, describes our version as a, “12 on, 12 off.” He explains how, “The Mountain Trek program, where we take a 12-hour break without food (glucose) at night, aids in deeper sleep, less calorie storage, less LDL cholesterol production, and lowering the potential for Insulin Resistance (precursor to type 2 diabetes).” We also believe that fasting is beneficial in supporting the anti-inflammatory response of cellular autophagy (self-eating). According to Priya Khorana, PhD, in nutrition education from Columbia University, this is the body’s way of, “Cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells.” Autophagy occurs when sleeping—another reason to fast at night.

The idea of eating during the day makes sense to us. This is because you’re eating when your body and brain are most active. This way you consume your calories when your body needs them the most. You are literally fueling your metabolic engine as it needs energy, rather than operating on a full tank all the time. When done correctly, with proper portions and timing, this means your engine will be running as clean and efficient as possible. No build up, no excess.

We support a daily 12-hour fast, for our reasons above—we’ve just restructured the guidelines, to encourage a more healthful, sustainable, and practical approach.

Break your fast first thing in the morning

Let’s begin by “breaking the fast.” Once you’re up and ready to roll, consider breaking your fast with food. Real food first please, not coffee! Ideally, this happens within 30 minutes of rising.

There are options here. If you’re the exercise-before-work type, you can grab a quick snack consisting of a fruit/veggie, with a protein. Some examples include: apple + seeds, carrots + nut butter, or a 5 oz smoothie made from frozen berries, spinach, banana + hemp hearts. This amount of nutrition is enough to boost your anabolic metabolism by supporting the steroids that stimulate protein synthesis, muscle growth, and insulin production.

You can also break your fast with actual breakfast. Fantastic examples include: a veggie omelette with sprouted, whole grain bread, or a bowl of oatmeal with berries and seeds.

Eat every 3-4 hours for 12 hours

We suggest that you continue on throughout your day with both lunch and dinner, including 1 snack in between each meal. This means you’re eating every 3 – 4 hours during the waking hours, which will continue to support blood sugar levels, leaving you more satiated and energized.
If you intend to adhere to the 12 hour fasting window, dinner is required to be an earlier meal. This may take the most planning. To enjoy dinner at a more reasonable hour, you may want to try batch cooking on the weekends, a crock-pot meal, or one of the many convenient, health-supporting Apps, in which you can pre-order food right to your door. Do whatever it takes to make having an earlier dinner easier!

Fast for 12 hours overnight

That brings you to your “12 hour nighttime break without food.” This might feel challenging at first, as many of us are accustomed to late-night eating and snacking. Many people find themselves mindlessly eating late at night, even when they aren’t hungry.

Something to consider is that nighttime eating may be the result of an overly restricted daytime food intake, leading to ravenous hunger at night. You may find that more consistent eating throughout the day helps curb the out-of-control feeling around food in the evening—ideally you will leave at least 3-4 hours to digest before going to sleep. Speaking of sleep you may notice your sleep improve, as you’ll get to truly rest, instead of digest. Learn more about our sleep program.

Another bonus of IF and eating dinner earlier: after 12 hours food-free, you’re actually hungry when you wake up! This helps make the breaking-the-fast upon rising a breeze.

To learn more about proper nutrition and living a healthy, balanced life, read more of our articles or join us for a week long health-immersion at our retreat. More below.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

6 Healthy Travel Snacks That Are Prepackaged

Healthy Snacks

Guests at Mountain Trek are pleasantly surprised by the deliciousness of the snacks we supply during the hours they spend hiking on the trails. Many expect mass-produced "energy" bars to help fuel their activities but that style of snack is usually full of corn syrup and highly processed ingredients. We recommend people take a small time out of their week to prepare healthy items they can snack on throughout the course of their days. We even wrote an article detailing the "Top 5 On The Go Snacks" that mentioned some of our proprietary recipes such as bliss balls

However, we've since heard from some guests, especially those who travel a lot, that it can be difficult to find the time to whip up some Loki Dip to go with those carrot sticks. So, we asked our nutrition expert Jennifer Keirstead to supply us with another list of snacks that people can enjoy when they're traveling and don't have access to their kitchen. This is Jenn's reply and suggestions for 6 healthy travel snacks

Eating right on the road, can be tricky. I always take a few things with me so I have a little backup. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

  1. EPIC bars – These are basically dehydrated meat in power bar form. They're made from grass-fed meats, high in protein, and taste like jerky!
  2. SuperFood Energy Bar They're made from plant-based, high-quality ingredients. No fillers!
  3. Justin's Almond Butter in squeeze packs make great traveling companions. Pack a piece of fruit, or two, and spread on some creamy, high-protein almond, for a perfectly balanced snack on the go.
  4. Trail Mix – Try to avoid the prepackaged ones as they contain a lot of sodium. Instead, buy seeds and nuts from the bulk section and make your own. I like to mix unsalted cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried currants and goji berries.
  5. Prepackaged veggies – Items such as baby carrots or sugar snap peas are easy to find and delicious with a container of hummus.
  6. Starbucks "Protein Box" – If you're at the airport and grab one of these boxes and enjoy a hard boiled egg, fresh fruit, cheese, and multigrain Muesli bread.

Of course, being even just a little prepared with a snack in your purse, or suitcase can go a long way to help keep you on the right track nutritionally.

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Why You Need To Stop Calorie Counting Right Now

Calorie Counting

Recently Mountain Trek's nutrition expert Jennifer Keirstead was asked whether calorie counting is beneficial for those who are looking to lose weight and improve their fitness. Below is her response but before we jump into it, let's first define the subject at hand. 

What Is Calorie Counting?

Calorie counting is the act of adding together the caloric value of food(s) that one eats. The history of this practice dates back to 1900 when Wilbur Olin Atwater and his associates at the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station determined the caloric values of a number of food components (i.e., the protein, fat, and carbohydrate isolated from various foods) by multiplying the heat of combustion of the food with correction factors that take into consideration incomplete digestion or oxidation of the food in the body. The conversion factors determined by Atwater and his associates remain in use today.

Why The Calorie Calculation Formula Is Skewed

Despite the fact Atwater built in various correction factors for caloric values, they do not account for:

  • variation of individual absorption
  • the influences of an individual's intestinal bacteria and that's affect on absorption (these change depending on history of travel, antibiotics and present diet)
  • variation in nutrient density of today’s foods compared to foods from those used in the Atwater research of 1900, which were less processed, more organic and more local
  • and they exclude many nutrients that were unknown in 1900 (the number of known nutrients to science in 1900 was fewer than 16 whereas now it's exponentially higher than that. 

Moreover, both meal timings and meal composition also have an impact on how calories are absorbed by the body.

Why A Calorie Isn't Just A Calorie

Now that we've looked at the history of calorie counting and why it can be considered inaccurate, here is Jennifer's further response to why calorie counting isn't worth it:

"Not all calories are created equal. Take the example of an ice cream cone versus an avocado: both are calorie-rich foods but the calories in the ice cream cone are considered "empty" because they don't offer the body any nutritional value. They simply spike our blood sugar and leave us feeling lower in energy after we eat them. However, the calories from real foods, like the avocado, offer the body nutrient-dense calories that are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Your body gains energy, antioxidants, and digestive support from the calories in real foods. But it's important to remember you can still overeat the good calories too. It's great to be mindful of how much we're eating, regardless of where the calories are coming from!"

It can be argued that Mountain Trek stresses specific (and different) caloric intake for women and men but this is a rough guideline and it's important to remember the entire nutrition tenant of the program includes many proven elements such as only eating real foods, abstaining from cortisol-raising foods such as sugar and caffeine and stressing the importance of meal timings and composition.

To fully appreciate the Mountain Trek nutrition program we suggest you book a stay with us. Contact us by phone or email to learn more. Alternatively, book online now.

Should You Eat Breakfast? Our Nutritionist Vs. The New York Times

Do you eat breakfast?

A recent New York Times article cited a study published this year by James Betts, an associate professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Bath in England, and stated there is "no difference in weight change…between people assigned to eat breakfast for six weeks and those assigned to skip it." 

The article went on to say, "Dr. Betts said that unlike randomized trials, observational studies of breakfast consumption could be misleading. They show, for example, that people who eat breakfast also follow other behaviors associated with good health. They tend to drink and smoke less, consume less sugar, eat more fiber and exercise more than those who skip a morning meal."

Jennifer Keirstead, Nutritionist at Mountain TrekThe premise of the article raised some flags for us here at Mountain Trek because one of the main beliefs of the Mountain Trek Way program is that eating breakfast within thirty minutes of waking helps kickstart your metabolism and gives your body the energy it requires throughout the day. So we sat down with Mountain Trek's nutritionist Jennifer Keirstead, went over the article and the report carefully and then discussed the factors the study was missing and whether breakfast is, in fact, good for you.

Thanks so much for speaking with us, Jennifer. You've had a chance to read the New York Times article. What was your first impression?

I was really surprised. I know there's a movement right now with "Bulletproof" coffee which encourages people to put two tablespoons of coconut oil or grass-fed butter in their coffee every morning and that's supposed to act as their breakfast and boost their metabolism. That concept, as well as the concept of skipping breakfast entirely goes against a lot of what we teach through the Mountain Trek Way. 

What would be your retort to this article?

From a common sense aspect if you start your day with a healthy meal it sets the stage for the rest of the day. I hear time and time again from our guests that when they skip breakfast and just end up picking at sugary things and jacking themselves up with caffeine and coffee it leads to over-eating later in the day when you're less likely to burn those calories off. 

So breakfast is important?

Absolutely, for those reasons I've already mentioned but also for metabolism. With the Mountain Trek Way program we encourage people to balance their hormones to support their metabolism and by eating breakfast they can boost their anabolic (their good, calorie-burning) metabolism by 15% because it helps keep cortisol levels down which is that stress hormone that leads to catabolic hormonal responses. By keeping that cortisol hormone down it's a way of communicating to the body that, "I'm going to feed you and look after you and you don't have to go into that famine response when you store and hold calories and you'll have sustained energy throughout the day." 

It sounds like the study cited by the Times needs to be put into better context? 

I read the New York Times often and some of my favourite writers and health experts write for them. I guess I just don't agree with the the idea of this particular story that not eating breakfast is going to benefit someone's weight and overall health long term. Also, the question needs to be asked, what are the people in the study consuming instead of breakfast? Just coffee? Caffeine has a dramatic effect for a third of the population by increasing their cortisol levels. For another third of the population it surpresses appetite, which people might think is great for dieting but really if you're supressing your appetite in the morning when you're metabolism is its highest you want calories coming in at the earlier part of the day because you're more likely to burn them off than eating a late lunch and a huge dinner before bedtime.  And finally, caffeine affects a third of the population and their ability of insulin to unlock glucose and stabilize sugar. So we believe there are different negative effects caffeine has on people and if that's all you're having for breakfast and you're not taking in whole foods then there'll be long-term impacts. 

So it sounds like this article and the report aren't telling the whole story. 

Yeah, it's taking a snapshot and showing a small portion of people who didn't gain weight when they skipped breakfast for six weeks. But what it's not showing is quality of life and energy levels after that time period. Your energy levels are going to drop when you skip meals and that's going to affect your thinking. You won't be as productive at work. You won't have the energy to do that brisk walk around the park at lunchtime.

What are your thoughts about breakfast. Feel free to leave your comments below or download our Habits 2 Health app.
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