What goes in your mouth affects not just how much muscle you gain and fat you shred, but also how high your mood and energy ride. And while we wish it could be as easy as eating the same five superfoods every day, the perfect recipe for how to fuel your body is always in flux. A whole slew of nutritional research dropped this summer, so in case you were distracted drinking Bloody Marys by the pool, we’ve rounded up six of the most important findings from the last month or two.
Upgrade Your Eggs
Winter is coming—which means the sunshine vitamin responsible for not just keeping bones healthy, but also lowering stress, increasing endurance, and boosting your boner is on its way out. Luckily, there’s a ridiculously easy way to counteract the dip. Chowing down on vitamin-D-fortified eggs can help keep your levels of the nutrient up during the winter, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found folks who noshed on as few as two and as many as seven fortified eggs per week avoided the natural drop in D we all experience in the winter when we aren’t exposed to the sun as much.
Ban Certain Meats—But Not All
The FDA officially deemed processed meat carcinogenic last year, and now research in the Journal of Nutrition is delivering another blow to bacon and friends: The more processed meat people had in the last year, the shorter their leukocyte telomere length (LTL), a biomarker of cellular aging. As you can probably guess, shorter LTLs isn’t good news—it’s associated with an increase in chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. So now that bacon, sausage, and deli meat are officially linked to most of the leading causes of death in the U.S., they've been blacklisted from the grocery list. The good news out of the study? Unprocessed red meat—hamburger, steak, pork, veal—weren't linked with LTLs, so just stick to clean meat sources and you can still nosh sparingly.
Eat Your Veggies First
You know to eat slower to account for the delay in your stomach-to-brain signal for fullness. But a new study in Appetite says you can help speed this process along by eating your certain fare first. Participants who noshed first on food with "low textural complexity"—think grits, mashed potatoes, soup—ate significantly more of the rest of their meal compared to those who ate solid foods. The study authors suggest that the more textures you experience while chewing at the start of the meal, the earlier your satiety response is triggered.
Forget How Many Calories You Burned
Your recovery meal after a 20-minute walk and a 45-minute HIIT session probably look drastically different—after all, only one of those has burned up your carb stores and created a significant calorie deficit. But be careful how far you take that justification to chow down. In a study in Appetite, two groups did the exact same workout, but those were told they burned 265 calories stuffed their faces with far more food than folks who thought they only burned 50 calories. In reality, both groups lit up the same amount (120 calories), which suggests part of the post-workout voracity we’ve all experienced is a direct reaction to what we think we need and/or are allowed to eat based on our perceived burn.
Add Fiber to Cut Back on Calories
Trying to cut calories? Take a psyllium supplement in the mornings. A recent study in Appetite found that when people popped 6.8 grams of the fiber in between a calorie-restricted breakfast and lunch, they were significantly less hungry and less yearning to eat compared to taking a placebo. Fair warning: Some people have mild GI distress from the increase in fiber (included a few participants in the study), so increase your water intake and talk to your doc if this happens.
Protein Needs May Not Be Personal
There are a few protein points every gym junkie knows: Your daily intake should be around 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, but your muscles have a cap on how much protein they can use at 25 grams per sitting. However, a study in Physiological Reports is poking holes in both these established ideas. When Scottish researchers looked at muscle biopsies of men post-workout and post-fueling, they found most of the guys saw roughly 20 percent more muscle repair and growth after taking 40 grams of whey protein compared to 20 grams. The catch? The guys were a mix of bodyweights and lean-muscle-to-fat ratios. The researchers are quick to note that the traditional way of fueling may hold up when comparing scrawny dudes to bodybuilders, but as far as their results go, a 143-pound man would get the same benefits from one scoop of protein as his slightly heavier 153-pound workout partner—plus, they both might see more gains from two scoops rather than one.