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Risks of excessive protein, diet soda, heat

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Q. I’m a gym manager. I’m promoting a weight-loss diet of 1,300-1,600 calories and at least 100 grams of protein a day for our women members. Most are over 40. They do cardio and lift weights three days a week. One woman’s doctor told her that the amount of protein I’m suggesting is unhealthy. What do you think? — Hailey, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

A. Your average gym rat will tell you that protein turns to muscle as fast as Tony Stark’s suit changes him into Iron Man. But that’s comic-book science and just a great way to sell protein shakes.

A 40-something woman who works out three days a week doesn’t need 100 grams of protein a day. That’s closer to what an athlete needs. (“Athlete” means someone who exercises more than an hour at a time, multiple days of the week. Time, not trophies, matter here.) Here’s how to calculate your clients’ needs and your own — we assume you, like them, are fairly active. Bump up the basic protein requirement to 0.5 grams per pound. For a 150-pound person, that’s 75 grams of protein a day.

Getting more protein than that will just be turned to fat and make you pee a lot. Consuming too much protein can stress your kidneys. Too much animal protein can lead to kidney stones, which are excruciating. Otherwise, serious problems are rare, but why risk them?

Q. I thought sweating helped cool the body. So what causes heat deaths? Can they be prevented?Judy, Newtown, Pa.

A. This summer, local TV stations across huge areas of the country have reported one heat-related death after another. Relentless triple-digit temps have been recorded not only in places you’d expect, like Texas and Arizona, but also in places where sweltering temps aren’t the norm, like Kansas and, yes, Maine (100 degrees in Bangor!).

You’re right about sweating: As perspiration evaporates, your body releases heat, but it’s hardly the physical equivalent of central air. The temps we’ve had can overwhelm your body’s cooling mechanism, especially if it’s already compromised by lack of fluid (dehydration), obesity, heart disease, sunburn or age extremes — both the elderly and the very young really suffer. Plus, the combo of high humidity and sizzling temps thwarts evaporation. You still sweat, but it just drips off without cooling you, so you’re losing precious fluid as well.

Heat exhaustion is deadly serious. It’s caused by being both overheated and dehydrated. When your natural cooling system is pushed to the limit, stay in air conditioning. If you don’t have it at home, go somewhere that does, like the mall, a library or a cooling center. If you can’t get to a place with AC, do this:

  • Take cool showers.
  • Eat lightly and stick to room-temperature foods (don’t turn on the stove!).
  • Drink plenty of cool — not icy — fluids. Plenty, meaning not just one glass in the morning.
  • Go to a shaded pool (or make your own shade in it).
  • Do outdoor activities early in the morning or after sunset.
  • If you feel nauseous, dizzy or disoriented, get help fast in the cool of a hospital emergency department (even if you don’t sign in).


Q. Is it true diet sodas are more fattening than regular soda? — Geraldine, Glenside, Pa.

A. Zero calories, it turns out, don’t have zero impact when it comes to weight. We recently spotted a study in which people who drank diet sodas had a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference in a few years than people who didn’t drink them. You know how we feel about waist size: Any excess fat is bad, but belly fat is the baddest. It’s linked to diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Here’s your real question: How can something that’s basically chemicals and coloring be fattening? Here’s our answer: First, sweet diet soda fuels your desire for other sweets. Second, it has a “health halo” effect. You view choosing a “diet” drink as virtuous (all those calories saved!). So it feels like you can afford to reward that virtue with a hot fudge sundae or a fast-food burger that’s bigger than Texas.

It’s not the diet soda that’s fattening: It’s the sense that drinking it somehow erases the calories of what you eat with it. A diet drink now and then won’t make you fat … as long as you’re not using it to wash down a fried calorie bomb from the drive-thru.

The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

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