Active Ingredients for Common Illnesses

With so many over-the-counter medicine options to choose from, it can be confusing to know which one to get. Then there’s the brand name medicine versus the generic or store brand medicine. What only really matters is the “active ingredients”. This post will list and describe the active ingredients for common illnesses so you can make better decisions when deciding which medicine to buy.

Tip: Always buy store-brand medicine, e.g. Target’s Up & Up or Costco Kirkland brands. They contain the same active ingredients and are always cheaper.

Cough Suppressant

Generic name: Dextromethorphan HBr

Common brands: Robitussen


Generic name: Eucalyptus Oil (topical)

Common brands: Vicks VapoRub

Expectorant

Generic name: Guaifenesin

Common brands: Robitussen

An expectorant is a medicine you can use when you have a cough that produces mucus. Expectorants help thin the secretions in your airway and loosen up mucus, so you can make your cough more productive.

Allergy Symptom Reliever

Generic name: Fluticasone Propionate (glucocorticoid)

Common brands: Flonase, Aller-Flo (Costco Kirkland)

Temporarily relieves symptoms of hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies including nasal congestion, itchy nose, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes


Generic name: Cetirizine HCI (Antihistimine)

Common brands: Zyrtec, Aller-Tec (Costco Kirkland)

Temporarily relieves symptoms of hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies including runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes, itching of the nose or throat


Generic name: Loratadine (Antihistimine)

Common brands: Claritin

Temporarily Relieves These Symptoms Due To Hay Fever Or Other Upper Respiratory Allergies: Runny Nose, Sneezing, Itchy, Watery Eyes, Itching Of The Nose Or Throat


Generic name: Mometasone Furoate Monohydrate (Glucocorticoid)

Common brands: Nasonex

Uses temporarily relieves these symptoms of hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies: nasal congestion runny nose sneezing itchy nose


Generic name: Fexofenadine Hci

Common brands: Allegra

Temporarily relieves these symptoms due to hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies: – runny nose itchy, watery eyes sneezing – itching of the nose or throat


Generic name: Triamcinolone Acetonide

Common brands: Nasacort

Temporarily relieves these symptoms of hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies: nasal congestion runny nose sneezing itchy nose


Generic name: Azelastine Hci (Antihistamine)

Common brands: Astepro


Generic name: Diphenhydramine Hcl (Antihistamine)

Common brands: Benadryl

Nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itchy nose

Temporarily Relieves These Symptoms Due To Hay Fever Or Other Upper Respiratory Allergies: Runny Nose Sneezing Itchy, Watery Eyes Itching Of The Nose Or Throat


Generic name: Levocetirizine Dihydrochloride (Antihistamine)

Common brands: Xyzal

Temporarily relieves these symptoms due to hay fever or other respiratory allergies: runny nose itchy, watery eyes sneezing itching of the nose or throat


Generic name: Triprolidine Hcl (Antihistamine)

Common brands: Mucinex

Triprolidine is an antihistamine used to relieve symptoms of allergy, hay fever, and the common cold. These symptoms include rash, watery eyes, itchy eyes/nose/throat/skin, cough, runny nose, and sneezing.


Generic name: Chlorpheniramine Maleate (Antihistamine)

Chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine used to relieve symptoms of allergy, hay fever, and the common cold. These symptoms include rash, watery eyes, itchy eyes/nose/throat/skin, cough, runny nose, and sneezing.


Generic name: Doxylamine Succinate (Antihistamine)

Doxylamine is an antihistamine, used to relieve symptoms of allergy, hay fever, and the common cold. This medication works by blocking certain natural substances (histamine, acetylcholine) that your body makes. This effect helps to relieve allergy/cold symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing.


Generic name: Brompheniramine Maleate (Antihistamine)

Common brands: Dimetapp

Used to relieve watery eyes, itchy eyes/nose/throat, runny nose, and sneezing.

Pain Reliever / Fever Reducer

Generic name: Acetaminophen

Common brands: Tylenol

Relieves mild to moderate pain (from headaches, menstrual periods, toothaches, backaches, osteoarthritis, or cold/flu aches and pains) and to reduce fever.


Generic name: Ibuprofen

Common brands: Advil

Relieves pain from various conditions such as headache, dental pain, menstrual cramps, muscle aches, or arthritis. It is also used to reduce fever and to relieve minor aches and pain due to the common cold or flu.


Generic name: Aspirin

Used to reduce the risk of having a heart attack in people who have heart disease.


Generic name: Naproxen Sodium

Common brands: Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn

Used to relieve pain from various conditions such as headache, muscle aches, tendonitis, dental pain, and menstrual cramps. It also reduces pain, swelling, and joint stiffness caused by arthritisbursitis, and gout attacks.

Nasal Decongestant

Generic name: Phenylephrine Hcl, Phenylephrine Bitartrate

Common brands: Sudafed PE


Generic name: Oxymetazoline Hydrochloride

Common brands: Mucinex Sinus-Max, Afrin

Sore Throat, Sore Mouth, Canker Sores

Generic name: Benzocaine, Menthol

Common brands: Mucinex


Gargle with salt water

Keto, Low-Calorie Pasta

People may not realize this but traditional pasta like spaghetti contains an enormous amount of calories, both from the pasta itself and the sauce. Fortunately, there is a healthy, low-calorie alternative, albeit a bit more expensive. Below is a comparison of traditional to healthy pasta. First, we’ll start with healthy pasta which uses HealthyNoodles available at Costco.

tldr;

HealthyNoodles-based Pasta

This pasta comes precooked. Since one serving is a ridiculously small amount, let’s say we make 4 servings (452 grams, 120 calories).

For the sauce, we’ll make our own using tomato sauce from Target.

I find that one 18oz can is a good amount for the amount of pasta above. The sauce comes with some spices but we can add more like Italian seasoning, oregano, etc. There are many recipes online for making pasta sauces from tomato sauce. One can (427 grams) of this sauce has 105 calories.

Traditional Pasta

The calories listed on this package is for dry spaghetti. To compare with HealthyNoodles above, we want the calories for cooked spaghetti having a weight of 452 grams. According to Yazio, that amount is 714 calories.

Now, for the sauce, let’s go with Raos marinara, which is a very popular sauce available at Costco.

125 grams of this sauce has 90 calories. Therefore, 427 grams contains 307 calories.

Comparison

Now that we have our values, let’s compare the total calories from each type of pasta.

Traditional PastaHealthy Pasta
Noodles714120
Sauce427105
Total Calories1141225

Conclusion

For the amount specified above, Healthy pasta is 916 calories LESS than the calories in traditional pasta. That’s 80% less calories!

How to Build Muscle

There are 3 main things that affect muscle growth:

  1. food
  2. strength / resistance training
  3. rest

To grow muscle, you need to

  • do strength training to break down muscle
  • have a moderate calorie surplus
  • have sufficient protein consumption (1 gram of protein per pound of body weight)
  • rest to build muscle

If you have a calorie deficit, your body will expend more energy resulting in weight loss in the form of BOTH fat and muscle loss.

If you have an excessive calorie surplus, you will GAIN weight, grow some muscle but also gain a lot of fat.

You build muscle when the amount of protein synthesized into muscle during rest is greater than the amount of muscle protein breakdown during strength training. Without sufficient protein, you will just gain fat and little muscle.

Food

Both creatine and whey protein powder have been shown to increase muscle mass when taken in combination with resistance exercise.

Creatine increases exercise capacity during high-intensity exercise. This leads to improved recovery and adaptations such as increased muscle mass.

Meanwhile, ingesting whey protein in combination with exercise provides your body a high-quality source of protein, enhancing muscle protein synthesis and leading to increased muscle gains over time.

While both creatine and whey protein promote muscle gain, they differ in the ways they work. Creatine increases strength and muscle mass by increasing exercise capacity, whereas whey protein does so by stimulating increased muscle protein synthesis.

Source

Protein

Muscles are made out of protein, among other things. So, you’re going to need to consume enough protein to build muscle. You should target 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, I currently weigh 178 lbs so I should consume 178 grams of protein. Here’s are some protein-rich foods.

FoodQuantityProtein (g)CaloriesProtein / Calorie Ratio
Eggs1 large67811%
Egg White1 large41822%
Almonds1 ounce61643.6%
Chicken Breast1 roasted w/o skin5328418%
Oats1 cup113073.5%
Cottage Cheese1 cup2816317%
Greek Yogurt6 ounces1710017%
Regular Milk1 cup814916%
Soy Milk1 cup6.31056%
Broccoli1 cup chopped3319.6%
Lean Beef3 ounces2518613%
Tuna1 can (142 grams)2712821%
Quinoa1 cup cooked82223.6%
Whey protein concentrate supplement1 scoop (33 g)2513019%
Whey protein isolate supplement1 scoop (33 g)3013023%
Lentils1 cup boiled182308%
Ezekiel Bread1 slice4 805%
Pumpkin Seeds1 ounce91585.6%
Turkey Breast3 ounces2612520%
Shrimp3 ounces208424%
Brussel Sprouts1/2 cup2287%
Peanuts1 ounce71614.3%
Source

Other protein-rich foods

Pistachios, cashews, parmesan cheese, swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, regular full fat yogurt, kefir, soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds.

Consuming a lot of protein without supplements can be difficult because you might feel full before you’ve reached your target daily intake. Also, it can be expensive. For that reason, most bodybuilders take protein supplements. When choosing a protein supplement, it’s important to stay away from ones with a lot of added sugar. The most popular protein supplement is whey protein. To be safe, opt for pure whey protein. I personally get the unflavored Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate. It contains only one ingredient: Whey protein concentrate. 1 scoop contains 25 g of protein and 130 calories.

You can also buy whey protein isolate which has 90 – 95% protein compared to whey protein concentrate which has 60 – 80% protein. Source

Creatine

Creatine monohydrate is the best-studied and most effective form of this supplement. There are 2 dosing regimens:

Option 1

  1. Loading phase: Take 20-25 grams split into 4 or 5 equal doses over 5-7 days.
  2. Maintenance phase: Then, take 3-5 grams per day to maintain your muscle stores of the compound.

Option 2

Skip the loading phase and start the maintenance phase.

Both options are effective the first option will allow you to experience the benefits 4x faster. Source

I personally take unflavored Nutricost Creatine Monohydrate.

Other Foods

Now, don’t go consuming nothing but protein shakes. They are meant to be supplements and not food substitutes. You can eat whatever else you want but generally, you should avoid processed foods and foods with lots of added sugar. I have personally found the Keto diet (very low carb diet) to be one of the best, if not the best diet. I was able to lose 20 lbs following the Keto diet. It’s not just good for losing weight but it’s also good for overall healthy eating.

Calories

While you can build muscle in a calorie deficit (losing weight), it will be quicker to build muscle by having a moderate calorie surplus. In order to determine how many calories is “moderate”, you first need to know your maintenance calories – the number of calories to consume each day to neither lose nor gain weight.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

BMR is the number of calories needed to maintain the basic life-sustaining functions, such as breathing, maintaining blood pressure, and digesting food. One popular formula for calculating BMR is the Harris-Benedict formula. According to this formula:

  • BMR for males = 66 + (6.23 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) − (6.8 × age in years)
  • BMR for females = 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

In my case, my BMR is 1770 calories.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

TDEE is the total number of calories you burn including your BMR. Your TDEE equals your maintenance calories. 

  • TDEE = 1.2 × BMR if you have a sedentary lifestyle (little to no exercise and work a desk job)
  • TDEE = 1.375 × BMR if you have a lightly active lifestyle (light exercise 1-3 days per week)
  • TDEE = 1.55 × BMR if you have a moderately active lifestyle (moderate exercise 3-5 days per week)
  • TDEE = 1.725 × BMR if you have a very active lifestyle (heavy exercise 6-7 days per week)
  • TDEE = 1.9 × BMR if you have an extremely active lifestyle (strenuous training 2 times a day)

For me, since I do heavy exercise 4 days a week, my TDEE multiplication factor would be between 1.55 and 1.725. I’ll estimate it at 1.64. Therefore, my TDEE or maintenance calories is 1.64 x 1770 = 2902.8.

Moderate Calorie Surplus

Since newbies can gain up to 2 lbs of muscle per month, that translates to 2/30 = 0.06 lbs of muscle per day. According to the American Heart Association, you need to eat 500 calories more than your maintenance calories a day to gain 1 pound of weight a week (0.14 lbs per day). Therefore, to gain 0.06 lbs of muscle per day, you need a calorie surplus of 214 calories per day.

Therefore, moderate calorie surplus = TDEE + 214.

For me, I should consume 2902 + 214 = 3116 calories per day.

Example Meal Plan

Here’s my daily meal plan.

Breakfast

  • 4 eggs in a bowl microwaved for 2 minutes
  • 1 cup of Nespresso coffee with frothed milk, 1/4 teaspoon of Truvia sugar substitute (erithrytol + Stevia extra), and cinnamon

Lunch

Protein shake containing

Dinner

5 air-fried skinless chicken legs (60 g protein, 380 calories) with one Anaheim pepper

Post-Dinner Drink

Another protein smoothie but substitute the Acai with 3 or 4 frozen strawberries

Post-Workout Drink

Chocolate-flavored Premier 30g Protein Drink (30 g protein, 160 calorie)

Total Daily Protein and Calorie Consumption

FoodQuantityProtein (gr)Calories
Eggs424300
Protein shake148544
Chicken drumsticks560380
Protein shake148544
Protein drink130160
Snacks (nuts)?
Total2101928

Without eating snacks, my total daily calorie intake is 1928 which is about 1000 calories less than my target. Hopefully my eating snacks can amount to an extra 1000 calories. At least it’s a lot easier to increase calorie intake rather than to limit it.

Superfoods

Note that some of the foods listed above are superfoods. Here’s a list of superfoods:

  • Dark leafy greems (Kale, Swiss chard, Collard greens, Turnip greens, Spinach)
  • Berries (Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Cranberries, Acai berries)
  • Green tea and matcha
  • Eggs
  • Legumes (lentils, peas, peanuts, alfalfa)
  • Nuts (Almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts)
  • Seeds (Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds)
  • Kefir (and yogurt)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric (Curcumin)
  • Salmon
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Potato
  • Mushrooms
  • Seaweed

Source

Strength / Resistance Training

Muscle size increases when a person continually challenges the muscles to deal with higher levels of resistance or weight. This process is known as muscle hypertrophy.

Muscle hypertrophy occurs when the fibers of the muscles sustain damage or injury. The body repairs damaged fibers by fusing them, which increases the mass and size of the muscles. This increase, however, does not happen while you actually lift the weights. Instead, it occurs while you rest.

You need to be consistent and lift progressively heavier weights. To do this, you should keep track of your efforts. Personally, I log my workouts using the free version of the FitNotes app.

Sets and reps

A standard way of exercising each muscle is by grouping each exercise into 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps (repetitions). For example, if you bench press, you can choose a weight such that for the first set, you lift X lbs until you reach failure (can no longer lift / perform a complete cycle) after the 12th rep. Then, for the 2nd set, you do the same until your failure is maybe at the 10th rep. And for the 3rd set, you fail maybe at 8 reps.

SetWeightReps
1100 lbs12
2100 lbs10
3100 lbs8

Note that more important than the number of reps is the effort to lift until failure. If, after a while, you feel that you can do more than 12 reps at X lbs for the first set, then you need to increase the weight and continue to lift until failure, regardless of the exact number of reps you can do. This is called “progressive overloading.”

Let me repeat that. Train until failure such that you can barely complete your last rep with proper form. The last 2 to 3 reps before failure are the ones that count towards building muscle.

Breathing

You might be tempted to hold your breath while you’re lifting weights. Don’t hold your breath. Instead, breathe out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower the weight. Lowering weight requires less exertion, which makes it an ideal time to inhale. By breathing correctly, you’ll be able to lift more and limit fainting and injury.

Muscles

Here’s a diagram of some of the more obvious muscles that you’ll want to target when lifting weights.

Exercises

There are many types of strength training exercises you can do among free weights and machines. I personally prefer using machines as they are more comfortable and help you perform exercises using proper form and reduce the chance of injury. However, some exercises produce better results when using free weights, e.g. dumbbell or barbell chest press instead of a chest press machine. Here are some of the upper body exercises I prefer.

Exercise Database

Fatigue

When you start a workout, your muscles will have rested and you will be able to lift the most weight for any given exercise. As you progress through your workout, you will have less strength when performing other exercises. For that reason, it’s good to be selective in the order of the exercises you perform. For example, I would do 10 or so different exercises in the following order:

OrderExerciseMuscles Targeted
1V-Bar Tricep PushdownTriceps (Tris)
2Dumbbell chest press (flat)Chest
3Dumbbell chest press (30° incline)Upper chest
4Hammer Strength MTS Shoulder PressShoulders
5Biceps Curl MachineBiceps (Bis)
6Plank exerciseAbs, Core
7Lat PulldownBiceps and Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
8Triceps PressShoulders and Triceps
9Lat RowLats, Delts and Back
10V-Bar Tricep PushdownTriceps (Tris)
11Row MachineLats, Delts and Back
12Biceps Curl MachineBiceps (Bis)

Each exercise, except the plank, is done with 3 sets. This sequence takes about 1.5 hours and I burn on average 500 calories.

Muscles by Volume

Many men generally want a bigger upper body. Oftentimes, they’ll focus exercises on 2 muscles: chest and biceps. However, to have a larger upper body, they may be better off targeting larger muscles. Following is a list of the 10 largest muscles in the body.

MuscleLocationVolume
Quadriceps femorisLower thigh1,420 cm3
Gluteus maximusBack of pelvis760 cm3
DeltoidShoulder380 cm3
Triceps BrachiiBack upper arm370 cm3
IliopsoasHips350 cm3
Pectoralis majorChest290 cm3
Biceps femorisTop of the thigh269 cm3
Latissimus DorsiMid back262 cm3
Biceps BrachiiFront upper arm143 cm3
SartoriusUpper and inner thigh126 cm3
Source

Muscle Gain By Weight

The longer your lift weights, the harder it becomes to grow more muscle. Following are average muscle weight gains for men and women at different stages of resistance training.

StageMenWomen
Newbie1.5 lbs / month0.5 lbs / month
Intermediate0.5 lbs / month 0.3 – 0.4 lbs / month
Advanced0.25 lbs / month 0.1 – 0.2 lbs / month
Source
Year of Proper TrainingPotential Rate of Muscle Gain Per Year
120-25 lbs (2 lbs / month)
210-12 lbs (1 lb / month)
35-6 lbs (0.5 lbs / month)
4+2-3 lbs (not worth calculating)
Source

You may have heard that muscle weighs more than fat. However, according to science, a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same. The difference between the two is density.

Rest

In order for your muscles to grow, you need to have sufficient rest. Make sure to sleep enough, e.g. 8 hours a day. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually build muscle while you’re lifting weights. You do need to lift weights to add mass, but training actually causes muscle breakdown.

How to Tell if You’re Gaining Muscle

  1. You’re Gaining Weight
    Track your weight at the same time each day and plot it on a chart to see your long term progress. 
  2. Your Clothes Fit Differently
    Getting jacked will often mean your clothes start to fit differently – usually in a good way. If you’re noticing your shirts are fitting a bit tighter around your shoulders, chest, and biceps, or your pants are getting snug in the thigh and hip area, these tend to be good signs you’re gaining healthy weight. 
  3. You’re Building Strength
    If you can lift heavier weights, then you are probably building muscle. Track your strength using a log and practice progressive overloading. 
  4. You’re Muscles Are Looking “Swole”
    Feeling puffier or bigger is normal and likely a good sign you’re growing your muscle fibers. Lifting weights increases fluids to your muscle giving you that post weight training pump, especially when you are just getting started with strength training. Over time, some of the water retention may diminish but you should continue to feel bulkier. 
  5. Daily or Weekly Progress Photos
    Stand in front of a mirror and take a full body photo. Repeat and assess your visual transformation regularly.
  6. Your Body Composition Has Changed
    Ultimately, the most efficient way to measure your muscle gain progress is to assess your body composition at the beginning and end of your bulk. You can opt for an affordable and convenient at home scale, or schedule a DXA/DEXA scan that estimates your body fat percentage within a 1.6% margin of error. 

The best way to know you are gaining muscle is if you are progressively able to lift heavier weights because the only way you can lift heavier weights if you have bigger muscles.

Tracking Progress

If you use an app to keep track of your progress, you can periodically calculate your percent gains and improvements over time. Here’s an example of my actual gains.

ExerciseDec 26, 2021March 12, 2022% increaseTarget area
lbslbs
V-bar pushdown5072.545.00%Triceps
Chest press machine7012071.43%Chest
Lat pulldown machine9013044.44%Back
Shoulder press machine407075.00%Shoulders
Tricep pushdown machine11517047.83%Triceps
Bicep curl machine6511069.23%Biceps

Gadgets and Accessories

To support your strength training goals, I have found the following gadgets useful.

Wi-fi body scale

I have the Withings smart wi-fi body scale. It automatically records my weight and in the app, I can see my weight change over time.

Smartwatch

I have the Fossil Men’s Gen 6 Touchscreen Smartwatch. It’s got a ton of features.

Whenever I enter the gym, I start tracking my heart rate and calories burned. When I’m done, I stop tracking and I can see a history of my calories burned and workout duration over time.

Bluetooth Headphones / Earphones

I have the Sony Wireless Behind-Neck Headset (WI-C400). Many people like to wear Beats headphones. I prefer the behind-the-neck style headset because it’s lightweight and doesn’t move around as I exercise, including when I do situps.

Compression T-Shirt

I have the Under Armour Men’s HeatGear Compression Short-Sleeve T-Shirt. It allows you to see your body shape so you can see how you’re progressing. I find it motivating to see physical progress.

Weight Training Workout Gloves

Repeatedly lifting weights can result in calluses (thickened skin that forms as a response to repeated friction or pressure). Workout gloves tend to have a cushion to protect your skin. I find it much more comfortable to lift with gloves on.

Summary

  • Stay in a positive protein balance by hitting your protein consistently.
  • Get your protein from high-quality sources like meat, eggs, dairy, and soy.
  • Your body needs energy to grow, so you need to be in a moderate calorie surplus.
  • Make sleep a priority — both quantity and quality.
  • Hit the weights consistently, and train harder by adding volume (in weight, reps, and sets) over time – progressive overloading.

Animal vs Plant Protein

Amino Acids

Proteins consist of units called amino acids. There are 20 amino acids. The body synthesizes some of them from components within the body, but it cannot synthesize 9 of the amino acids—called essential amino acids. They must be consumed in the diet. The amount and type of each amino acid vary based on the protein source.

Animal proteins such as eggs, milk and steak are complete because they contain all of the essential amino acids that your body needs to function effectively.

Plant proteins, such as beans, lentils and nuts are considered to be incomplete, as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that your body needs.

Protein Quality Score

Due to the important role proteins play in our nutrition, it’s vital that we have a standard measure to determine protein quality.

PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score)

In 1993, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the US FDA made PDCAAS the official standard for comparing protein quality.

DIAAS (Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score)

In 2013, FAO proposed using a new evaluation method resulting in different scores called DIAAS. According to DIAAS, protein quality can be categorized as follows:

  • No protein quality claim – Score of <75%
  • Good protein quality – Score ranging from 75% to 99%
  • Excellent or High protein quality – Score of 100% or more

As you can see in the table below, all animal-based proteins are of high quality whereas plant-based proteins are either just good or poor in quality.

DIAASaPDCAASb
Animal-derived foods
 Whey protein isolatee1.000.99
 Whey protein concentratee1.071.00 (1.07)
 Milk protein concentratee1.201.00 (1.21)
 Skimmed milk proteine1.051.00 (1.12)
 Whole milk powdere1.161.00 (1.16)
 Caseine, f1.091.00 (1.20)
 Cow milke1.16 
 Sheep milke1.09 
 Goat milke1.24 
 Whole egg, boilede1.131.00 (1.05)
 Beefe1.121.00 (1.14)
 Porke1.141.00
 Chicken breaste1.081.00 (1.01)
 Tilapia (fish)d1.00 
Non-animal-derived foods
 Soya protein isolatee0.840.93
 Soya floure0.890.98
 Wheate0.450.50
 Pea protein concentratee0.620.75
 Cooked peasf0.580.60
 Oat protein concentratee0.670.69
 Cooked rolled oatsf0.540.67
 Rice protein concentratef0.370.42
 Cooked ricef0.600.62
 Ryee0.480.59
 Barleye0.470.59
 Pease0.650.79
 Sorghume,f0.290.29
 Cooked kidney beansf0.590.65
 Roasted peanutsf0.430.51
 Corn based breakfast cerealf0.010.08
Source
  1. Only values that used the scoring patterns for children older than 3 years, adolescents, and adults were selected
  2. aValues for DIAAS were calculated from the ileal digestibility of amino acids
  3. bValues for PDCAAS were calculated from the total tract digestibility of crude protein
  4. cAll values for DIAAS and PDCAAS were selected in humans, if available, growing pigs, or in growing rats in that order
  5. dMeasured in humans
  6. eMeasured in pigs
  7. fMeasured in rats

Essential Amino Acid Comparison Between Steak and Broccoli

Since essential amino acids are essential, it’s important and interesting to compare how much of them you get when you compare the same amount of an animal protein to a plant protein. The following table compares 1 oz of steak to 1 oz of broccoli.

%RDI = % Recommended Daily Intake

Essential Amino Acid1 oz Broiled Sirloin
Strip Steak
1 oz BroccoliRatio
Tryptophan (mg)
(% RDI)
55
(20%)
9
(3%)
6.7x
Threonine (mg)
(% RDI)
332
(32%)
25
(2%)
16x
Isoleucine (mg)
(% RDI)
378
(27%)
22
(2%)
13.5x
Leucine (mg)
(% RDI)
661
(24%)
37
(1%)
24x
Lysine (mg)
(% RDI)
703
(33%)
38
(2%)
16.5x
Methionine (mg)
(% RDI)
217
(30%)
11
(1%)
30x
Phenylalanine (mg)
(% RDI)
329
(38%)
33
(4%)
9.5x
Valine (mg)
(% RDI)
412
(23%)
35
(2%)
11.5x
Histidine (mg)
(%RDI)
265
(38%)
17
(2%)
19x
Source

As you can see, you get WAY more essential amino acids from 1 oz of steak than you do from 1 oz of broccoli. However, from a calorie point of view,

  • 1 oz of Broiled Sirloin Strip Steak has 60 calories
  • 1 oz of Broccoli has 10 calories

1 oz of steak has 6 times as many calories as 1 oz of broccoli.

So, what if you just ate more broccoli to consume the same amount of amino acids as steak. The highest number in the ratio column is 30x. So, you’d need to eat 30 oz of broccoli to get at least the same amount of amino acids as steak. But then your calorie intake would be 10 calories x 30 = 300 calories, which is way more than 60 calories for the 1 oz of steak.

Conclusion

Don’t be a vegetarian. Include animal-based proteins such as eggs, meat and milk in your diet. If you don’t like them, then at least drink a smoothie made with whey protein powder. Here are some nutrients you can’t get from a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Weight Loss With Glucomannan Fiber

Consuming foods high in fiber is important for your digestion and to feed your gut bacteria. But, it can also be very effective for weight loss. Fiber can soak up water in the intestine, slowing the absorption of nutrients and increasing the feeling of fullness.

Dietary fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in foods. As such, it can be subtracted from total carbs since fiber simply passes through your body. Unlike other carbs, it does not get converted to sugar or get stored as fat.

There are 2 types of fiber based on water solubility:

  1. Soluble fiber: dissolves in water and can be metabolized by the “good” bacteria in the gut
  2. Insoluble fiber: does not dissolve in water

What is Glucomannan?

Glucomannan is a natural, water-soluble dietary fiber extracted from the roots of the elephant yam, also known as konjac. It is grown in East and Southeast Asia and is a very common food in Japan and Korea.

It’s the main ingredient in Shirataki noodles and comes in powder and pill form.

How does Glucomannan support weight loss?

Glucomannan is one of the most viscous dietary fibers known. It absorbs so much liquid that a small amount of glucomannan added to a glass of water turns the entire content into a gel. Chia seeds, which you may have heard of, are also high in fiber and also absorb water but it’s nothing compared to Glucomannan. Note that ground flaxseeds is another healthy fiber supplement but it doesn’t gel up nearly as much as Chia seeds.

In the picture below, you can see Glucomannan in powder form being added to water, and on the right, the Glucomannan after it absorbed all the water.

This thick gel lines the stomach and provides bulk and satiety / feeling of fullness which lowers your appetite so you eat less. In addition, Glucomannan

  • is very low in calories.
  • delays stomach emptying, contributing to increased satiety
  • like other soluble fibers, reduces the absorption of protein and fat

According to this article, reliable studies show that consuming Glucomannan as part of a weight-loss diet is very effective in supporting weight loss. Of all fiber sources you can consume, Glucomannan is the most effective in supporting weight loss.

Consuming Glucommanan

It is recommended to take 1 gram (1000 mg) of Glucomannan before a meal with two 8 oz glasses of water. The amount of time before a meal depends on how long it takes for the Glucomannan to gel up. When you get your Glucomannan, it’s a good idea to add water to it to see how long it takes to gel up. The powder form should gel up in a few minutes whereas the pill form should take about 30 minutes. In general, you can wait 15 minutes to an hour before eating.

WARNING: Glucomannan MUST be consumed with water so that it reaches the stomach before it turns into a thick gel. Consuming Glucomannan without water could cause it to gel up in the throat or esophagus causing blockage and choking. The government of Australia even banned Glucomannan because of this choking and blockage risk.

The amount of water to drink while consuming Glucomannan is important as it will affect the viscosity and effectiveness of the Glucomannan to support weight loss. For example, according to this video, the same amount of Glucomannan was added to a small and large glass. Then, different amounts of water was added to each glass. The result was the gel in the small glass was so thick that turning the glass over would not cause it to come out. The gel in the large glass, on the other hand, could spill out. The more water, the better.

Not all Glucomannan brands are the same

According to this video, the brand on the left did not coagulate as much a the one on the right. Therefore, test the Glucomannan you buy to ensure that it coagulates as expected.

Testing viscosity of Glucomannan by Nutricost

I bought a bottle of glucomannan pills by Nutricost on Amazon. To test the viscosity, I put water and glucomannan in 3 glasses as follows:

  • Left glass: Emptied powder from pill (600 mg) into 1/3 glass of water
  • Middle glass: Emptied powder from pill (600 mg) into 7/8 glass of water
  • Right glass: Put pill (600 mg) into 7/8 glass of water

I stirred the powder in the water but there was too little powder that the glucomannan hardly became coagulated.

I then added another pill (600 mg) and although the mix was more viscous, it wasn’t very thick. I then added another pill (600 mg) and blended the mix together.

Finally, the mix in the left glass became thick like a thick sauce. The middle glass was somewhat thick but due to there being more water, it was still very runny. The pill in the right glass still hadn’t melted after 6 hours.

Based on these results, I think

  • it’s better to consume glucomannan as a powder rather than a pill so the satiety effects will be quicker
  • it’s better to consume glucomannan blended with water (or in a smoothie or in food so that the glucomannan can expand before you consume it)

Lowest Calorie, Lowest Carb, Filling Food

Just out of curiosity, I wanted to find the lowest calorie, lowest carb food that could be considered a dish/meal. The goal is to be able to lose weight while feeling full after eating something that is relatively tasty with a flavor that everyone is familiar with. When it comes to filling foods, most people would think of rice or bread. Apparently, there’s something very similar to rice called Konjac.

It has a neutral taste and its shape is very similar to rice. But, it does have a slightly different texture than rice. Nevertheless, one pack (150g) contains only 5 calories and 0 net carbs.

Of course, eating plain rice alone, especially Konjac rice, doesn’t taste good. After considering various ingredients to add to Konjac rice, I decided that chicken broth is one of the best flavorings to add. Everyone knows what chicken tastes like and since it doesn’t contain meat, even vegetarians can eat (drink) it. It’s also not a forbidden food by any of the major religions.

This particular brand of chicken broth is organic, doesn’t contain salt, provides a mere 5 calories for 1 cup, and has 0 carbs.

If we cook one pack of Konjac rice with 1 cup of this chicken broth, we’d only be consuming 10 calories and 0 net carbs! Since 1 pack seems too little to make me feel sufficiently full, I’ll go with 2 packs and 1 cup of chicken broth (15 calories total). That’s nothing! (calorie-wise)

2 packs of Konjac rice + 1 cup of chicken broth.

The broth says “no salt added”. That may be good for people with high blood pressure but for me, the rice just didn’t taste good without salt so I added some. Here’s the finished dish.

I know it looks super boring and tasteless but since I added chicken broth, it actually tasted like chicken soup. On a scale of 1 (yuck) to 10 (yum), I’d give it a 7 (not bad). Of course, the only reason for eating this is to lose weight until you reach your target weight after which time you can adjust your diet so as to just maintain your weight.

Now, don’t go eating this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

  • The Konjac rice has 0 fat, 0 net carbs, and 0 protein = 0 essential nutrients
  • The chicken broth has 0 fat, 0 carbs, and 1g of protein = hardly any nutrients from protein

So, if you eat this and nothing else, your body won’t be getting any of the essential nutrients it needs from fat and protein.

This ridiculously simple dish is good in combination with other food so that your total daily caloric intake is less than your calorie expenditure so that you can actually burn fat and lose weight, especially for people who don’t want to exercise in conjunction with dieting.

According to one calculator, my basal metabolic rate (BMR) or, calories I would burn each day by being sedentary / not active, is 1788. You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of body weight. So, if I was sedentary and could consume a max of 1288 calories per day (which is not easy to do considering how so many foods contain so many calories), then I could have a deficit of 500 calories per day and lose 1 pound of body weight per week or 10 pounds in 2.5 months.

Konjac rice with eggs

If you’d like to eat Konjac rice with something else that is full of nutrients and is healthy, then you may want to try mixing the rice with scrambled eggs. One scrambled egg has 100 calories, 8g of fat, 7g protein, and 1g of net carbs.

Konjac rice with chicken

Since we’re adding chicken broth to the Konjac rice, it would make sense to add real chicken as well. Pictured below I added pregrilled chicken breast from Costco. It tasted good and was super easy to make since everything was precooked.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of chicken breast provides 0 carbs, 165 calories, 31 grams of protein and 3.6 grams of fat.

The Best Sweetener for Weight Loss

Everyone by now should now that regular white cane sugar is bad for you and contributes to weight gain, diabetes and other health problems. Following are some alternatives and an explanation as to why they are good or bad.

Honey

Many people think that there’s something special about honey that even though it’s high in calories like sugar, it’s better. While it’s true that there are some health benefits to consuming honey, from a weight loss point of view, it’s only slightly better. In order to understand why, we need to realize the fact that digestible non-fiber carbs simply get converted to sugar in the body so the following formula holds true.

CARBS = SUGAR*

* except for carbs from fiber and Erythritol (a sugar alcohol)

If we compare sugar to honey with the same portion size (100 g), we find that honey still has a ton of carbs (82 g) compared to sugar (100 g). Therefore, honey is not a good sweetener for weight loss.

Note: the sweetness of honey is higher than that of white sugar so you don’t need to use as much of it.

Erythritol

Pure Erythritol is a sugar alcohol. It is 70% as sweet as regular sugar. Unlike other sugar alcohols where half gets digested in the body, Erythritol does not get digested. Instead, it gets excreted through urine and feces like carbs from dietary fiber. For that reason, grams of Erythritol can be subtracted from total carbs. This makes Erythritol one of the best sweeteners. The texture is like fine sugar. I personally found the taste to be not bad but of course not as good as real sugar but that’s probably because I’m used to the taste of sugar.

Monk Fruit Extract

Pure Monk fruit extract contains zero sugars, carbs and calories. This makes Monk fruit extract one of the best sweeteners. However, it’s 150-250 times sweeter than table sugar so you have to be careful when adding it to avoid over-sweetening. Monk fruit extract is often mixed with other sweeteners so read the nutrition label to make sure that if it’s mixed, it’s mixed with an acceptable sweetener like Erythritol. The texture is like a very fine powder so it dissolves easily. I personally found the taste to be a bit fruity and not bad. I still prefer the taste of real sugar but that’s probably because I’m used to the taste of sugar.

Stevia

Pure Stevia, like Monk fruit extract, is a zero sugar, carb and calorie sweetener which makes it a good sugar substitute. It is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar so you need to be extra careful when adding it to food and drinks. And, like Monk fruit extract, it often is found mixed with other sweeteners so make sure to check the ingredient list.

White Rice Alternatives

White rice is eaten by everyone all over the world. It’s probably the cheapest, most filling, readily-available type of food. Many people even have large plates of rice for breakfast. Though white rice may seem like an innocent, healthy food to eat, unlike sweets, it’s actually not healthy because it’s full of carbs which just gets converted into sugar in the body which leads to weight gain and health issues such as diabetes. So, just because white rice doesn’t taste sweet or look sweet, it’s just as bad as sugar. You might as well imagine you’re seeing sugar when you see white rice (or any carb like bread for that matter).

The nutrition profile for white rice shows that 1 cup of it contains 45 grams of carbs. If we subtract the insignificant carbs from dietary fiber (they just pass through the body), then you’re consuming 44.4 grams of carbs in 1 cup of white rice. 1 cup of white rice also gives you a whopping 205 calories.

White Rice vs Coca Cola

Now this should surprise you. One cup of white rice has more carbs (45 g) than that in a can of Coca Cola (39 g). So, when you eat rice, it’s not much different from drinking a can of soda.

Riced Cauliflower

One healthy, low calorie alternative for white rice is riced cauliflower. Weighing in at just 5 – 2 = 4 digestable carbs per cup, it’s got a fraction of the carbs of white rice. And at only 25 calories per cup, it’s super low calorie compared to the whopping 205 calories per cup of white rice.

Spicy Mexican-Style Riced Cauliflower

If you a simple-to-cook, flavorful riced cauliflower meal, try Trader Joe’s Spicy Mexican-Style Riced Cauliflower. For $3, it’s cheap and personally, I found it to be very tasty. Optionally add some chicken breast for protein. It’s a bit spicy so if you can’t handle the spice, try the next option below.

Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry

Trader Joe’s Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry also costs just $3. It’s not spicy but personally, I didn’t find it as flavorful as the Trader Joe’s Spicy Mexican-Style Riced Cauliflower.

Shirataki Konjac Rice

I haven’t actually tried this yet but Shirataki Konjac Rice is extremely low in calories. At only 5 calories per 140 grams and 3 – 3 = 0 digestable carbs, it’s completely carb (sugar) free!

The Ketogenic Diet & Ketosis

I’ve tried a couple of diets and also just tried to count calories. But, it seems that the key to losing weight is more complicated than just a daily calorie deficit. After researching the Ketogenic diet, I have a feeling this particular diet may actually work, even though it calls for consuming more fat when the whole point of the diet is to lose fat. Here’s a summary of the Ketogenic diet.

Carbs vs Protein vs Fat

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats supply 90% of the dry weight of a diet and 100% of its energy. All three provide energy (measured in calories), but the amount of energy in 1 gram (1/28 ounce) differs. There are

  • 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrate or protein
  • 9 calories in a gram of fat

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are digested in the intestine, where they are broken down into their basic units:

  • Carbohydrates into sugars
  • Proteins into amino acids
  • Fats into fatty acids and glycerol

These nutrients also differ in how quickly they supply energy. Carbohydrates are the quickest, and fats are the slowest.

Carbohydrates

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the body does not need any added sugar to function healthily. Therefore, the body doesn’t really need carbs since carbs just get converted into sugar.

Protein

Proteins consist of units called amino acids. There are 20 amino acids. The body synthesizes some of them from components within the body, but it cannot synthesize 9 of the amino acids—called essential amino acids. They must be consumed in the diet.

Fat

Fats are complex molecules composed of fatty acids and glycerol. When the body needs fatty acids, it can make (synthesize) certain ones. Others, called essential fatty acids, cannot be synthesized and must be consumed in the diet.

Energy source priorities

Your body gets energy first from sugar (carbohydrates are converted into sugar in the body) and only when the sugar energy has depleted will your body turn to getting energy from fat.

In order to lose weight (fat), your body needs to enter a metabolic state called “Ketosis”. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It’s like it becomes a fat-burning machine. If you consume too many carbs (bread, pasta, rice, sugar, etc), your body will never enter Ketosis mode because your body will always get more than enough energy from carbs (sugar). It’s no wonder why sugar is the real health enemy and one of the main causes of health issues like diabetes.

Once energy from carbs is depleted, your body enters a state of ketosis and burns fat to get energy.

The Keto diet

The keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet. As such, your body will have very little energy from carbs (sugar) and quickly resort to getting energy by burning fat. Specifically, you should consume macronutrients with the following proportions:

  • 70% fat
  • 20% protein
  • 10% carbs

Now, if you are bodybuilding and want to build muscle, you need more protein. So, a slight variation of the standard keto diet calls for the following proportions:

  • 60% fat
  • 35% protein
  • 5% carbs

Protein should be moderate, as a very high intake can spike insulin levels and lower ketones. Around 35% of the total calorie intake of protein is probably the upper limit.

Generally, achieving Ketosis involves limiting carb consumption to around 20 to 50 grams per day and filling up on fats, such as those from meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils.

Foods to avoid

Any food that’s high in carbs should be limited.

  • sugary foods: soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
  • grains or starches: wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
  • fruit: all fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries
  • beans or legumes: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • root vegetables and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
  • low fat or diet products: low fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, and condiments
  • some condiments or sauces: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.
  • unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
  • alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks
  • sugar-free diet foods: sugar-free candies, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc.

Foods to eat

  • meat: red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey
  • fatty fish: salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel
  • butter and cream: grass-fed butter and heavy cream
  • cheese: unprocessed cheeses like cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella
  • nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
  • healthy oils: extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil
  • avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
  • low carb veggies: green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • condiments: salt, pepper, herbs, and spices

43 Healthy Low-Carb Foods That Taste Incredible

Carbs from fiber

On Nutrition Facts food labels, the grams of dietary fiber are already included in the total carbohydrate count. But because fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest, it does not affect your blood sugar levels. You should subtract the grams of fiber from the total carbohydrate.

In the example nutrition label above, we see that the total carbohydrate count is 10 grams and the dietary fiber is 5 grams. Therefore, the net carbohydrate amount is 5 grams.

Carbs from Erythritol

If you see a nutrition label that shows Erythritol under the Total Carbs section, you can subtract it from the total carbs. Unlike other sugar alcohols where half gets digested in the body, Erythritol does not get digested. Instead, it gets excreted through urine and feces like carbs from dietary fiber. There are 3 types of sugar substitutes that contain zero carbs and are safe to eat: Erythritol, Monk Fruit, Stevia.

Learn more about sugar substitutes

Example calorie calculation

Looking at the nutrition label above, we see the number of fat, carbs and protein in grams. One serving of the food item contains 10 grams of carbs. But, 5 grams of those 10 grams can be ignored since they are dietary fiber which the body can’t digest and so it gets passed.

The nutrition label shows grams and % daily value, but it doesn’t show percentage for each of the 3 macronutrients. To determine that, we can perform these calculations.

MacronutrientGrams (A)Calories per gram (B)AxB (C)C / (C1 + C2 + C3) x 100%
1fat392727 / (27 + 20 + 8) x 100% = 49%
2carbs5 (don’t include fiber carbs)42020 / (27 + 20 + 8) x 100% = 36%
3protein2488 / (27 + 20 + 8) x 100% = 15%

So, the food for the nutrition label above has the following macronutrient proportions:

  • fat: 49%
  • carbs: 36%
  • protein: 15%

If that food was the only thing you ate all day, then it would not satisfy the goal of the ketogenic diet.

If you are targeting 1500 calories per day for weight loss and a maximum of 5% from carbs, then 5% of 1500 is 75 calories. And since 1 gram of carbs is 4 calories, you can consume a maximum of 75/4 = 18.75 grams of non-fiber carbs. Hmm…. that’s very low. If your target is 10% of carbs per day, then you can consume a max of about 40 grams of non-fiber carbs per day. According to Healthline, consuming less than 50 grams of non-fiber carbs per day will get you into Ketosis.

Ketosis Test

If you want to know whether your body is in a state of Ketosis (burning fat), there are tests available. This is great because you can actually measure and know whether your body is currently burning fat or not. Technically, you could test yourself before you go to sleep at night. If you test positive for being in a state of Ketosis, then you would literally be burning fat while you sleep!

  • Urine test using urine test strip
  • Blood test using blood test strips
  • Breath test using a breath analyzer

Healthy Drinks Besides Water

I like original Coke. But the calories and amount of sugar added to it are just outrageous. A single 12 fl oz (355 ml) can of coke contains 140 calories and 39 grams of added sugar. Following are some healthier alternatives.

Costco Kirkland Organic Coconut Water

With only 2 grams of added sugar compared to 39 for Coca-cola, this is definitely a good alternative. At 45 calories for 240 ml (68 calories for 355 ml), it is 72 calories less than the same serving of a can of coke. However, if you are on the Keto diet, this is not a good choice where you need to limit carbs, this is not a good choice.

Unsweetened Almond Milk

At 30 calories per cup (240 ml), this is not a great alternative to soda, although the sweetened version (60 cal per cup with 7 grams of added sugar) does taste much better.

Unsweeted Iced Tea

At 0 calories, unsweetened iced tea is probably the best substitute for plain water.

If you feel you need to make it sweet, you can try adding

Truvia is actually Erythritol, a sugar alcohol. Unlike other sugar alcohols, Erythritol is the only sugar alcohol which does not get digested by the body. Instead, it gets excreted in urine and feces. I consider it the ideal sweetener for drinks. It’s also ideal if you are on the Keto diet since it contains 0 carbs.

You can also cold brew green tea like pictured below.

Iced Water With Lemon Slices

Lemon-infused water actually makes plain, boring water taste pretty good.

Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice

At 70 calories per cup (240 ml), this has the same calories has Costco Kirkland coconut juice but with 0 added sugar.

Costco Kirkland Vitarain Zero

This has zero calories. The sweet taste comes from zero-calorie sucralose.

Glaceau VitaminWater Zero

Sweetened with erithrytol