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Sports Nutrition. Delivered – The Feed Review and Giveaway

February 12, 2014
    Recently a company that embodies several things I love – exercise, nutrition, Colorado, and convenience – came into my life and I am so excited to tell all of you about it. If you haven’t heard of The Feed before, allow me to introduce you!
The Feed Twitter
     This Boulder, CO based company houses all of your favorite sports nutrition products (plus items from smaller companies you haven’t yet heard of, but will be in love with once you try ‘em) in one place. You pick from pre made boxes or design your own and voila, every month all of the gels, chews, bars, nut butters, protein powders, etc. you need to fuel your active life are delivered to your door step. Bonus – you get a discount ordering via The Feed verse buying these items at a grocery store or typical sports store. I don’t know about you…but the amount of times I have had to make last-minute runs out to the store to stock up on chews for the next day’s long run has always made me wish I just had a batch delivered regularly to my door. With The Feed…this is EXACTLY what happens!
The Feed Products{Just a handful of products The Feed carries}
     My box arrived the night before I headed off to Breckenridge for a ski trip – aka PERFECT TIMING! Fun fact – all of the boxes from The Feed come with personalized messages written on them…Nice touch! :-)
The Feed Box
     So what was in my personalized box? Well…I told them some things I like and then said, surprise me with whatever…and I was not disappointed. Included were my go to Cliff Bars and Cliff Shot Block, although a new flavor I had never had before – Carrot Cake – was in the mix and made me wonder why I had never bought it before! Nom nom nom – Carrot Cake Cliff Bar, I love you! Also in the box, Honey Stinger (another Colorado-based company I love) products galore. Lemon waffle and limeade chews aren’t you a treat! Also, one can never go wrong when they hook me up with a Luna PB Cookie bar and Vega (plant-based sports nutrition company) products!
     As for some of the new-to-me products, I now have more favorites working their way into the circulation! As I always try to be as honest as possible with my readers, I will tell you that the Breeze Bars that were in my box were not too appealing to me. While I enjoyed the flavor of the Cocoa Espresso bar, I found them to be dry and hard. With all the bars on the market, these ones just won’t be making their way back into my house.
     Now for the newcomers I am impressed by…
  • Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter: I know that everyone raves about the Justin’s Nut butters, but to be honest I had actually never had any of their peanut butters before – just almond butters. Besides earning major points with this dietitian for being portion controlled and portable (airplane travel approved), they are also seriously delicious.
Justin's Nut Butter{Travel Snacks}
  • Go Macro Macrobar: At a filling 250 kcals this bar came in handy very quickly on my trip out to Colorado. With my 1st flight delayed I had to sprint to catch my connection to Denver which meant no time to grab the lunch I had planned out at the Charlotte airport. Thankfully I had some snacks stashed into my bag – including a Macrobar to hold me over until I landed in the Mountain Time Zone!
  • MacrobarSkratch Labs Exercise Hydration Singles – Powders that when mixed with water form uniquely delicious sports beverages. Flavors include raspberries, lemons and limes, and more. However my favorite Skratch Labs product in the mix – the Apples and Cinnamon, designed to be mixed with hot water to mimic hot apple cider! Now, I am a lover of winter. Snow, skiing, and even winter running are enjoyable to me. But…sometimes even my cutest cold weather running apparel isn’t enough encouragement to make me truly want to trade a warm bed for some frigid miles. The promise of a cup of get me going carbohydrates in the form of a cinnamon and apple tea however, did just the trick. Seriously…if the cold weather is causing you to hit the snooze button one too many times, get yourself some of these Skratch Lab drink mixes and get out there! :-)
  • Skratch-App.-and-Cinnamon-Rip van Wafels – Saving the best for last. Imagine a Honey Stinger waffle meets a Tim-Tam (you know, those fabulous Australian cookies) and you have a Rip van Wafel!
rip-van-galleryThe instructions said to enjoy with a hot beverage and enjoy I did. Hot cocoa was by beverage of choice…but I think a coffee would have been just as appealing! Want to pack this for a snack mid-hike? Bring a Justin’s nut butter to squeeze on top! :-)
Rip van Wafel
So, now for the giveaway. The Feed has generously agreed to create a box with all of my favorites (yes, the Wafels will be in the mix!) to be delivered to one lucky reader so you can try The Feed out yourself. Consider it our Valentine’s Day present to you! :-)
     How to Enter:
  • Leave a comment right here telling me your #1 go-to sports nutrition product (mandatory)
  • On Twitter? Tweet out the following (or similar) with a link to the giveaway for an extra entry!: ” Did you know: @TheFEEDMe is giving a way a box of @NutritionNerd’s favorite goods! #SportsNutritionDelivered”

Contest closes Sunday, February 16th at 5pm. Winner announced on Monday, February 17th! Now, if you’ll excuse me…I must get back to day dreaming about my time in Colorado…

Breckenridge{View of Breckenridge from the condo}


A FroYo Throw Down

January 17, 2014

So, it turns out there are some haters and naysayers (actually, just one) of my amazing, fool-proof DIY FroYo method. Here we have this clearly novice DIY fro-yo-ers rebuttal to my last post. In color, bold and italics within the below rebuttal I provide my “response” to this ill-thought out ‘attack’. And by “response” I mean, the things you think when you read critiques of your work, that you can’t actually write back in reply! Enjoy :-)

The Halliday Conjecture: More questions than answers (RUDE! You are starting off on the wrong foot, Mr. Loenneke)

 Dear Editor,

I am writing in regard to the newest post from Professor Halliday titled “Methodological Advancement in DIY FroYo Creations (Aka: How to Master the FroYo Bar).”  The author sought to investigate a method to improve the overall experience of eating frozen yogurt by offering up a new method of yogurt administration.  The author should be commended (you’re right, I should be. Thank you for noticing.) on investigating such an important issue that is presently understudied in the current literature.  Professor Halliday hypothesized that a mixed method approach results in a superior yogurt experience compared to the more traditional linear approach. However, I have some concerns (WHAT? concerns?? Clearly you are mistaken) with the interpretation of her findings.

 Professor Halliday starts off by describing three problems with the traditional model

1)       Unequal distribution of toppings within frozen yogurt

2)       Limited choices

3)       Risk of incompatible combinations.

 The author is quick to promote the limitations of the traditional linear model but the proposed “mixed method” does little to overcome these proposed “problems”. (Umm, actually they do. Did you look at the figures? Did you read what I wrote?)  In practice, there aren’t truly unequal distributions with the linear model because as bites are taken, toppings fall down to lower levels of the frozen yogurt. (WRONG. Mr. Loenneke is clearly delusional)  The second issue is not truly corrected by the “mixed method” because there is a finite amount of space in the yogurt cup, so by default limited choices exist no matter the model used (Strawman argument. sheesh. Yes, there are limited choices in all methods employed thanks to cup space…but greater limitations exist in the “mixed methods” approach. It’s science).  The third issue isn’t overcome by the “mixed method” either.  If anything, the linear model would be better because one could just remove the topping and enjoy the remaining frozen yogurt (I kind of stopped paying attention to what he is writing…but I am sure this is wrong and makes no sense either. I’ll come up with a nicer way to say that later….or maybe I won’t.)  This certainly would not be as easy to do if one were dealing with several different layers of toppings dispersed throughout.

 When investigating the “results” section, the author appears to have found a statistical difference between the traditional and mixed method methodology (p<0.001). Unfortunately little is known about what statistics were actually used for this investigation. How was this yogurt experience rated? Is the scale used valid and reliable? (Yes, OF COURSE the completely fabricated studies used imaginary tools/surveys/instruments that were VERY valid and reliable. Duh!) What was the magnitude of the effect? (Ginormous…obviously.) How many people was this tested on? (n= 58,343,090) All of these questions alone should call into question the results provided in this manuscript.  

 The author concludes by suggesting that this mixed method approach be recognized as the gold standard to be implemented immediately across populations.  I think it is clear to see from my editorial that this “mixed method” is currently too flawed (Actually it’s not flawed at all. It’s perfect. Just like me) to be called the gold standard and at present is nothing more than conjecture. The data presented by the author is vague and much more research is needed before such bold claims about this new model can be made.  The fact that most people are emotionally/spiritually/physically fulfilled using the traditional linear model in froyo institutions around the world, suggests that this method isn’t likely to be replaced anytime soon.  I think it is fair to say that the enjoyment is likely similar between models (except that it’s not) but no well controlled study exists to suggest that the mixed method is anything more than a complicated (COMPLICATED?? Not at all. More rudeness) way to enjoy your froyo.


Jeremy P. Loenneke PhD (c)

Methodological Advancement in DIY FroYo Creations (Aka: How to Master the FroYo Bar)

January 10, 2014


This paper (err…blog post) reviews the common method employed by patrons of Do It Yourself (DIY) frozen yogurt establishments for creating their custom treat and discusses its strengths and limitations. Then a new approach is proposed which completely overcomes the limitations of the currently employed method. Finally, a step-by-step guide is presented to allow for easier transition to this new methodology for both the lay [non-regular DIY froyo consumers] and experienced [frequent DIY froyo consumers] populations.

PeachTree Frozen Yogurt


The frozen yogurt industry took a hit in the late 1990′s but has reinvented itself and emerged as a top diet trend in the past few years  [Frozen Yogurt Industry Analysis 2013]. Likely contributors to this include: a more health-focused population who view frozen yogurt establishments as a healthy indulgence; the DIY, completely customizable experience (let’s be real, Dairy Queen never puts enough toppings into their Blizzards); and the trillions (conservative estimate) of potential combinations available thanks to a large variety of flavors and toppings to mix and match. With so many options available it can certainly be an overwhelming experience for patrons, which likely contributes to pervasive utilization of an insufficient and flawed methodology. Therefore, it is important to highlight the limitations of the traditional method utilized and propose a new, improved methodology.


After countless observations it is apparent that customers go through the DIY froyo line in a linear manner, 1st- selecting their flavor (maybe 2+ flavors for the more adventurous), 2nd- adding toppings, and 3rd- finishing it off with some whipped cream or hot fudge. While this methodology is no doubt efficient and commonly accepted, several limitations exist which negatively impact the frozen yogurt experience.

1. Unequal distribution of toppings within frozen yogurt. By stacking toppings on top (reinvention of ‘toppings’ verbage coming in next section) two distinct levels are created. The beginning of the eating experience is predominated by the toppings with little frozen yogurt incorporated into each spoonful and the conclusion of the session is characterized by froyo only, as all toppings have been consumed.

2. Limited choices. By employing the linear methodology, the possibilities are diminished. Start with a green tea flavor base, and you have just kissed your chances of consuming some toppings in an enjoyable manner good-bye. Furthermore, you are locked into 1 theme for your entire treat. Want to create a pumpkin pie-inspired dish but you are also feeling game for some Nerd candy or fruit as well? Not possible with the linear method.

3. Risk of incompatible combinations. Years of rigorous experimentation have found this, so it should be common sense, but just so to reiterate the point…Sour Patch Kids and chunks of Snickers bars do not belong in the same bite. The biggest mistake observed in an attempt to overcome the 2nd limitation of the linear method is total disregard for palatable flavor combinations.

Clearly, this methodology is flawed and development of a new technique is of utmost importance.


To resolve the limitations of the linear method we (actually, just me!) have developed an alternative methodology – the mixed method approach. This approach deviates heavily from the linear approach as toppings are viewed as enhancers or additives, to the frozen yogurt, not just items to be spooned on the top. The steps of the mixed method approach are 1st – additive base, 2nd – frozen yogurt flavor(s) #1, 3rd – transition layer additives, 4th – frozen yogurt flavor(s) #2, 5th – final additives, and 6th – finishing touches (such as whipped cream and hot sauce). It is important to note that this methodology is not set in stone. Flexibility is allowed and encouraged. For instance, items commonly considered finishing toppings can be inserted in any layer as necessary for an optimal flavor profile.

This method overcomes issue #1 of the linear method by creating layers of additives (previously referred to as toppings) within the frozen yogurt. It overcomes issue #2 and #3 of the linear method by creating different domains and thus allowing for multiple frozen yogurt combinations, which are appropriately separated from each other. For example – a base of gummy additives will be separated from the top layer of more rich additives by a layer of frozen yogurt associated with the base, a transition  additive layer, and the frozen yogurt associated with the top additive layer. Thus, Reese’s peanut butter cups will not mix with the gummy candy.

While this method may seem straight forward and easy to carry out, at least a few practice sessions will be needed until a customer has gained enough experience to successfully carry out the mixed method approach. The most common pitfall is poor choice of additives for the transition layer. This layer needs to complement the frozen yogurt flavors above and below it as well as the base and top additive layers, in case they do mix slightly in the eating process. There is no one optimal transition layer, as it will depend upon the other choices made. Common flavor sense as well as trial and error should be used to refine options for this layer.


Several completely fabricated tightly controlled laboratory trials  and  field observations in a variety of populations across the world are in agreement that the mixed methods approach is superior to the linear method. Overall frozen yogurt experience, as well as each individual component (compatibility, flavor profile, texture, and enjoyment at each cup layer) are greater in the mixed methods approach compared to the traditional, linear methodology (p <0.001).


Change can be difficult. Thus, to help ease the transition to the mixed methods approach, a guided case study of successful use of this proposed method is presented.

Step 1: Additive Base

Step 1

In this particular instance a base of strawberries, mangos, cheesecake bites and whipped cream was first added to the bottom of the cup.

Steps 2 and 3: Frozen Yogurt #1 and Transition Additives

Step 2

The choice here was for a traditional Country Vanilla frozen yogurt and a transition toppings layer of cashews and peanut butter chips. *Note how this layer goes well with the rest of the cup.

Steps 4 and 5: Frozen Yogurt #2 and More Additives

Step 3

In this instance, NY Cheesecake flavor was chosen and toppings included Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup chunks, a brownie, and graham cracker crumbs.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Step 4

Marshmallow topping, peanut butter sauce, and hot fudge completed this particular order.


In conclusion, the author wishes to suggest that the mixed methods approach to tackling the DIY froyo bar be recognized as the gold standard and implemented immediately across populations. Typically, one would insert a sentence here about how further research is needed, particularly longitudinal trials, using other populations, and/or using different measures to assess ‘superiority’ of the mixed methods approach, but the results presented here clearly indicate that is not necessary.


FYI – in case you never caught on…this was mainly a joke. However, give the “mixed methods” approach a try the next time you are at a DIY fro yo place and you will be converted! :-)


Moving on to 2014

January 5, 2014

Life Moves Pretty Fast{Get this print here}

Resolutions? No thanks. To-Do Lists? Absolutely.

I took the past year off from a formal to-do list like I had for 2012 and am bringing it back for 2014 with a “14 in 2014″ list. Not having a set list for the past year was okay – I still got some pretty great stuff accomplished, both in the fun + the serious departments. But…an overall goal for my entire life is to live with intention and purpose. So back to the year-long to-do list it is! Some PhD related…some fitness related…some travel related…some silly! Here we go…

1. Visit 1 state I haven’t yet been to. Visit all 50 is a bucket list item of mine and it is time to tick another off the list!

2. Bench press my body weight. Thanks for an injury to kick off 2013 which had me taking off the running shoes for a while, plus another injury at the start of the summer right when I was getting back into my running game [sweet walking boot anyone?] this past year got me back in the weight room a whole lot more. And, that is just fine in my book.

Bench Press{Getting in the zone…before failing at 115#}

I am currently 10# shy of my goal (120#) and I REALLY want to hit this mark! Why lift? I like feeling strong and also that it gives me the choice to use it at seemingly random times…like an impromptu pull-up competition in a Nashville condo [true story].

nashville pullups

3. Get my laptop fixed, or buy a new one. Current one is a huge hassle to do much of anything on.

4. Complete 30 ski runs in a single day. Ambitious? Yes!…but when my cousin threw it out there as a way to celebrate her 30 birthday this coming week, well…count me in!

5. Revise (aka totally overhaul) my Teaching Philosophy. The more I teach, the more ashamed I am of the initial document I drafted up. I want to focus on creating a teaching philosophy that is both evidence based, yet also highlights my strengths as an instructor. Turns out it’s not acceptable to tell people my teaching style is sarcasm & Grey’s Anatomy references…

6. Hone in on my research interests and the direction I want to go following completion of my PhD. I love the academic environment, but have yet to find my true research passion. What can I wake up each day and be jazzed up about doing? Seeing people who found their area of expertise and are excited about it each and every day has me striving to find my niche too.

7. Visit my sister or watch her compete while she is wintering in the South. This girl is the hardest worker I know and also tells the best stories [which are true life accounts]…no contest. She spends the winters in the south with the horses so she can escape the New England winters to train and show. It’s been forever since I saw her compete and I want to make a point to do it again. Plus…visiting her means getting to go horseback riding…

Horses 2013{Christmas Beach Ride 2013}

Beach Ride 2013{Here comes the sun…}

8. Treat myself/indulge 1x/month. Beauty treatments, massages, some item I am coveting, etc. Just do it. Spend the time and $ on myself. A bit selfish, but why the heck not!

9. Get a new Passport. I haven’t gotten around to getting a new one since my was stolen a while back. I don’t have plans to leave the country, but I want to be able to jump on it if the opportunity arises.

10. Develop a pre-sleep routine to help me get more shut-eye. It’s clear what doesn’t work for me. Studying in bed, working out too close to wanting to sleep, reading e-mails, chugging too much water at night, etc. Time to get a game plan together which promotes restful sleep so I am recharged for the next day.

11. Complete the 52-week savings plan. You may have seen this floating around Facebook like I did. Saving $ as a graduate student isn’t really possible, but stashing away cash that would otherwise be used for Starbuck’s beverages so that I can buy something new, pay down my car loan, or take a trip seems like a solid [and responsible] thing to do.

12. Do volunteer work that isn’t tied to one of my professional organizations or institutional service. I used to do a whole lot of volunteer work and I miss it…a lot. I tend to focus on volunteering for things which will add a line to my CV, so this year I vow to get involved with something just for the sake of doing it and helping others, not for my own personal gain.

13. Publish 4 papers. Time to beef up that section of my CV.

14. Do something that TERRIFIES me! Exact thing TBD! It probably won’t be sky diving or swimming with sharks though….those are too scary!

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions or set goals each year? What are they? (silly and serious all welcome!)


New Year, New Granola: Ladera Granola – So Freaking Good!

January 2, 2014

Happy New Year everyone! I hate the saying, “New Year, New You” because why the need to attempt to reinvent ourselves each time January rolls around?!?! However, trying out new food products in the New Year (or actually at any point in the year) is A OK in my book! And… it just so happens that there is a new granola company hitting the shelves [and my stomach] and I am in LOVE! I received a bag of Ladera Granola‘s Original Almond Pecan on a Friday and had it finished off by Sunday…that’s how delicious it was. Slivered almonds, pecans, maple syrup and an array of spices took the standard whole grain oat base to a whole new level of granola goodness.

Ladera4Mainly I just ate it straight out of the bag because, ya know, if granola isn’t the perfect grab + go, on the run-type snack…I don’t know what is! I also added it to yogurt and enjoyed it as cereal as well. Yum, yum, and more yum!


I realize it’s fairly simple to make your own granola and completely customize it, but to be honest, when delicious granola is already packaged up I am more than happy to skip the effort and  just enjoy. Call me lazy if you will…I just prefer to call it a more efficient use of my time! :-) Why mess with success, right?

Ladera is still a small company, so you won’t likely see it on the shelf right now at your grocer unless you live in California. However, I have been told exciting news is on the way this year for the company, and I will be hosting a giveaway in the future for a lucky reader to try out some of this AWESOME granola and get as hooked as I am! In the meantime if you are still in the holiday spirit, check out Ladera’s Christmas Commercial! :-)

Are you a granola lover? If so, do you make your own or grab the ready to go bags like me?


Disclosure: The Ladera Granola sample was provided to me free of charge. I am not compensated for posting about it. Everything I write is my own, honest opinion!

Avocado Lovin’

December 12, 2013

Did you know avocados are technically a fruit? I honestly did not until a few weeks ago when one of my students informed me. I previously considered it a “vegetable”, but not really…so now I know that botanically speaking it is a fruit! To kick off the 8am MNT (Medical Nutrition Therapy) class for dietetics students I sometimes write a food on the board and have them tell me the ADA Exchange List Serving Size and how that food is categorized (i.e.-as a fat, a starch, a non-starchy veggie, etc.). One morning I threw out avocado as the food of the day. It’s ADA exchange serving size is 1 oz (~2 Tbsp.) and it is counted as a fat serving where a 1 oz. portion contains 5 g of fat – in case you wanted to know!

Avocado{An Avocado appetizer I had – and loved – back at ACSM 2012}

Shortly after this educational moment (mostly for me!) I was contacted by Kati Mora, MS, RD – founder of on behalf of the Hass Avocado Board. The question: Was I interested in posting about how I enjoy avocados as part of the Love One Today campaign? My answer: Heck yes! :-) The biggest factor in my decision (besides the fact that I eat avocados and have no problem posting about whole foods) is this stipulation: “DONT use health recommendations using fresh avocados unless you can cite the nutrition research it is from…”. A clause that health claims we write have to be evidence-based is surprisingly rare, and since I am all about promoting actual evidence vs. speculation and pseudo-science, I was IN!

Love One Today

Sometimes avocados get a bad rap for being so high in fat, but I think that view is changing as folks start to realize that they are also nutrient-dense w/a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. In fact, you can expect to see avocados on the menu more often in the new year. At the 2013 MUFSO Supershow avocados were declared “ingredient of the year”. Turns out despite protein being the macronutrient of choice with consumers these days (since, you know – carbs and fat are just terrible for us…[that's a joke]), avocados are growing in popularity thanks to their mild flavor, creamy texture and color. That’s right, color! Apparently consumers consider green synonymous with fresh and healthy food choices.

My typical consumption of avocados could best be summarized in one word: PredictableAvocados generally make an appearance in/on top of sushi rolls, as guacamole, sliced up on veggie burgers, or the simplest of all – eaten straight out of their skin with a spoon! Tasty staple usages of avocados for good reason, but too boring for a blog post! So, when I saw this dip/spread comparison chart, I knew just what to do…sub avocado in for one of these ingredients in a recipe…


Enter my experimentation using avocado as a substitute for butter in…

Pumpkin-Spiced Chocolate-Chip Cookies


One of my friends used to make Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip cookies in college and I loved them. Thick, pumpkin-chocolate goodness. In an attempt to recreate, I used the recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod but, swapped out the butter for avocado! The pictures on their site look more like standard chocolate-chip cookies, and not like the thicker, orange-ish cookies I previously had, but I gave it a go.

The result: Uhh..following directions to “Drop by large, rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes” resulted in cookies that were the SAME shape as when I had dropped them on the baking sheet. Ooookayyyy….isn’t this appealing! haha

Batch1{Batch #1}

For round #2 I removed the parchment paper…same result. For batch #3, I rolled the cookies into balls and attempted to flatten them. They looked more normal this time and like the cookies I remembered – just nothing like the lovely photos on the site I got the recipe from. Hmm….something strange is going on. Maybe it’s the avocado substitute….maybe not!

Batch2{Batch #3}

The taste: Good…but rather doughy! In fact, it seemed more like a cake/bread than a cookie as they remained very soft. I need a food scientist to trouble shoot this recipe and figure out the optimal ingredients, directions, and baking temperature!

Comparison3{Batch 1 v. Batch 3}

All in all, some kitchen fun which was a good distraction from studying for exams and writing papers leading up to finals week! If you need more avocado recipe ideas, particularly ones that may turn out more normal looking…check out this link!

I’d love to know, what is your favorite non-traditional use of avocados? If you have a recipe {that is ‘Tanya proof’ – aka easy} leave me the link, please! :-)


Disclosure: Although I did receive financial compensation for writing this post, all views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely and entirely my own and based on my own unique experiences. For nutrition information on avocados, please be sure to visit the website.

If It’s Complicated, Keep It Complicated

December 7, 2013

I recently posted the following rant on Twitter following a frustrating conversation I had regarding aspartame. I want to use this post to detail and explain why I feel this way.


I am often asked about popular nutrition claims by those around me and I love having those conversations. However, I get irritated when people without a science-based background read inaccurate, sensationalized, overly simplified nutrition information and think they understand the whole field. I think a large part of this is the fault of the media, healthcare practitioners (including Registered Dietitians), as well as self-proclaimed nutrition “experts” portraying information too simply (intentionally or not) or in scare tactic manners in their books, news articles, blog posts, and on their social media channels. The human body is complex and it’s processes very complicated. While it isn’t necessary that everyone know every detailed step of metabolic pathways or physiological processes (let’s be real – NO ONE will ever be able to), I believe it is vitally important everyone know just how complicated it is.

In fact, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s writes in his book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer that looking into the human cell is more complicated than space missions. Think about that. Would anyone dare to claim that space travel is simple? I hope not. Now realize that cellular function (and fyi- your body is composed of cells) is more complex than that!

I have been wracking my brain to think of an everyday life type of analogy that could be used to get across the point that “hey – this stuff is REALLY hard to understand”, but nothing was sufficient enough. Everything was way too simple and would a disservice to my point as well as a disgrace to molecular biologists everywhere. However – here is my attempt:

Cells are Like Homes

Imagine that your home is a cell. Just like homes come in different sizes from studio apartments to gigantic castles and mansions, so do cells in our bodies. Generally speaking, homes are fairly similar in what they contain – space for preparing food, sleeping, storage, bathing, and so on, as well as the basic functions required to “survival and function” – i.e. – paying bills, bringing needed items – such as groceries – in (aka endocytosis), removing waste products by taking out trash (aka exocytosis), and so on. Cells also have the same general structure and composition with various compartments (organelles) and items (intracellular proteins) which make them all similar. However, differences clearly do exist in what different homes contains just as cell’s have varying components. For instance, some homes have libraries filled floor to ceiling with books while others may only have a few scattered about on bookshelves or coffee tables. Some contain multiple refrigerators and freezers and thus can store more fruits, veggies, meats, frozen pizzas, etc. than those with less fridge/freezer space. Some have TONS of rooms, some have few, and all with varying levels of access which control flow of people and items within the home from open-concept all the way to password-protected safe rooms. These differences (and many others) result in different specializations between homes and cell types.

In addition to the interior of homes and cells being different and thus resulting in different functions, the manner in which individual homes and cells communicate with the outside world (extracellular fluid) and other homes (other cells) is another level of complexity added on. Imagine that your doors, windows, vents, cracks in the foundation, etc. serve as points of entry for other people, rodents, bugs, information, and items similar to how a cell uses various plasma membrane channels, transporters, or diffusion through the bilayer to allow in different molecules. Then of course your home can likely communicate with the outside world via telephone, internet, radio, and TV in a completely different manner, just as the cell can send/receive signals to and from other cells. For example, a telephone call is a direct, specific, and fast means of communication with 1 other home (or more if you have conference calling available). This could be considered synonymous with synaptic cell signaling. Or,  you could send out a blog post into the great wide cyber world, which will only be seen by people who also have internet access as well as a specific interest in the topic you posted and ability to receive it. This could be considered synonymous with endocrine signaling where 1 cell releases a hormone which travels far away and is only recognized (aka received) by cells with a receptor specific for it. Alternatively you can leave your house and knock on your neighbor’s door to ask them to do something for you, which would be similar to paracrine signaling.

In each of these cases, not only is the signal molecule (the message you are sending out) important in determining what response occurs, but so to are the receptors and intracellular machinery of the other cells (homes). For instance, if you receive your monthly bills via snail mail and you have checks, pens, envelopes, stamps, and enough $ in your bank account, you can easily pay those bills and send them off. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of one or all of those items, responding to that signal will take longer as you will need to come up with whatever is short, such as make more $. This is similar to how the response in cell’s can vary. If the molecules needed to react and generate a response already exist, the cell can respond quickly. If a specific protein is not present in large enough quantities the response will take much longer and gene expression may need to change.

Now extrapolate the above concepts from individual cells and cell-cell communication to the entire world (or entire body) and you can see it becomes even more complex. There are different regions of the world just as there are different organs and organ systems in the body. Then think about how various regulatory agents dictate aspects of your life and function of your home (must use certain materials in building, must have smoke detectors, must pay tolls to travel via car across this bridge, must do this, must do that…and so on). Well all bodily processes are also subject to regulation…and even the regulatory molecules are under the control of other regulatory molecules. It is INSANELY complicated!


If you want a picture example, which only partially gets across the point of this complexity, look at this image (click here) from Cell Signaling looking solely at Insulin Receptor signaling. While it is true that insulin binding an insulin receptor causes glucose uptake, it is also not nearly as simple as that. Several other ‘players’ are involved, all dictating how the cell responds.

Hopefully the above example gets my point across and  makes you realize the following:

1) The human body is incredibly complex and thus no one is truly an expert on all things health, nutrition, fitness (or whatever it is they are claiming to be an expert in).

2) Often times attempts to simplify nutrition/health information into black/white type statements (i.e. – carbohydrates are fattening) or labeling foods/nutrients we consume into ‘good’ v. ‘bad’ or ‘healthy’ v. ‘unhealthy’ dichotomous categories is likely a sure way to pass along inaccuracies.

One final point. Don’t take this to mean that if someone asks you for dietary advice to fit their nutrient needs, lifestyle, preferences, and will help them reach their goals that you must give them all of the information from a semester long nutrition course 1st (or entire degree first). Not at all. In fact, that is something that should be provided in a simple and straightforward manner. “Eat all 3 macronutrients in evenly spaced intervals throughout your waking hours from a variety of food sources.” My point is don’t attempt to bring in scientific information to support your recommendations in an overly simplified manner (i.e. – “research shows saturated fats are GOOD, not bad, put butter in your coffee”) as that is where the inaccuracies creep in and get passed along. This creation of ‘mutant’ (aka inaccurate) information and its spread leads to problems for ourselves and society as a whole in a manner similar to how hyperactive mutant forms of Ras (a GTPase protein) are resistant to regulation by Ras GAPS (GTPase activating proteins), which would normally inactivate the protein (I know, that seems odd based upon its name…but trust me), and thus promote the development of cancer….

I hope this post was both helpful and informative. Until next time…



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