Monday, October 24, 2011

To carb or not to carb

      I'm not a nutritionist, so I'm not going to try to sound like I know all the science behind food and how we process it because I don't.  Instead I just want to share a few things I learned while fine tuning the foods I choose throughout the day. Today's tips are on carbs.

        I've done no carb diets, low carb diets, and eat every carb I see ( guess what happened on that one) diets. Depending on the current fad trends, carbohydrates have been unfairly cast as the bad guy.  Like most everything else in life the answer is someplace in the middle.  Carbohydrates in itself aren't evil, which ones you pick and how you eat them can be. I've said previously that carbs and fats react chemically to each other, so it is generally not a good idea to indulge in both heavily.  That said, carbohydrates serve a very important function, your body's favorite fuel.  One of the reasons Low carb diets are so successful in short term weight loss is because when the body is deprived of its favorite fuel it goes next to fats.  But a low carb diet doesn't work long term especially if you have any athletic aspirations.  Most athletes, runners, trainers, etc. will tell you that if you want to have energy, your body need to have carbs.  How much energy you use and need should determine how many carbs you eat and when. Carbs can be most efficiently used after a workout. They go to your glycogen stores as fuel for next time.

       If you are an elite athlete you will probably carboload pastas and breads both before and after a race or extreme workout.  Here's a hint... you are probably not an elite athlete.  Your body probably doesn't need to completely refuel.  Figure out what you've burned and how many calories you "earned" (remember your budget) and use that as a guide of how much you should have.  I made this mistake when I first started running. First I was finishing the HCG protocol and having no carbs, but then decided "I'm a runner, I need lots of carbs."  BZZZZ wrong again Betsy. Just because I was running didn't mean my body had magically changed into a metabolic wonder.  I still had to abide by my calorie budget and fit in the carbohydrates and the calories they contained.

   I found what really works for me for energy and weight management is the 50/25/25 diet. That's where 50% of your calories come from carbs, 25% from protein, and 25% from fat.  Does that sound like too much math?  It's not really that bad once you figure out a few things.  One gram of carbs is 4 cal. One gram of Protein is 4 cal. One gram of fat is 9 calories. So if I had a daily budget of 1800 calories, then 50% of those should come from carbs or 900 calories. 900 divided by 4 is 225. So I should have 225 grams of carbohydrates a day.  If you are not exercising you might need less, or if you are training really hard you might need more.  Let your weight and your energy level be your guide.

   As far as which carbs to eat, that's up to you. As always I recommend moderation. I like whole grains, but sometimes I want sugar.  Sugary snack are often packed with fat. So when I have these treats, they are usually small and under 100 calories.  Try to pick the better option if it's available; long grain rice, whole wheat, black beans.  But if you are having dinner somewhere that has a white roll and that's it, (Texas Roadhouse, yumm) then no big deal.  The biggest thing is to accurately chart how many calories you spent and stay on budget and you'll be fine.

   A word of caution about water weight. Water weight is not fat.  Carbohydrates can have the effect of making your body retain water.  Double edged sword. Means if you suddenly cut carbs you can lose 5 lbs or more of water weight very quickly, like 2 or 3 days. But is that really meaningful weight loss?  No it was just water, and water is not fat so we didn't get any skinnier. The other side of the coin is that when eating carbs for enregy we sometimes get the water storage that goes along with it.  Don't flip out if you are up a pound or 2 after a heavy carb meal or day.  It's just water, not fat, so you didn't really get bigger. Just calm down and drink lots of water and the water weight will take care of itself.

Here are a few hints:


  • A lot of carbs at once is usually hard to process unless you are storing energy after a long owrkout (3 hours or so long)
  • For energy before a workout try a small snack of simple carbs (fruit or chocolate) for a quick burst of energy
  • If you have been without carbs for a while from dieting, ease back into them slowly. Reintroduce them one at a time so your body can readjust how it burns fuel
  • Think if you really need them. Do you really need that big stack of crackers mushed up in your chili? Or are you just used to doing so? Does it taste better with em or can you live without.
  • In moderation, one roll is sufficient 
  • If you have a lot of carbs in one meal, go low in the next

Thanks for reading. I've had a lot of fun this week. Now that I have a few posts under my belt I realize I better post less often or else I will run out of stuff to talk about. So until next time stick to your plan. Dont' give up, You're worth it! 

   

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