Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Carbs: friend or foe?

A few of the girls at work today were questioning me about my diet whilst I was trying to lose weight. What did I eat? What didn't I eat? Do I eat at ALL? The common question which kept reoccurring was, "but what about carbs? Surely you don't eat carbs? You must have cut out bread and potatoes?!" It makes perfect sense then for my next blog post to be all about carbs; are they the enemy or something we can still enjoy whilst losing weight?

(Image from: http://myyearofsweat.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/oh-carbs-how-i-love-and-hate-you/)

Truth be told, I haven't cut anything out of my diet all together. The main reason that diets fail is people attempting to cut out everything "bad" and then giving in to cravings a few days later and giving up! The famous yo-yo dieting pattern is not something I have any desire to fall into so, if I fancy a chocolate bar, I will damn well eat a chocolate bar! Ultimately, it's all about balance and portion control; calories in and out. Eating smaller portions of food and making sure that snacks fit into your calorie allowance.

Don't cut out food groups, cut down on calories! But remember, the absolute minimum anyone should cut their calories to for weight loss is 1200. It's dangerous to go lower and your body wouldn't be getting the energy or nutrients it needs!

I'm really against all these quick fix diets, "low carb", "5:2", "the cambridge diet" because I think that weight loss is about more than this. It should be a permanent lifestyle change that we can maintain forever to live healthier and more fulfilled lives. By all means if you want to condemn yourself to never eating potatoes again in an attempt to lose weight do, but there are easier ways!

A healthy plate should actually be 1/3 carbs! 1/3 vegetables and then the other 1/3 should be made up of protein, dairy and fats. Like this:

(Image from: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/eatwell-plate.aspx)

And there are lots of reasons why carbs are so essential to diet. Most importantly, carbs are the best source for the body to get energy. They are the fuel the body needs to function properly! However, they also contain a lot of important nutrients and vitamins which would be missed out on if cut from the diet. One thing I didn't realise when I started my fitness regime is that fruit is actually a carb. If you aim to cut carbs out of your diet you would therefore have to cut out fruit as well which would leave you seriously deficient in many vitamins!

Moreover, eating carbs means that the protein you eat can be used for building muscle rather than simply fuelling the body. Anyone who wants muscle and definition and not just to be skinny therefore needs to eat carbs in order to get maximum benefits out of the protein they eat! And, obviously, returning to energy once more, carbs will enable you to work out with far more energy and intensity than otherwise further increasing the benefits of your exercise regime!

Coincidentally, Danny posted a fitness tip concerning carbs today:

"Weight Loss Myths #2

Zero Carb Diets, this is the best diet right?!

Cutting carbs is a pointless method of fat loss unless you are extremely low in body fat and want to be extra shredded, and let's face it, you wouldn't be here reading this if you were 5% body fat!

The correct approach is to cut your calories down all together, and make sure you get a good amount of protein for building muscle, carbs for a good amount of energy and fats to keep your body ticking."

(Check out the link to his website in the sources below)

So, following this line of thought, here are my personal top tips for removing the fear from eating carbs!

(Image from: http://alovelettertofood.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/7-surprising-facts-about-carbs.html)

1) Eat complex carbs like brown pasta, cereals and whole wheat bread. Although calories are largely the same between the two, complex carbs are absorbed slower making you feel fuller for longer and providing a longer release of energy.

2) Eat early. We've already established that carbs are great for energy, therefore its common sense that they should be eaten earlier in the day! Try and make your evening meal a low carb option because if we eat carbs straight before bed the body doesn't have the chance to use the energy and stores it as fat. Eating carbs at lunchtime instead will provide energy for the rest of the day and ensure that its used rather than stored!

3) Eat in balance! Make sure that carbs aren't making up more than 1/3 of your dinner plate. I am a huge fan of lasagne and chips but do you really need potato when there's already pasta in there? The answer is no.

4) Eat carbs when you need them. If you're spending a day lounging on the couch without  moving then a high carb meal probably isn't the most essential or beneficial thing. However, if you're on your feet all day at work or heading to an intense work out at the gym then carbs are not only great but essential!

Fundamentally, we shouldn't be cutting anything out of our diets just simply cutting down on our eating and increasing our exercise! Even the occasional McDonalds won't kill you or make you fat. It's a cliché but it really is about everything in moderation!



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