The Good The Bad & The Ugly
One of my main aims in writing these pieces is to try to help people understand that there is no “one way” to achieve your goals. If you ever read an article proclaiming “THIS IS THE ONLY WAY”, chances are someone’s selling a book or they happen to have lost weight, gained muscle or ran their one and only marathon and now they have the answer for everybody in the world!
Carbohydrates, over Fat and Protein combined, divide arguments and create heated debate more than any other fad diet or lifestyle eating choice, especially when is comes to losing weight.
What is so often missed in the debate is depending on what your goals are and what type of exercise you do creates completely different carbohydrate needs.
For example, the eating habits of Phil Heath (no 1 body builder), Ronda Rousey (no 1 female MMA fighter) and Michael Phelps (most decorated Olympic swimmer) will be completely different to each other, but at no time do you look at any of these people and say wow they’re fat or wow they look so unhealthy, and I promise you, they eat tons and tons of Carbs!
So why do people fear the carb and why do some believe ridding carbs has changed their lives. Well simply because both statements can be true.
Life doesn’t happen in a Lab, many factors come into play, unfortunately we too often read the line “cut out carbs lose weight” and not read up on the how why and what?
As the end of year approaches it’s going to dawn on us we’ve been stuffing ourselves with all the pies potatoes and cakes we can get our Christmas/new years hands on, guilt is already setting in for some (I know as you’ve emailed me asking for help) and if guilt’s setting in you’re already reading up on the fastest ways to lose your gut or shrink your butt in 30 days.
So lets start with the good side to cutting Carbs on January 1st.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are energy-providing nutrients. The body receives 4 calories per 1 gram of carbohydrates consumed. Carbohydrates are separated into simple carbohydrates (sugar), complex carbohydrates (fiber) and starch.
Carbohydrates can also be separated into groups based on the Glycemic Index, which measures how high and how quickly blood glucose levels change after eating carbohydrates.
How are carbohydrates used in the body?
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. They are easily digested and broken down into glucose, which the body uses to perform its numerous functions. In contrast, protein and fat are more difficult to digest and are needed to build tissues and cells in the body. For this reason, most of your energy (calories) should come from carbohydrates
So if so important why cut down on them?
The reason cutting carbs for a lot of the general public can work well in the early stages are down to the amount of processed foods we consume normally. Processed foods are packed with sugar, sweetener, chemicals, they are heated, broken, frozen, reheated and placed in a friendly package that instills the image that you’re eating wonderful healthy food. For example check out a coffee bean tuna fish sandwich, how can something so simple have so many ingredients?
What you’ll notice if you check the labels is these foods are packed with carbohydrates and will also as a double whammy have very little nutrients left in them not good for the body, the mind or the waistline.
So what happens when you go low carb?
The basis of all low carb diets is that you are forced to eat more natural foods. To stay low carb you essential eat meat, eggs, a little dairy green vegetables and a little fruit. It’s very hard to find packaged processed foods that aren’t very high in carbs.
If a client asked me should I eat processed food or natural food? Even if its low carb it’s a no brainer.
The problem with low carb diets comes in 3 ways:
- Staying low carb becomes dull after a few weeks or even a few months if your will is strong, and yes the scale says you’ve lost 15 pounds but is that the full story? No, sadly a lot of that weight is water, don’t get me wrong some is fat as well, but mostly water. People who live by the number a scale says are doomed as our body’s can fluctuate as much as 2 to 7 pounds in a day due to many different factors from the time of day, to water, to recently exercising. After the water loss has slowed so does the scale numbers, this is when you start to feel like there’s no hope and you might as well have a muffin or cake as a treat? This turns in to what’s called a carb relapse and within a few days carbs are all you’ve been eating, the body starts storing water again the scale goes up and you feel a failure.
The sad fact is you actually did really well! You lost a couple of pounds of real fat, you cut out the processed food that destroys your body and health and for a while you felt amazing, but because you went only by the scale numbers and you didn’t realize most of those 15 pounds on the scale where water you think you failed.
- When we start a new extreme diet we like to start an extreme exercise plan. Carbs are essential to the body for fuel, it’s what the body loves to use and when we start our new extreme exercise plan AND remove the body’s most preferred fuel source we’re in for a bumpy ride. Now this is where Paleo eaters will jump up and down and talk about the body using fat instead of carbs in a process called ketosis and how none of us need carbs. Yes I believe you I promise, it’s just most people starting a diet miss the point. I have no problem with paleo, it’s a good method of eating and if followed properly can work for a lot of people, but most new January 1st dieters take things to the extreme, they remove almost all carbs eat only bacon and eggs and try to do hours of cardio to lose as much weight as possible.
What ends up happening is the body feels under attack. Instead of feeling good and looking healthy which you do at the beginning you start to become worn down tired and in the end once again you will break this diet and go back to old habits. If you aren’t getting your desired results you might as well go back to pizza, chips and beer right?
- You set short term panicked and impossible goals that by February 1st you’ll have a six-pack or a butt like Jennifer Lopez.
My advice (and its just that) advice, is if you want to truly get anywhere you need to give yourself a break and set some realistic goals for yourself. We all have to start somewhere.
Here’s 3 ways you could do things differently this year:
- Start off smaller and slower, your body doesn’t like extreme anything. Write down a list of changes you’d like to see in 6 months. Fit into an new dress, be riding the bikes with the kids without being out of breath, be regularly exercising 4 days a week and if you like numbers to motivate you start looking at Fat Loss % not numbers on scales.
- You don’t have to go low carb to go healthy. Set your self the goal of trying to drink 8 glasses of water each day and saying Monday to Friday I’m going to stick to natural foods. Fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, nuts, olive oil and lean meats (chicken, turkey, fish) and I will avoid any processed foods: bread, packaged food, and fast food.
- Allow the cheat day! Pick a day usually Saturday or Sunday and say to yourself this is a no worry day. If I want pizza tonight I will, if I want ice cream no problem. Not only will a cheat day not damage your progress it will also allow you to stick to your goals for the long term. This is not a race. I promise if you go this route you will find yourself choosing the healthier foods by choice not desperation and if your doing it at a more reasonable rate not only will your still see amazing results in a short amount of time you will also not have to be reading up on the latest quick fix diet in a years time.
Good Luck and happy holidays