Carbohydrates have a very mixed reputation in the health and fitness industry and are usually the bugbear of many a person trying to lose weight, whilst the truth is that the term ‘carbohydrates’ is a very broad label that can’t just be banded about as loosely as it is.
Starting very simply carbohydrates provide our body with its primary source of fuel (which is especially important when we exercise regularly), without them our simple bodily functions will suffer, with too many of them we gain weight, so where’s the middle ground? And why do so many people support ‘zero carb diets’?
In my experience a lot of the ‘fad diets’ and plans that utilise very minimal carbohydrate intakes just do not work, mainly because they are unsustainable. The main premise is that by starving the body of carbohydrates we switch to utilising energy from stored fat, and whilst this does in fact work it usually does so with severe drops in energy levels, intestinal discomfort and a general struggle to stick to the ‘plan’ and that final point is key, being able to stick to a plan that works is critical in chasing your goals! I am a strong believer in lowering carbohydrate intake to a point, but am much more interested in eating smarter, therefore I advise staying away from zero carb diets and make your goals a lot more achievable. SwiftPT fat loss and toning programmes utilise this and explain in more depth how to exactly portion out your carbohydrate intake. However the main take home message here is that I would stay away from the zero or very low carbohydrate diets that tend to do the rounds!
Understanding what exactly carbohydrates do is also critical, they provide energy as already stated but when ingested they trigger an insulin spike, this insulin acts to store the carbohydrates, any carbohydrates that aren’t currently required by the body are typically stored, as fat. Controlling this insulin spike is critical, carbohydrates can be classed as high glycaemic or low glycaemic, this refers to how much of an insulin spike you trigger when you consume them. Sugary foods such as sweets, white pasta, white bread are considered high glycaemic, therefore promoting a greater insulin spike and consequently resulting in greater storage of carbohydrates, great for athlete recovery or those gaining weight, not so great for those chasing fat loss! So we want to aim for low glycaemic foods ideally, lowering the insulin response and reducing fat gain. A few examples of low glycaemic foods are below:
- Brown Bread
- Brown Pasta
- Brown Rice
- Starchy vegetables
It is also worth noting at this point that the insulin effects of many foods can be lowered even further by having an intake of protein or fat alongside the carbohydrates by slowing down the processing and absorption of the carbohydrate. Hence fully rounded meals with a balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates are recommended.
So the outcome of this is by making a few simple changes to the type of carbohydrate you eat and what you eat them with, can have massive effects on how your body operates, simultaneously allowing you to use carbohydrates in a fat loss plan and finding that plan a lot more attainable as a lifestyle, the key here is to utilise the correct carbohydrates in the correct portion sizes to achieve your goals, details of which are mapped out in the full SwiftPT plans!