Understanding Carbohydrates Part 8
Over the last articles we have discussed in length the importance of the types of carbohydrates we eat, how they contribute to fat gain or loss through their effect on insulin and how they affect our circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycles) through their effects on cortisol. In this article we are going to take a step back and have a good honest look at the quantity of carbohydrates we eat. How we determine quantity of carbohydrates we eat and how to integrate the quantity of carbohydrates we are given into our diet to have the desired effect on our hormones through correct timing.
For the purpose of this article we will be focusing on carbohydrate quantity from the perspective of an individual looking to lose body fat. At vision we prescribe clients with an accurate carbohydrate quantity based on their lean body mass, activity level and body type. Many would consider our nutrition plans as low carbohydrate and this is exactly the case on a fat loss program. It is for this reason that we must focus on using this specific limited amount of carbohydrates more as a tool to regulate hormone function such as cortisol and insulin to restore the body to a state of thriving rather than surviving.
The most commonly held dieting belief regarding carbohydrates is to eat most of them in the morning and taper the quantity off as the day progresses so you can "burn them off". If you have tried this on a lower carbohydrate diet you may have experienced serious cravings toward the end of the day, low energy and a foggy lack of focus not to mention little willpower and energy to exercise. As discussed in article 6 our body uses cortisol to take energy out of our stores in fat and muscle tissue to produce energy that we usually get from eating those bowls of carbohydrate in the morning. We are then left with few carbohydrates later in the day to give us energy to focus and exercise after work not to mention cravings to boot. If we save the majority of our carbohydrates for lunch afternoon tea and dinner it will be easier for us to manage the carbohydrate cravings all dieters are familiar with in the afternoon and evenings. The limited quantity of carbohydrates we are given should be reserved for promoting post lunchtime energy and good quality sleep as discussed in article 7. The fact is most sedentary individuals don't need any extra carbohydrates for energy. We gain much of our morning energy from stored sugars and fats and the protein and fat ingested from breakfast and morning tea. In the afternoon and evenings we use energy stores as well as good quality carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
When it comes to fat loss it is important to understand that you must deserve your carbs. Generally speaking there is absolutely no need to have extra carbohydrates after a workout if you are overweight and trying to lose body fat. After an intense weights session or hard cardio session a Vision whey protein shake will suffice to spike your blood sugar straight back up to normal. Low carbohydrate diets works very effectively for fat loss if the carbohydrates are used to manage our hormonal functions rather than provide energy. Think of carbohydrates more as a tool than as an energy source to maintain healthy body rhythms during a low carb diet.
Cutting carbs or drastically reducing your carbohydrates is not the answer to losing fat. It is true that by completely cutting carbs rapid fat loss is achieved however this is short lived and often our body's biochemistry overrides our will power and we crack and go on a carb-athon putting all the weight lost straight back on. Think of limiting your carbohydrate intake to just enough to maintain energy levels throughout the afternoon and to ensure good sleep. Now this does not mean eating a bowl of pasta the way my Nonna (grandmother) used to serve or devouring a takeaway container of Chinese fried rice at dinner, stick to the good carbs. Generally speaking we want to avoid grains as much as possible. Stick to high nutrient dense foods such as legumes and vegetables. These foods have low carbohydrate density, high nutrient density and high fibre meaning that you can eat lots of it. They will also provide slow release of sugar into the blood stream regulating your blood sugar and keeping your cortisol down and allowing for good sleep.
- Save your carbs for the afternoon and Keep the carbs clean - legumes vegetables
- minimize fruit as these carbs are high sugar and do not provide the long lasting energy we need
- Think of carbohydrates less as an energy source and more as a tool to reset your bodies rhythm
- Grains should be absolutely minimized and if used stick to whole unprocessed grains
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