I have been having a little discussion with friends the other day about dieting and cutting off carbs to lose weight and it has inspired me to share my thoughts with you all.
I know a lot of people who went on a high-protein, low-carb diet for a few weeks to lose some extra kilos, and while high-protein diet can help you lose weight in the short term, it will not help you keep the weight off in the long run, as it is difficult to keep any restrictive diet (meaning extremely limiting a macro nutrient) for a longer period of time. It creates stress in the body, and the consumption of too much animal protein can make your body acidic (see my Acidic vs Alkaline post here), which can speed up the aging process. This type of diet will certainly not make you feel happy and energized either as the body needs carbs for energy. In short words – it is not a lifestyle or long-term solution. It could be a good start to lose some weight in the beginning, but at a high cost. This post focuses on how to keep losing weight or maintain it, while still enjoying some carbohydrates.
I don’t like talking about diet as a program in terms of days/weeks in which you restrict the amount and types of food you eat, obsess about calories and weight and get all stressed out. I like to talk about diet as a way of living, foods that you eat every day, that keep you nourished, energized and help you lose or maintain your ideal weight. The difference between those two diet definitions is huge – one is built on deprivation (think stress), and the other – on nourishment (think joy), which one sounds more sustainable to you?
And here comes the carb topic. I simply don’t believe that you can achieve that second definition of diet if you cut off (or extremely limit) an entire macronutrient that is so important for your body.
Let me clarify one thing first – I am talking about the good carbs here, and not about the bad carbs, which I think, we should all limit. The good carbs are the ones that are slow releasing, as they are complex carbs that contain fiber and actually can lower the release of sugar/glucose into the blood stream.
The fast releasing carbs (such as sugar and refined flour and foods) are the bad guys you want to avoid if you want to lose weight. They send a sudden burst of energy to your body which requires insulin to balance it. This can contribute to blood sugar imbalances and stresses your body.
Focus on the following carbs if you want to lose weight and keep it off:
- Resistant starch: it functions similarly as fiber in the sense that parts of the starch passes through the digestive tract unchanged, as they are resistant to digestion. Some more info on resistant starch here.
- Foods high in fiber: fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and seeds. Fiber is great as it gives you a sense of fullness and it helps with digestion.
- Complex carbs – get slow releasing energy that will not spike your blood sugar level but can actually help balance it out.
Eating the right kind of carbohydrates is the secret to staying healthy and slim for life! Eating carbs will actually make you eat less (fiber gives you that feeling of fullness), and feel more energized; it will improve your metabolism and reduce your cravings! It’s all about distinguishing between GOOD and BAD carbs!
So after discovering which carbs to eat and which ones to avoid, there is another thing you should keep in mind if you want to trim down– TIMING!
When is it best to eat a meal, rich in carbohydrates?
As you might have already guessed, the best time for a carb meal is in the morning or latest noon. The reason for that is glycogen. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose and it is mainly found in the liver and the skeletal muscles. When we exercise this glycogen is converted back into glucose and is used by the body as an energy source. Heard about the carbo-loading athletes before a sport event? Think pasta before a marathon. But when we don’t exercise this glycogen is converted into fat, as we can only store a day’s supply in the liver. By eating them in the morning, you are giving your body the chance to burn it off throughout the day.
To wrap up the post – make sure you eat the right carbs during the first half of the day and do some exercise to burn them off. Balance it out –eat your good carbs regularly but in small portions. This will avoid bingeing on them. Enjoy them but with moderation.
Examples of good carbs to enjoy and still lose weight:
- Green vegetables
- Beans and lentils
- Acorn squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole wheat pasta
- Brown rice
- Rye bread