Good carbs, bad carbs, right carbs, wrong carbs; what’s a girl to eat?

A couple of weeks ago, I described my current relationship with carbohydrates as a ‘roller coaster’; an endless cycle of carb cravings, indulgence and blood sugar highs and lows.

Your comments to the video confirmed my belief that I am not alone in my tendency to be drawn to sweets; particularly when tired, stressed, pre-menstrual and super busy. (Isn’t that what June is usually like for mom’s of school age kids???)

In an attempt to understand why my usual strategies for maintaining control over my diet weren’t working, I decided to do some research. For me, intellectualizing a problem is the first step to solving it (I was the nerdy kid who played ‘school’ during summer vacation). I created a reading list and got to work.

I decided to start with the 2nd book on the list; I’ve read it before and the arguments presented made sense to me then (given the things I already know about nutrition and physiology and my own body’s response to certain foods).

The book is based on the premise that hormones determine whether your body burns or stores fat. Too much of one hormone?  Fat storage is turned on and you gain weight. Keep those hormones in check? Fat burning ramps up and the weight comes off. The trick is understanding how food affects your hormones and manipulating your diet to get the desired results.

According to my answers to the book’s questionnaire, I am a classic ‘mixed burner’.

My body uses both sugar (derived from the protein in my muscles) and fat as sources of fuel, and can shift easily between the two according to the lifestyle I choose to adopt. Too many carbohydrates? Elevated stress? Inactivity? Menopause? Each will push a mixed burner into the fat-storing, muscle-burning state. Low-calorie diets that may have worked when they were younger will lose effectiveness as they age.

All of this rings true for me.

According to the authors, my diet should consist primarily of

  • vegetables and fruit (except for the very sweet ones; banana, pineapple, watermelon, mango and grapes)
  • lean protein and
  • nuts (up to 1 cup per day)
I should minimize my consumption of dairy (using it as a condiment only), avoid alcohol (except at my once-a-week cheat meal) and eat starch (including starchy veggies and fruits) according to ‘bites’. Just 5-10 bites of starchy carbohydrates at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
fitknitchick food
The other dietary recommendations are all things I currently do; eating 3 meals and 2-4 snacks daily, snacking on protein and veggies, increasing water intake and reducing caffeine.
The second part of the book talks about  exercise; in particular, the type of exercise you should be doing to ‘spark’ your metabolism and shift into fat burning and muscle building. No surprise here; weight training is key, compound movements are advocated over isolation exercises, short, high-intensity workouts are superior to long slow distance. These elements form the foundation of the way I currently exercise, so I expect the nutrition information to be more important for my own personal fat loss goals.
Perhaps the three most important take-home points about the metabolic approach for me are;
  • count bites of starchy carbohydrates rather than measure out portions or count calories
  • pay attention to how your body responds to the level of starchy carbohydrates you’re eating (if you’re eating 5 bites per meal, are you hungry before or after eating? do you experience cravings between meals? how are your energy levels?). Adjust your ‘bite number’ up or down accordingly, with the goal of eliminating cravings and improving energy
  • combine high intensity rest-based interval training with daily walking to improve my hormonal profile

Now that birthday season is over in my house (3 birthdays in 10 days means lots of extra dessert nights, more wine than usual and a box or two of dark chocolate caramels…), my plan is to give the Metabolic Effect Diet a test drive for the next 8 weeks or so.

I’ll be monitoring my energy levels and paying close attention to cravings and feelings of hunger until I figure out exactly how many bites of starchy carbs are best for me.

I’m also starting a new workout plan The New Rules of Lifting For Life: An All-New Muscle-Building, Fat-Blasting Plan for Men and Women Who Want to Ace Their Midlife Exams based on core strength, whole body compound exercises and high intensity intervals which should further enhance fat burning and mood stabilization. The first two phases of the program will overlap with my new nutrition plan, at which point, I’ll recap my progress and thoughts about both.

I still plan on reading and reviewing Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health and The Carb Sensitivity Program: Discover Which Carbs Will Curb Your Cravings, Control Your Appetite and Banish Belly Fat because both sound intriguing and the best researchers compare and contrast their findings!

P.S. June is gearing up to be a big month for challenges! I’m also participating in Sweet Tooth Sweet Life’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge and Running Loving Living’s Virtual 5K.

Have you read any of the books on my summer reading list?

Are you a ‘self-help’ book reader like me? What’s your favourite healthy lifestyle self-help title?

Looking for an inexpensive way to jump-start your journey to fitness and health? Join my online Bootcamp today! Get more info by clicking the image below.

Looking for an inexpensive way to jump-start your journey to fitness and health? Join my online Bootcamp today! Get more info by clicking the image below.


  1. for me it was 100000% paying attention to how my body responded.
    THATS why I went GF 19 years ago—even though I had no idea what Id cut out was gluten 🙂
    Miz recently posted…My workouts.My Profile

    • I totally agree and that’s one of the things I love most about this book. You’re required to pay attention to how your body feels and adjust your starchy carbs up or down depending on feeling of satiation, deprivation and cravings!

      Also, counting bites really does force one to be mindful, and slow down whilst eating; always a challenge with 3 noisy kids at the table!

      • AGREED! Removing wheat-containing foods simply made my body feel better in every way.

        Even after that, I recently read “Wheat Belly” and found it… well, convincing, sure, but he really hits you over the head with the same thing over and over. The first half was good but then I kind of got over it. I’m still collecting more books to read — always seeking to be the best ‘me’ I can. Writing down your other titles 🙂
        Meredith @ DareYouTo recently posted…Quinoa with Greens, Tomatoes, and FetaMy Profile

        • Meredith, I haven’t started Wheat Belly yet, but I have a friend you lost 20 lbs by following the book’s guidelines and online recipes. So, I’m curious and will get to it later this week.
          Information is power!

  2. Great post & so much info! I am eager to hear how this all works for you!!!! I also know people that have done the New Rules book so want to hear that too! 🙂

    Like Carla, I have had to learn to listen to my bod all thru life.. it really makes a difference & the older I get, the more it help to “Listen to the bod”! 😉
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & Sending Positive Thoughts!My Profile

    • I’m starting the strength training program tomorrow. I love Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove’s program; lots of big moves involves and this one let’s you pick and choose to create your own program at each step. I’ll be posting about mine, for sure!

      This whole ‘listening to your body’ is new to me. I’ve been lean most of my life and able to eat anything I wanted without repercussions. It’s all changing now with peri ‘mental-pause’. But I’m slowly learning 🙂

  3. Do they say how big the bites can be? Because I can fit a lot of food in my mouth 😉

    JK, I wish you the best of luck! I think you will love the latest New Rules book – those guys know their stuff. I am a big proponent of their earlier New Rules of Weightlifting for Women. Changed my life, for real!
    Cara recently posted…Michelob ULTRA Light Cider for Gluten-Free Summer Sippin’My Profile

    • I thought of that too; I can open my mouth really wide if there’s something tasty on my fork!

      I think that’s part of the investigative nature of the program. When you take 10 giant bites, how do you feel!

      I loved TNROL for Women and NROL for Abs as well. I know I’m going to love this program too; lots of big lifts in it! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. I listen to my body and how it reacts to certain foods!

    This was a great post! Thanks!
    Kierston recently posted…FFA Competitor Spotlight: Meaghan KestertonMy Profile

    • Paying attention is so important, isn’t it?
      Why is it so hard to do?
      Loving your FFA competitor series; I live vicariously through you guys who are brave enough to wear those tiny competitor suits!

  5. What a great post. I appreciate the emphasis on seeing how your body responds to what we put in it. I think that’s key. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for dropping by and commenting Katie. I’m thinking that I really should keep a food diary and draw emoticons in it before and after my meals!

  6. I love the bit about counting bites. I had never thought of it that way. And I love short, high intensity exercise bursts, yet hate high impact, so it’s always a challenge. In summer, though, I can do high impact AND high intensity in the pool at the U.
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted…You Should be Qi-Dancing, Yeah!My Profile

    • I think the ‘bites’ concept is brilliant! You don’t have to worry about measuring tools so you can do it when you’re away from your own kitchen as well.
      Do you teach water aerobics? I didn’t know that about you!

      Off to check out your Qi-Dancing post!

  7. I’m interested in getting the book…Searching amazon as we speak…I go into trends where I do eliminate carbs for a week or two, and stick to only low glycemic fruits. I do this as a form of detox/slim down after eating to much bread or alcohol. I do want to get to the point where, I don’t feel the need to cut out a complete food group from my diet in order to feel my best. I find when I do that, my skin suffers the consequences (acne.) PS: I have alcohol on my cheat days too, on date night! ;o) Thx for sharing!

    • I hear you; I don’t want to cut any food group out of my diet (except brussels sprouts). That’s the main reason I haven’t fully committed myself to a paleo eating plan.

      Let me know if you get the book and what your thoughts are after reading it!

  8. Love New Rules! I started the program last year but then found CrossFit so I sort of lost track, but I love what it emphasizes and the results people I know have gotten! Big fan.
    Carly recently posted…Burpee Challenge & Another Travel WODMy Profile

  9. You sound like me. I’m cutting for a competition, so startchy carbs are virtually non existant. Lots of heavy lifting and sprint intervals. My energy level peaks in the middle of the day, but I’m pretty much useless in the evening lol

    • How are you feeling without the starchy carbs?
      A good friend of mine did figure competitions for a few years and she walked around in a haze for the last 12 weeks…

      • The haze part I think I’ve gotten over, it’s the exhaustion that I feel in the early part of the day that I just can’t get with. I’m typically an early riser and I’m just sooooo tired in the mornings now. Once I get going I’m okay, but getting motivated to do anything is an issue.
        Viane recently posted…Choose Skin HealthMy Profile

  10. I don’t do this as often as I should, but having a food diary is so important to recalling how certain foods make you feel! I remember going through a bout of tummy pain and when I went to the doctor she questioned me on specifics…I couldn’t recall exact details which could have helped lead to a diagnosis. You’re body tells you so much…if you listen!
    Talia @ Bite Size Wellness recently posted…Meatless Monday: Start your Week Meat-FreeMy Profile

    • Yes, a food diary is key! I like keeping track electronically; MyFitness pal is great for that because it lets you see macronutrients and micronutrients for the day.

  11. I have a couple of those books on reserve at the library… did find an older book called The Metabolic Effect and it has me pegged as carb sensitive and I agree for sure. I am going to keep on this and have been adding more nuts to my daily eats and cutting back on ’empty’ starchy carbs… so far so good.

    I have read the New Rules and see it is getting lots of attention right now. Maybe I should have another look.
    Elle recently posted…Get Your Runner’s Feet Get Ready For Sandal SeasonMy Profile

    • I think it’s the same book Elle. My copy has the word ‘new’ inserted into the title, so maybe they’ve updated it?

      New Rules rocks!

  12. I love this kind of reading… although I’m terrible at following through and tweaking my diet to see how it affects me. Overally, I am sure I could cut back on some carbs and sugar, but as a long distance runner, my body needs those, so it seems to be working for now. I’ll be curious to see what you find out as you experiment!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…Fitness Bucket list and a winnerMy Profile

    • It’s not carbs that are bad for you (fruit, veggies and dairy are all full of carbs), it’s the starchy carbs that tend to shift your metabolism towards fat storing. And worst of all are the ‘white’ starchy carbs, including white flour and white sugar. It’s those in particular, that I’m eliminating!

      I’ll keep you posted!

  13. Terrific post…pretty much sounds like my “lifestyle” plan.
    Brad Gouthro recently posted…Vegetarian Meatless Meatballs Recipe [Video]My Profile

  14. the Metabolic Effect Diet sounds about right to me. And a good one to follow.

    I know, carbs are a hard one to avoid – when i need a quick breakfast or a late afternoon snack. I try to fight them off all the time, but they keep making there way back on my plate. LOL. Will have to check out this book. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl recently posted…30 Delicious Green Smoothie RecipesMy Profile

  15. Great post! I look forward to hearing how you do on it!! I am a carb addict and I know I would benefit from reducing my intake but I just love bread sooo much!
    Toni @runninglovingliving recently posted…What I Learned During 4 Rainy Miles…..My Profile

    • It’s actually not so hard to cut back on the starches. Meal time is the easiest for me. Snack time is a bit more difficult…

  16. It’s difficult to find educated people in this particular topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!
    dietas para bajar de Peso rapido recently posted…dietas para bajar de Peso rapidoMy Profile

  17. With havin so much content do you ever run
    into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored
    myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it
    is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement.

    Do you know any techniques to help protect against content
    from being stolen? I’d genuinely appreciate it. recently posted…

    My Profile

  18. Hi Tamara!

    Just wanted to know how you found the Metabolic Effect diet to work for you? A friend just loaned me the book and I am thinking of giving it a try, deviating from my normal routine (starve myself of carbs, starve myself of carbs… binge on carbs / a fairly regular long-distance runner). What did you think? 🙂

    • Hi Hilary,
      Thanks for stopping by. I love the approach that the Metabolic Effect uses. It’s all about paying attention to your body and figuring out what works for you. I no longer use their ‘bite’ approach, but I know my body well enough to know exactly how much starchy carbohydrate I can tolerate without gaining weight but still having lots of energy.

      If you follow their approach, I know that you’ll be successful! Let me know what you think about you give it a try!


  1. […] to 3/4 cup and added in an extra special ingredient, Holy Crap Cereal (1/2 cup). Both fit with my ‘Metabolic Effect’ nutrition plan perfectly; 2 or 3 balls after my lunch of lean protein and veggies and I get both my 5-10 bites of […]

  2. […] in my own diet. Specifically, I’ve been looking at programs that encourage people to reduce their intake of particular carbohydrates. While I’m not finished with my research, I do think that prescriptions for weight loss in […]