How to eat carbs and still lose weight {Guest Post}

Dear readers. Despite receiving offers from dozens of aspiring writers each week, I rarely accept guest posts. When I do they are always fellow fitness professionals, to ensure that you guys continue to get well-researched, factual information from somebody who knows their stuff.

That’s why I’m thrilled that the author of this week’s post reached out to me and asked if he could share his knowledge about carbohydrates and weight loss with us. What’s more, he’s a specialist in women’s health and fitness AND has much experience (both personally and professionally 😉 ) with helping perimenopausal women figure out their weight loss issues. Please welcome Howard Standring!

 

Good old carbohydrates get a real bad deal these days.

In every magazine or new diet book, we hear – ditch the carbs and eat the fats and all your weight loss prayers will be answered.

But is this necessary to lose weight? Are we all doomed to be eating low carb for the rest of our days?

Certainly, a carbohydrate-restricted diet can result in a loss of body fat.

However, as effective as lower carb diets are for losing weights there is a payback.

We miss eating them because they taste good.

Our moods may suffer – Eating carbs can lift up your mood because they help produce the feel good chemical serotonin.

Stress levels can increase Limiting carbs for long periods may elevate the stress hormone cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol can lead to inflammation, reduced muscle mass and hunger cravings.

Less energy – if you are active then low carb dieting can diminish energy levels and affect your workouts and motivation levels.

Therefore, I believe that maintaining a certain level of carbs in your diet is important for our overall well-being and if you manage them right you can still get the fat loss results you want.

Carbohydrates and Insulin

As you probably know when you eat a meal, your blood sugar levels increase in relation to the type of foods you have just consumed.

In response, insulin releases from the pancreas to remove the blood sugar (glucose) and use it immediately for energy to function or store it in your muscles or fat cells for later use.

Insulin also tells the body to stop burning fat and use the new energy source that is readily available.

So large spikes of insulin on a regular basis is not ideal when trying to lose body fat, because not only is your ability to burn fat decreased but there is a greater potential for fat storage from the excess glucose in your blood stream.

This is why carbohydrates get such a hard time, because they are responsible for increasing blood sugars the most when eaten therefore increasing the release of insulin. The more insulin you release over time the more chance you have of becoming resistant to it. The more insulin resistant you become, the harder it becomes to manage body fat levels.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a whole other topic and out of the scope of this article but it´s a problem we need to address.

Insulin resistance occurs when the regular cells in the body stop responding to insulin and won´t allow glucose to be absorbed into the cells. This forces the body to produce even more insulin and we have a viscous cycle of high insulin and high blood sugar that if left untreated can lead to diabetes.

Along with diet there a whole host of factors that can contribute to insulin resistance such as genetics, obesity, reduced muscle mass through lack of exercise or natural aging and for women the onset and beginning of menopause.

Approaching and going through menopause causes an imbalance of hormones and one result of this is less tolerance to carbohydrates. Many women complain about weight gain especially around the abdomen during this time and this resistance to carbohydrates is often the culprit.

The good news is controlling your carbohydrate intake can significantly help you overcome this issue.

How Many Carbs You Need To Eat

If you think that insulin resistance is a problem for you, then the first thing is to be tested. You can do this with your doctor or purchase a glucose testing kit.

You perform the test in a fasted state and an ideal reading is between 70-90mg/dl. If you are over 90 then you need work on improving your insulin sensitivity.

With regard to how many carbs to eat for improving insulin sensitivity and losing body fat I have put together a set of guidelines you can use.

These are by no means set in stone or backed up by some scientific research. These are just recommendations I make based on years of working with female clients.

Everybody is different with unique circumstances so I would recommend using this as a starting point then make adjustments based on result.

When talking about carbohydrates we often focus on the refined and starchy carbs such as breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, biscuits, cereals etc.

However, carbohydrates come in many different forms and they all count to your daily totals so it´s important to be aware of them.

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Vegetables – most vegetables are low carb in nature and do not need to be restricted. The only vegetables to moderate are those classed as root vegetables and peas.

Fruit – Fruit is a carbohydrate that many people consumed without any real control because it is healthy and pretty low in calories. But because of its sugar content (fructose) restrict the fruits you eat to the low-carb variety until insulin sensitivity has improved.

Starch based vegetables and grains are high in carbs so track them carefully and maybe avoid altogether.

All processed, packaged carbs , like breads, cakes, biscuits, crackers are be severely restricted or avoided completely when trying to improve insulin sensitivity and lose weight. Save them for an occasional treat if you need one.

Liquid Carbohydrates – Avoid all liquid carbohydrates such as soda´s fruit juice and energy drinks.

Ok, here are my guidelines for how to eat carbs and still lose weight based on your situation now.

Scenario A – You are doing little or no exercise and need to lose quite a bit of weight.

If you are just starting out with a lot of weight to lose then insulin resistance is probably high. At this stage, severely restrict carbs to allow insulin sensitivity to improve.

Aim for 50 g per day. The bulk of your carbs will come from vegetable sources. Restrict fruit and only eat those with a low GI rating such as berries. All other carbs are to be avoided or eaten in a cheat meal once a week.

Going this low is tough especially if your diet now is high in carbs. My advice is eliminate all the refined and processed carbs from your diet. Once you have achieved this focus on reducing daily totals until you hit 50 gram per day.

Scenario B – You are exercising regularly but still overweight.

At this stage insulin sensitivity is improved but carb intake should remain low. Increase carb intake to between 50 g-100 g per day. You want to find the point where you are losing fat consistently and have good energy levels.

Carbs to include:

  • All the leafy greens and low carb vegetables you want
  • Low-carb fruit within reason
  • Introduce a serving or two of starch-based carbs such as sweet potatoes or wild rice.

If you are, eating this amount of carbs and exercising but not losing much weight then reconsider your fitness program. A program based around weight training and some higher intensity cardio will not only accelerate your results but also greatly improve your insulin sensitivity. It also means you can introduce more carbs into your diet.

Scenario C – You are active and pretty lean – (between 24-18% body fat)

If you very active and following a fitness program that includes resistance training and some high intensity work then you should be eating more carbs. At this stage you should find it easy to maintain your weight on between 100-150 g per day. In fact depending on your how insulin sensitive you have become and other factors such as your size, muscle mass and training regime you can still be losing body fat if that is your goal.

Carbs to include:

  • 
All the vegetables you want.
 All the low-carb fruit you want plus 1-2 pieces of high carb fruits
  • Starchy foods but measured out
  • Refined carbs as an occasional treat or in a cheat meal.
In summary
  • Going low carb is effective for losing weight and improving insulin sensitivity and depending on your situation is the best choice for you to take.
  • However, if your goal is to build muscle, strength and fitness levels then you can and should be eating more carbs in your diet.
  • Remember when cutting carbs you need to increase protein and fats to compensate for the reduction in calories, keep you satisfied and maintain lean muscle mass.

 

Howard Standring is Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach with over 10 years professional experience.

He runs the female fitness site ThinkFitNotThin, aimed at helping and encouraging women
over 35 to get strong, fit and healthy.

Three Simple Feel-Good Steps to Conquering Consistency {guest post}

Today I have a special treat for you.

A guest post written by my friend and fellow fitness professional and wellness advocate, Meg Root. Meg and I ‘met’ (virtually of course, isn’t that how we’re all meeting these days?) on Facebook by way of our mutual friends Kymberly and Alexandra of Fun and Fit.

We are kindred spirits in fitness philosophy and the route we’ve taken to get there. Her approach to fitness is Accessible, Actionable and Achievable (in keeping with the Alliterative theme of her post…) and ‘Fitknitchick-approved’!

Just like you, I’m a big Fitknitchick fan! {aw shucks, thanks Meg…}

I loved Tamara’s recent post, “Everything You Need to Know About Being a Fitness Success.” Even a seasoned wellness pro like myself benefits from a friendly reminder that there’s no magic bullet for achieving our goals, and that most reasonable approaches work if we stick with them long enough.

Consistency. That was at the heart of Tamara’s message.

That scary “C” word that dangles out in front of us like the proverbial carrot on a stick. The closer we get to it with all our goal setting, program planning, and positive can-do attitude, the further away it slips, pushed by sick kids, overstuffed schedules, and mid-life menopausal mayhem. You even said it yourselves in the comments:

“The consistency part is the tough one.” SR

“Yes, so true! Consistency is key.” Bonnie

“Consistency and realistic expectations above all else.” CF

It’s one of those good news bad news scenarios: Do what you love and the fitness will follow! “Yay, I’ve always hated squats, I can do lunges instead.” But, you need to do it consistently. “Oh yeah, I forgot about that part. I’m too busy this week.”

We all know that until we learn how to nestle consistency inside of crazy—which is life, most of the time—fitness success will always seem out of reach.

That’s why I came up with a few “C’s” of my own to help you stay committed to your fitness journey even in the midst of life’s little (and not so little) interruptions.

This simple system, I call the Three C’s of Wellness, switches up the energy around the healthy choices you need to make, day in and day out, to reach your fitness goals. Instead of viewing them as a chore, or even an item to check off your to-do list before the real fun begins, you tap into the “feel good” potential of your choices, and use that energy to fuel your commitment.

Believe me, solving the crisis of consistency is as easy as 1, 2, 3 . . . Connect. Choose. Celebrate!

Connect

wellness feels goodSet aside your vision of fitness success for just a moment (trust me on this one), and think of a few words that describe how you want to “feel” on a daily basis. Happy? Healthy? Vibrant? Strong? These are some of the “feel-good” words on my list. What’s on yours?

Now, think of something—anything—that makes you feel like those words. Maybe it’s a long, heart pumping run outdoors, or one of Fitknitchick’s challenging Fatblaster workouts. Maybe your workouts don’t take you to that feel good place just yet, and “happy” means a walk on the beach with your family. We can all think of something that makes us feel good. Connecting with the way that energy feels, and bringing it to the choices you make, is the first step to conquering the challenge of consistency. Wellness feels good!

Choose

You make hundreds of choices everyday. Imagine what would happen if you prefaced each one with the question, “What could I do right now to feel happy, healthy, vibrant, strong?” and then made a choice based on that?

wellness feels goodFor example, choosing a breakfast of oatmeal, chia seeds, and blueberries propels me into my day feeling energized and fueled for wellness. Grabbing a muffin and a designer double latte . . . not so much. Sure it’s hard to get to the gym after a long tiring day at work. But you have to admit, getting your body moving has a better chance of reversing feelings of anxiety and fatigue, than plopping down in front of your Facebook feed with a glass of wine. Really, it does!

Begin to NOTICE how each one of your choices either takes you closer to your wellness zone or further away. With practice, you’ll discover that you have more control over the way your life looks and feels than you think.

Celebrate!

When you make a choice that leads to one of those “wellness feels good” moments, Celebrate! Say “Yes!” out loud and pump your fist the way athletes do after making a great play. Don’t laugh—this is based on real science. And it works.

All good habits are validated and strengthened when there is a reward at the end—an acknowledgement that you did well and you’re moving in the right direction. Tapping into the positive energy of wellness makes consistency a no brainer. Feeling good FEELS SO GOOD, you become willing to do anything to hold on to your wellness.

So, Back to Consistency

Connect, choose, celebrate . . . repeat. Filling your life up with “wellness feels good” moments is that simple. And it’s the connection to how good your choices make you feel that keeps you committed in the midst of your crazy busy life.

I agree that striving for fitness success is a healthy, even noble goal. But don’t stop there. Why not shoot for living your best life? That’s what the energy of wellness feels like. It feels good! And when we feel good, we do good—consistently.

wellness feels goodI’d love to hear what your favorite wellness words are, and how you conquer consistency when the pressure is on.

Meg Root loves to write and speak about all things wellness. Her positive, feel-good approach to wellness is a product of years spent living and working at some of North America’s premiere destination spas, where every day feels like a spa day! You can follow her wellness updates on her website, MegRoot.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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