For a long time now, health experts have preached about making lifestyle changes, maintaining healthy eating patterns and engaging in exercise regularly. They strongly believe that this practice lays the foundation for long-term weight loss.
If you are like me, you might find it difficult to make sudden lifestyle changes. It’s not as easy as it sounds. How often have you set your New Year’s resolution and joined a gym? Come March, you haven’t gone to the gym more than 5-10 times?
We’ve all been there and it’s difficult! Trust me, it’s a commitment.
So, what’s the next step? Taking weight loss supplements? After all, taking weight-loss supplements is fairly common in the United States. Americans spend about $2 billion every year on dietary pills in order to lose weight and dodge healthy meals and physical activity schedules.
About 15% of U.S. adults have used a weight-loss dietary supplement at some point in their lives. Just about 21% of women and 10% of men reported taking weight loss supplements at some point.
While there are people finding alternatives to dieting and physical activities, you may have come across those trying to maximize their diet and workout routine to achieve instant results. You know, the people drinking the drinks, eating the protein bars, etc.
Trying to lose tons of weight at once is not the best idea either. According to WebMD, people losing large amounts of weight over short periods of time, could be prone to serious health risks such as:
- Electrolyte imbalances
Eating correctly and exercising regularly are important in order to be healthy and maintain your ideal weight. Don’t fall for the marketing claims, fad diets, and rapid weight loss products. In 2001 over $33 billion was spent on weight loss supplements.
Yet, in 2010, more than 2 out of 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese. So, there must be more to losing weight than taking weight supplements and wasting money, right?
Moderation is the Key
It’s well known now that, the key to a balanced diet lies in moderation. But moderation is a very wide term and can be extremely subjective.
The central focus of moderating your diet is based on the idea of eating just as much as your body needs for healthy functioning.
I’m not talking about your Thanksgiving dinner, but feeling stuffed after a meal is not moderation. Moderation is all about balancing your diet.
Despite the famous fad diets and commercials you see on television, your body needs a balance of proteins, fats, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to sustain itself.
In the past, I have always thought moderation was along the lines of cutting some foods out of my diet. When I started doing this, I began to feel like a failure when I was tempted to eat the foods I said I wouldn’t.
What I did was reduce my intake of unhealthy foods. I started finding myself craving them less and thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.
Studies have shown that providing individuals with larger portions of foods and beverages leads to substantial increases in energy intake and developing weight gain.
When I go out to dinner, I try to order an appetizer or even split a meal with a friend. When cooking at home with meat, chicken, or fish, try to keep the portion around the size of a deck of cards. Your mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice should be around the size of your standard light bulb. These are good portion sizes to follow.
If you’re not completely full at the end of the meal, eat more leafy green vegetables or snack on some fresh-cut fruit. Grapes and raspberries are my favorites!
No matter what myths you believe in, whether its cutting out carbs, cutting out fats or liquid diets; consuming balanced portions of proteins, fat, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals is essential to sustaining a healthy lifestyle.
Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University states:
Instead of emphasizing one nutrient, we need to move to food-based recommendations. What we eat should be whole, minimally processed, nutritious food—food that is in many cases as close to its natural form as possible.
The Three Major Macronutrients?
Your food consists of 3 major macronutrients. These major macronutrients include; proteins, carbohydrates and fats. All three of these contribute to the energy source for the normal functioning of your organs and everyday functions.
If you have been on a strict diet plan to lose weight, I’m sure you may have considered cutting out carbs and fats and increasing protein to get better results. Sometimes I go to a restaurant and hear friends talking how, “I’m trying to cut carbs out so I can’t eat pasta or eat any bread with my burger.”
Let’s get a few things straight.
An imbalance of any of the three nutrients mentioned can lead to serious and adverse chronic disorders.
Low intakes of protein have been investigated in relation to impaired immune function and growth, as well as to low birth weight. High protein intakes have been assessed in relation to a number of chronic diseases including cancer, renal disease, obesity, coronary artery disease and osteoporosis.
In relation to cancer, no clear role for protein has emerged. For breast cancer, some studies have shown an effect while others have shown none. Again, moderation is key.
The recommendations for total fat and total carbohydrates in relation to their contribution to total dietary energy are directly related.
Out of these 3 macronutrients, fats have the highest potential to cause disease when consumed in excess. Don’t get me wrong, reducing fat in your diet is helpful for reducing excess weight, obviously, but reducing saturated fats, is very important in controlling your cholesterol levels.
There are only 2 kinds of fats that we can call essential. The reason we call these essential is because your body can not produce them on its own, so you have to get them through foods or supplements.
These fats are your omega–6 fatty acids and your omega–3 fatty acids. I will get into these types of fats in a different post.
Western diets typically tend to provide quite a bit more of your omega–6 fats and far fewer omega–3 fats. This imbalance is commonly seen in several diseases such as, heart disease and asthma. This imbalance may contribute to the disease process.
Finally, carbohydrates are your macronutrients that are metabolized into glucose (a readily available source of energy). Any excess amount of carbs are stored as glycogen in your liver and muscle cells for future use.
If you are eating foods that are high in carbohydrates and fiber and low in fats and cholesterol, this could help in prevention and treatment of several diseases such as; obesity and weight–related diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
So what does all of this mean? Should I avoid carbohydrates all together to lose weight?
Are Carbohydrates “Bad” For You?
In 2002, the Food and Nutrition Board: Institute of Medicine recommended a 45%-65% intake of carbohydrates, 20% to 35% of fats and 10% to 35% of proteins for adults and children per day among other nutrients.
With your circulatory and central nervous system dependent on carbohydrates, it’s important that carbs are not cut out of your meals at any point in time. Moderation is ok, but completely cutting them out could lead to complications.
No two carbs are created equal. There are some carbohydrates that are not so healthy and good for you, so this is why paying close attention to the right carbs is important.
In a 2011 meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal, researchers confirmed that a high intake of whole grains resulted in a 20% reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer for every three servings of whole grains consumed per day.
When you are making a sandwich look for whole grain breads. Try and find the bread that lists whole wheat, whole rye or another type of whole grain. And if you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, try whole grains in your salad. Adding quinoa or brown rice are excellent sources of carbohydrates.
I also stay away from the sugary drinks such as orange and apple juices. Oranges have two times as much fiber and half the amount of sugars found in juices.
How To Decide What Carbs To Eat
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition came up a carbohydrate ranking scale called the glycemic index (GI) ranging from 0 to 100 to differentiate between good and bad carbohydrates.
I wrote an article all about glycemic index that you may find very helpful when trying to understand carbohydrates.
This scale is based on how quickly the carbs are converted into usable glucose (energy) in your blood stream.
While good carbs rank lower on the GI scale, bad carbs have a high glycemic index and quickly metabolize in readily available glucose. High glycemic indexed foods raise your blood sugar.
Carbohydrates are also differentiated as simple and complex carbs based on their fiber content. The higher the fiber content, and lower the sugar, the better the carb. The higher the sugar content, the lower the fiber, the worse the carb.
Simple carbohydrates are essentially carbs that are simple to digest and contain little to no nutritional value. Simple carbs you should cut out of your diet include:
- Artificial syrups
- White bread
- White paste
- White rice
A 2002 study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition, showed meals with high quantities of refined simple carbohydrates (such as bread, pasta and rice) are associated with higher risk of atherosclerosis and other heart disorders.
Eating whole grains as a substitution for white rice, such as brown rice, reduces the risk of contracting type-2-diabetes by 16% to 36% in some cases.
So what are complex carbohydrates and what do they do?
Complex carbohydrates are often rich in fiber which makes them much healthier than simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are commonly found in your whole plant foods and are high in vitamins and minerals.
Complex carbs you should add to your diet include:
- Green vegetables
- Whole grains including, oatmeal, pasta, whole grain breads
- Beans, lentils, peas
- Your starchy vegetables such as, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin
In individuals having a wide range of obesity and glucose tolerance, substitution of complex carbohydrates for saturated fat had beneficial effects of lowering LDL cholesterol and possibly improving glucose tolerance and insulin secretion.
I put together a small table for you to take a look at. When you feel you have a craving for a certain food, try and substitute it for something healthier 🙂
|Carbs to Limit:||Smarter Carbs Choose:||Best Choices:|
|Candy||Dried fruit||Whole fruit|
|Soda or punch||Fruit juice w/ reduced sugar||Seltzer with a dash of juice|
|White bread||Whole-wheat bread||Seven-grain bread|
|Enriched pasta||Whole-wheat pasta||Cracked wheat pilaf|
|White Crackers||Whole-grain cracker||Vegetable sticks|
|Cotton Candy||Caramel apple||Apple|
|Chocolate chip cookie||Oatmeal raisin cookie||Strawberries|
|Sugary cereal||Bran cereal||Rolled oats|
Carbohydrates are both good and bad.
Personally I live by two rules when decision making gets tough
- Eating quality carbs rather than starchy ones.
- Picking on carbohydrates that are non processed, unrefined and in their whole forms.
Apart from a healthy balanced meal, complex carbs could also help you shed some pounds.
And who does not want eat a great meal and still lose weight?
How To Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Now that it is established that eating fewer and healthier carbs can help maintain weight loss, the next big question is how to calculate your carbohydrate intake? I’ll get into that in a minute.
One thing to keep in mind while you calculate your carbohydrate intake is that, this is not a “one size fits all” kind of approach. Everyone’s body is different.
I can’t stress enough on how an individual’s carb consumption varies based on factors such as
- Body Composition
- Activity Levels
- Personal Preference
- Food Culture
- Current Metabolic Health
It is common knowledge that people with a physically active lifestyle and heavy workout routines can metabolize more carbs as compared to those living a more sedentary life owing to their high energy requirements.
Your lifestyle choices are a vital factor that needs to be considered while deciding upon your daily carbohydrate consumption and energy requirements.
The rate at which your body metabolizes nutrients is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your carbohydrate diet completely depends how your body type and how it reacts to the carbs your consume.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the minimal caloric requirement needed to sustain life while you are resting. This is the amount of energy your body would burn if you slept all 24 hours in the day.
This includes the body functions such as circulation, breathing, generating body heat, transmitting messages to the brain, cellular metabolism, and the production of body chemicals.
By understanding your own BMR, you know how many calories your body burns through while at rest. It allows you to modify your daily calorie intake so you lose weight and burn fat.
Use the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator below to calculate your own BMR!
Once you have calculated your own BMR and daily physical activity status make sure to consider any underlying metabolic disorder or condition before you plan your perfect weight loss diet.
In a 6 month clinical trial performed at Tufts New England Medical Center, they asserted that subjects indicating higher levels of insulin lost more weight while following a low-carb diet as compared to a high-carb diet.
Another study supporting this concept was at the University of Colorado. The study determined that insulin sensitive obese women lost more weight while consuming a low carb and high fat diet as compared to a high carb and low-fat diet.
While low carb meals may work for conditions listed above, in case of a adrenal fatigue and tiredness, a moderately higher carb intake does the trick.
Even breastfeeding woman generally prefer high carb diets to meet her heightened energy requirements.
When it comes to weight we all concentrate on burning off those extra calories.
For me, the balance revolves around the concept of consuming fewer calories on the days I have skipped my workout routine rather than avoiding calories from my meals altogether.
And lets face it! We have all had our days of laying around in bed or over sleeping.
I have listed out some pointers to summarize this article. These are the do’s and don’t’s when it comes to carbohydrates.
- A healthy approach to overall weight loss is the best plan. Getting a good breakfast each morning is a great way to start your day.
- A diet high in complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy products accompanied by fats and proteins is a great way to lose weight.
- Avoiding carbs from your diet is not healthy and may lead to serious health repercussions.
- Eating the right carbs that are unrefined and minimally processed with high fiber content is the basis of maintaining a fully balanced meal.
- Plan your diet and workout routine with your BMR number and the right tools such as a total calorie count and daily carbohydrate intake.
Moral of the story is to Eat Wise, to Drop a Size!
Share your BMR number in the comments section below! I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and how much weight you have lost with other plans.