Carbs are Key to Weight Loss Success
Carbs (Carbohydrates) are easy for the body to use for fuel, but if eaten in excess they can limit your success in losing weight. Before you think this is about going low carb, stop now and regroup. You have to have carbs in your body to operate not only your muscles, but also your brain. Here are some tips for keeping this fuel source in balance.
Isn’t a low carb diet better for weight loss?
Think of it this way. A parked car does not need fuel—you do not need many carbs if you are not moving. If you work out you cannot afford to go low carbohydrate. Low carb diets are not nutritionally sound, they are not very practical and a good portion of the weight loss is from dehydration. You do not need to be high carbohydrate either. You need carbs in balance with your calories. Even the most healthy carb choices provide calories, so too much of a good thing can cause weight gain. Eat enough carbohydrates to get your nutrients in (various food groups), to have good endurance in your workouts, to have enough fiber to avoid constipation that often comes with low carb eating, and to enjoy eating a variety of colorful foods.
The ideal carbs are fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and natural carbs in milk and yogurt (before they are sweetened). Other food groups (meat) may provide very low amounts of carbohydrate. Less than ideal carbs are processed sugars and processed grains. Sugar, whether it be white granulated sugar, high fructose corn syrup, pure maple syrup or honey is pure carbohydrate.
The "ideal carbs" are preferred because they will contain fiber (a natural filler) and vitamins and minerals in perfect proportion. Processed carbs are basically calories that do nothing for your health. Bottom line: have your carb fuel do something for you besides provide calories—go whole, go colorful.
Should you choose foods based on the glycemic index? The “GI” only works if you eat that food alone. Most of us eat foods in combination, so the GI value loses its impact. However, listen to your body. If you feel better eating certain carbs over others, then go with it. However, I would not eliminate foods from your diet based on the GI lists alone.
The minimum amount of daily carb intake recommended for adults is 130 gms daily. Going below this amount will likely cause your workout performance to suffer. If you are just starting a training program, the last thing you need is to go backwards because of a fueling error. If you are working out for health and fitness, you should eat more than this minimum amount. How much? That depends on your medical history, your body size and your workout patterns. You don’t need to count carb grams every day, but you can use these guidelines to set a personal daily budget for carbohydrate.
A standard carbohydrate serving is 15 grams of carbohydrate.
Your food can and will contain more than this, keeping in mind you need multiple servings of carbohydrate in a day. If your food choice has more than 15 grams of carbohydrate, just be sure to fit it into your daily budget, especially if the carbs contain healthy fiber and nutrients. You don’t have to count carbs all day long. These numbers are only provided to give you a way to compare foods and make adjustments in your personal daily intake. Counting carbs may take your focus off the more important matter: your hunger level.
An example of 15 grams of carbohydrate is a small apple. If you see that your applesauce has 38 grams of carbohydrate, 15 were from the natural apple sugar, and the other 23 were from added sugar. A food label and ingredient list can help you out here. A plain yogurt has 12 grams of carbohydrate, but be aware of the flavored yogurt with 40 grams of sugar. Better to add healthy fruit carbs to your plain yogurt than sugary jelly carbs the company puts in the yogurt.
Choose a variety of carbs.
An ideal day provides a minimum of five, but preferably 9 to 11 servings of fruits and vegetables. Go heavier on the veggies, but include a few fresh fruits daily for the best nutrient mix. A minimum of four whole grain servings daily works out within a weight conscious calorie goal and provides B vitamins that support workout performance. For calcium, choose at least two, preferably three low-fat milk or yogurt choices daily. Making these types of choices in a day would cover your minimum needs and take you towards a “workout worthy” goal. You can eat more carbohydrate foods than this, depending on your activity level and your hunger/fullness level. Choosing a variety of carbs is a healthier way of achieving a carb goal without counting every gram.
What is your carbohydrate goal? More nutrients in your carbs? More whole food choices? Better portion control? Less counting and more whole food selection?
Email Jan with your questions about carbs!