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Forming Good Habits

The key to successful weight loss and long term health is establishing healthy habits. That is things to aid your health and/or weight loss that you do every day as part of your ongoing lifestyle.

Unfortunately maintaining these healthy habits can be the toughest part of our journey.

So how do we make them stick?

Firstly don’t take on 10 new habits all at once. Pick one new healthy habit just a small one and achieve it daily. This could be anything from aiming to drink 2 litres of water, eating protein at every meal or doing something active every day. 

Plan how you will achieve this new habit. Will there be a trigger to perform it like waking up, leaving work etc. Or will you need to set a reminder on your phone, leave a note out etc. To make it a habit you need to have a trigger to make you perform it.

Plan how you will overcome obstacles, who will support you and what is your motivation for this habit. It can sometimes be useful to have someone hold you accountable, whether that be a friend or family member or a coach. There are also some great forums and online groups that you can share your journey with other people with similar goals. This can give you a sense of accountability but also support.

How will you log this habit? You could use an app on your phone (there is literally an app for everything including how much water you drink) or you could print out a chart on your wall.

Stick to this new habit for 30 days. Hopefully after that it will actually be a habit! This is when you can add in another habit

Reward yourself for achieving your new habit every day for a month. However make sure the reward doesn’t counteract the habit i.e. don’t reward yourself for staying off chocolate for 30 days with a big bar of chocolate! I rewarded myself with new workout/work clothes for losing a stone on my weight loss journey, and I also have rewards planned for the next half stone mark and the next full stone mark. None of the rewards are food related though!

Be open to adjusting your habit if you feel it isn’t sustainable long term. There is no failure in deciding that 20 mins exercise every day is more manageable than an hour. It has to work for you long term. Just tweak the goal and keep sticking to it day in day out for 30 days.

So in 30 days’ time you could have a whole new healthy habit…………………………what is yours going to be? Let me know!

CLICK HERE to download your free

 

Exercise Equivalent Labelling

So last week a new initiative was discussed in that food manufacturers should put exercise equivalent to burn of the calories in their products. Apparently this will make us all do more exercise and solve our weight problems…………………….

It has become more common on recent years for restaurants to put the calorie content next to menu items so I guess this is just upping the ante.

Like would you like a chocolate muffin and 500 burpees? Would it make you think twice? I’ll be honest it probably would for most people. I know I definitely look at calorie content on certain foods but I do have concerns with this new scheme.

You see at the end of the day we do need to eat, we need food for fuel for all of body systems, organs, cell renewal alongside moving round and using our brains so we don’t have to burn off all of our food! There is also the fact that the nutrient density of food will determine how many of those calories your body actually uses for cell repair and/or energy and how many it will deem useless and store as fat. That big calorie Avocado will be burnt much easier than that small calorie low fat (read pointless) yoghurt.

Yes in its basic form calories in and calories out does determine whether we lose or gain weight, but how long it takes us to burn off a mars bar is actually going to be different in all of us.

Firstly because of our current weight and metabolism, my rate of burning calories is not the same as say Mr A’s-he is bigger and more muscular and therefore will burn it faster than me. Secondly, say the suggestion of 20mins on a bike, how fast is it? What does my heart rate need to be? What is the resistance, uphill or flat? Do you see what I mean? I could burn 200 calories in a very short of long space of time.

I know this from personal experience of my riding lessons. I wear my Fitbit and sometimes will look how many calories I burn from start to finish in the 45 minute lesson. Despite them being pretty similar in terms of content the calorie burn is actually going down each week. As my body has got back into the swing of it I’m not working as hard, it also hasn’t been as cold, nor has it been particularly hot so this may also influence it. I have had readings from 300 to 600 calories so quite a big difference! That’s from the same person, doing the same activity on the same horse! The Fitbit itself is not 100% but most studies have shown up to 20% variants so although still not 100% it’s as close as I’m going to get without a sports science lab following me around.

I think what worries me is the unhealthy relationship this could cause with food. It essentially gives us the mind-set that is common in people with eating disorders-food is bad and you must be punished for eating it! Food is not bad, in fact chocolate and prosecco are not “BAD” foods, are they nutritionally optimal-no but including small amounts of them in your diet should not mean you also have to run a marathon that week-unless you really want to!

It also puts me in the mind-set of what is predominantly women (sorry ladies) who will go to the gym spend half an hour dawdling on a cross trainer watching the kardashians and then have a piece of cake afterwards because they “earned” it. Said women then wonders why she does not lose weight despite all these hours spent on the cross trainer.

So I get what they are trying to do here and maybe it will make people think twice before eating higher calorie foods if they do not currently have a disposition to exercise. But I think most people know they shouldn’t be eating fast food and cake every day the reason they do it runs much deeper than lack of knowledge or laziness and continuing along the trend of eating food should be punished I think will only compound those behaviours further.

I’d like to be completely proved wrong on this

and suddenly see people shunning junk food but …………………………….

Treat the Cause not the Problem

In my job I see and speak to a lot of people who have various injuries and health issues. I also see a lot of people who take a concoction of pills daily to “deal” with these ailments.

Problem solved you think!

But in reality most prescribed medicines are just masking the problem not actually treating the cause.

Think of your body like a car. Your car will signal a warning light when something is wrong. If your oil tank is leaking you can duct tape over the hole and it will solve the problem for a while (don’t actually do this!) but this doesn’t make the problem go away it just masks it for a while. In order to fix the problem you have to locate and deal with it-i.e. you’ve got to fix the hole!

So, if you have symptoms of something wrong in your body that could be anything from high blood pressure, back pain or something less identifiable like fatigue look for the cause of the problem not the mask to cover it.

I see a lot of people with back pain who are given various pain relief methods by their doctors, yet these never work long term-in fact you’re lucky if they work at all! Why are we not treating the thing that’s causing the back pain?

This also happens with things like blood pressure and diabetes. Instead of having a proper look at our nutrition and lifestyle we just take the pills that essentially just delay the onset of the more serious symptoms like macular degeneration and loss of blood supply to the feet. Why is that seen as the easier option?

Being blind or losing a foot doesn’t sound easy?

Nor does living with continually crippling back pain becoming more immobile seem like an easier option than some daily exercise.

Part of me wants to say that our health system is to blame and that Dr’s should be giving this advice instead of pills but really WE are in charge of our health.

So many people do not want to invest in their own health.

But you are not those people!

So if you have a movement problem, go and see a specialist physio, biomechanics coach, osteopath chiropractor etc. Try different kinds of exercise. Swimming is great if you struggle to weight bear as just walking in water can help to get you moving back on dry land. Try yoga, Pilates, Thai chai or walking and try it more than once! You won’t be healed overnight and it might feel uncomfortable at first. But I promise you even the regular exercisers find new stuff makes them sore the first time.

If you have issues with blood pressure, fatigue, acid reflux ……whatever it may be first sort out your diet fill it with fresh, real food. Look for patterns as to whether symptoms are better or worse after certain foods (Dairy, Gluten, Grains and members of the nightshade family are potentially inflammatory foods in some people).

If you are still struggling look for nutrition professional that deals with these issues on a regular basis.

I’m not saying never go to the Doctors but think twice before you start accepting the pills whether you could actually improve your lifestyle and regain your health rather than sticking a patch over that hole in your oil tank.

Take responsibility and invest in your own health, take control of your diet, stay active and treat the cause of the problem instead of putting tablets over the symptoms.

If you need some help to point you in the right direction then just drop me an email.

 

Toxins

Following a conversation I had with someone last week I have been thinking about all of the external toxins we surround ourselves with on a day to day basis.

Now I’m not going to turn this into an ‘avoid all toxins’ blog as in reality that is impossible and not really necessary. However I do think it is important to at least limit our exposure. Although none of the things mentioned are harmful in any way on their own, when you consider the constant drip feeding of chemicals we are actually exposed to quite a lot. Many of these chemicals when we are exposed to them at a low dose consistently have been shown to upset many peoples endocrine systems i.e hormone balance.

So what kinds of toxins am I talking about?

Firstly there is air pollution and in reality unless you move to the Outer Hebrides you’re kinda stuck with that. Although not taking your daily run down the side of the M6 might be something to consider!

Then there are the chemical pollutions we expose ourselves to all day. We use a variety of products from the moment we get up -toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo, face wash, moisturiser, deodorant, make up…………….then to the products we use to clean our homes- bleach, washing up liquid, washing powder and air freshener……….

Now I just don’t think it is practical to go pure and organic on all of these things unless you really want to. But as you run out of say face wash why not replace it with an organic brand. I use Organic Surge which is fairly competitive with most high street brands. Sanex is also pretty good in terms of ingredients.  Pick just one or two things you will go less chemical/ more organic with otherwise it will become overwhelming – and probably really expensive.

For cleaning products ECover are available in most supermarkets although I use a Hemp based product from Dr Bronner (I buy it in TK Maxx) that has a huge list of uses from soap, to toilet cleaner and I use it in our bathroom and it is genuinely better than the standard bathroom cleaner. And as you dilute it, it is really cost effective -or maybe I just don’t clean that much……..

If you have one of those plug in air fresheners, maybe have a look what’s in it and see if you can find a purer version.

Water bottles are a bit of a bug bear of mine. Bottled water more often than not comes in bottles that have BPAs. BPAs can leach from the plastic and essentially disrupt our endocrine system particularly in women. The best way to prevent this is to avoid re-using these bottles and instead buy a water bottle that is either stainless steel or glass, or BPA free.

Also avoiding microwaving things in plastic tubs – I am so guilty of this!

As I have mentioned before our food can potentially contain a myriad of chemicals. The thing is it isn’t just packaged food that can contain chemicals. Our fruit, veg and grains will have been sprayed whilst growing to prevent pests from destroying them. Our meat, dairy and eggs will have been fed food that may contain chemicals (organic livestock food is extremely rare trust me I’ve looked,) Unfortunately this means we may also be getting a dose. Not necessarily a high dose but a very low one over and over again. For most people the cost of organic food is out of the question and that’s fine.

It has been suggested that washing fruit and veg may help, particularly those without skins on -apples, berries, broccoli etc. Or maybe just pick one item you will buy organic like just your fruit?

Now you may have read this and just though OMG I’m off to cover myself in a protective suit and staying away from food, water, washing….

Like I said earlier, this isn’t a ‘avoid all chemicals’ rant, just to get you thinking about how you could limit them a little.

So maybe just pick one thing or one area.

Say your face products and change those. Or maybe you will just change your washing up liquid?

You could buy yourself a BPA free water bottle and switch to organic carrots.

Just do a little change and see how you go. 

Eat Well Plate

Well, Public Health England published a new Eat Well plate guideline last week. About time, the previous one was hugely out of date. The old version looks like this. Without even dissecting the rest it should definitely not have included sugar! No one NEEDS sugar in their diet!

eat well plate 2014

So new one looks like this.

eat well plate 2016

 

It sparked massive debate online with PT’s , I didn’t get involved there is far too much bi!*hing and d!*k measuring so it’s just amusing to spend 5 minutes reading the fall out and getting a feel for people’s opinions on it.

Then I just form my own opinion anyway.

To be fair, it is a whole lot better than the previous one. The removal of sugar for one but also the guideline booklet goes into much more detail about reading labels and looking out for added sugars and salt etc.

However……………………..I still think the protein content should be higher and the carb section smaller. I don’t agree that meals should be based around starch.  I think many people would be better basing meals around protein, adding more veg and then a small portion of starch. There is actually no mention of poultry (other than its picture). White fish is not in the least bit unhealthy even if you ate it most days but perhaps this has something to do with the over farming of the ocean?  I also think suggesting low fat dairy is a mistake. There is nothing unhealthy with the full fat version! And the spreads? Please just buy butter and use less of it I promise your body will thank you for it! It does suggest this in the guideline booklet but I don’t think most people will read that they will just see the plate with a margarine advert on it.

What I will say though, is Public Health England have a difficult job trying to convert the terrible eating habits of an increasingly overweight nation. They realistically have to make it easy to understand and manageable for people who may not be particularly interested in nutrition and are just trying to feed their families on a budget every week. What I think comes across in this plate is a way of lowering peoples calorie intake overall, which as mentioned is kinda the key factor in weight loss. So cutting out Fat at 9 calories per gram would have an effect, but Protein has 4 calories per gram the same as Carbohydrates. I can only think that the smaller protein suggestion is down to them being concerned that the general population if told that eating a lot of meat is ok would continue to eat a lot of processed meat which would only lead to higher fat and salt etc., so it’s best to say eat less? I don’t know, there is no explanation on this, but I think protein is an extremely important part of our diet as it is used for muscle and cell repair along with being our biggest source of B Vitamins – vegetarians in particular struggle with insufficient B12 which is a huge cause of fatigue.

Do I think its optimal nutrition? Not really but it has to be said that many people eat far worse than the eat well plate suggests, so if they used these guidelines they would be a whole lot better off.

Now you guys read this every week so you know better don’t you!

Take away points.

  • Eat some protein at every meal! Eggs, lean poultry, fish, beans whatever.
  • Unless you are eating a lot of dairy (milk in tea and coffee etc.) and it is therefore a total calorie issue just use full fat and benefit from the nutrition it provides!
  • Continue to eat all your vegetables and fruit of all colours-Eat a rainbow people!
  • You can still eat starch, I’m not saying don’t, but most people don’t need to base their diet on it.
  • Do include some saturated fat, just from healthy sources like coconut oil, avocado and unprocessed red meat (read eat the steak just not for every meal!)
  • Check your food labels for sugar content. You don’t actually need it at all!
  • And remember we are all different, what feels optimal for you and has you firing on all cylinders may not be optimal for the guy sat next to you-no matter what the government said! So eat to feel healthy and energetic whatever calorie or macronutrient breakdown that may be. I guarantee it will be when most of your diet comes from whole, unprocessed foods of various carbs, fats and proteins.

Gut Bacteria

Well I don’t want to jinx it but the sun finally came out and spring is here. So with all the spring cleaning that goes on maybe it’s time you gave your gut a spring clean too. Your gut health is vital for much more than just your digestion. Unhealthy gut bacteria has been shown most obviously to cause bloating and flatulence but also allergies, headaches, muscle and joint aches, chronic inflammation, brain fog, weight gain and even has links with heart disease, diabetes and Althziemers.

So I think it is fairly obvious that our Gut Bacteria is vital for our health along with being a missing link for those people struggling with weight loss.

So many things in our daily lives can upset our gut bacteria from pain killers, anti-biotics and other medication, from eating the same foods over and over (I am guilty of this) and the more obvious eating processed foods sugar and also stress. The good news is that it is completely treatable. An imbalance of gut bacteria is called Gut Dysbosis. In order to restore the balance we need to take in strains of bacteria. There are many different kinds of healthy gut bacteria and if you are having a specific chronic problem then it is best to get your gut bacteria tested in order to know exactly which bacteria are missing or in abundance.

We take in bacteria by probiotics which are live strains of bacteria known to have a positive influence on our bacteria balance. We can also take prebiotics which are indigestible carbohydrates (fibre that reach the colon intact and selectively increase the known good bacteria as well as having an influence on our brain function (they are said to encourage brain expansion i.e. function making you cleverer n that). There is a HUGE link between our gut function and our brain.

 

So, what do we do if we want to rebalance our bacteria? Well there are various pre and probiotics on the market but please don’t be fooled by the supermarket yoghurt drinks they are overly pasteurised (which kills bacteria) and usually have added sugars –which encourages bad bacteria………………………………

 

I have recently taken a course of probiotics in the form of Kefir. Kefir grains are erm magical grains full of gut bacteria and this amazing lady Shann makes it from goats’ milk –so you get added goat bonus points. Her story is also incredibly inspirational –short version cured her husband’s MRSA with Kefir after the medical profession gave up hope!

https://www.chucklinggoat.co.uk/what-is-kefir/

Available in tablet form //www.wildnutrition.com/all-products/multi-strain-biotic#

http://www.nutri-linkltd.co.uk/shop/category/probiotics.html – These are individual group strains so should be taken as a cycle one at a time.

 

And the prebiotics. These are mainly food based.

  • Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory root
  • Dandelion greens
  • Allium vegetables such as garlic, onion, leeks, chives, and scallions are great choices.
  • Whole-grain and sprouted-grain breads
  • Wheat germ, whole wheat berries
  • Avocado
  • Peas
  • Cooked then cooled potatoes (so stealing that left over roasty later is totally good for you!)
  • Apple cider vinegar (organic)

Also, both pro and prebiotic are fermented foods like Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Miso.

 

It should also be noted that too many prebiotic foods without a balance of probiotic can have an adverse effect on the gut so don’t start a prebiotic only diet.

 

As mentioned above our gut bacteria can be unbalanced by stress so it is also really important to find ways to manage this, whether that be with mindfulness, meditation, yoga, walking whatever destresses you and makes you Zen.

So for the sake of your gut go eat some kimchi and chill out.

 

Namaste!

 

Time Saving Tips

One of things people say to me the most when asked why they aren’t meeting their health and fitness goals is lack of time. So I’ve put together some time saving tips to make things easier.

  • Batch cooking healthy meals really is a time saver. It can take less than an hour to make a huge pot of soup, chilli, casserole or homemade curries and you can store individual portions in the freezer for evenings when you are short on time.
  • On the same note, pre chopping fruit and veg into portions and freezing can be used either for evening meals or your morning smoothie. Just whizz and go!
  • We prepare our lunches for the week ahead in batches. It takes around the same time to prepare 4 chickens, four lots of vegetables etc as it does to prepare one lot. We also do this with breakfast sometimes too. Mr A has overnight oats that can be prepared in a weekly batch and stored in the fridge, or we do a tray of omelette muffins. It means we do one big cook off at the start of the week and then don’t have to worry about it until the weekend.
  • Set out everything you need in the evening for the following morning. I set out my clothes, lunches are prepared already and sometimes I put all the ingredients in the blender in the fridge ready to whizz up my smoothie the next morning. Mr A puts his coffee and coconut oil in his travel mug too! It makes your mornings much quicker and stops you rushing out without breakfast or lunch and picking up something less healthy
  • Plan your meals ahead. I know it sounds really boring but I promise once you get into the swing of it it’s really easy. We sit down on a Thursday night plan our meals from Saturday to the following Friday, write a shopping list and then do our shop in line. If we are on form (read not both tired, hungry, grumpy and therefore likely to bicker about the colour of peppers to order) it only takes around 20mins.
  • Start to use your slow cooker. You can just pop the ingredients in and leave it for several hours and let it work its magic. It’s basically like you didn’t cook at all!
  • If your budget allows there are now loads of companies that will deliver healthy meals to you. Companies like HelloFresh deliver you the ingredients and recipe cards to make healthy meals from scratch or if you don’t even want to cook someone like Mealtek will deliver will deliver it ready prepared you just have to heat it up! No it’s not cheap but if you already spend a lot on takeaway during the week you won’t be far off the same price but will be investing in your health.
  • Using pre prepared ingredients like frozen veg, tinned beans and pulses, microwave rice,cous cous etc is not a bad thing. Yes some of them may have some additives but if you are more likely to use these as part of your healthy eating regime than order a pizza or reach for the oven chips then I really think it’s worthwhile. Yes, I will never outgrow ready brek instead of stirring my porridge from scratch, sometimes we use microwave rice and cous cous from a packet- I await my death from such slackness…………………..
  • On a similar note if your budget allows buy ready chopped veg if you want to! Yes it’s much cheaper to buy it whole and chop it yourself but if you are time poor it’s a great time saver. Again if it helps you eat healthier then it’s worth the extra cost.
  • A workout doesn’t have to be an hour long. Just 15 minutes a day will help to keep you fit. In fact HIIT training every day for just 15 mins could improve your fitness. There are also loads of apps that will plan the workouts for you. Chloe Madeleys is really good for the ladies (yes she from Richard and Judy!) and Mens Health do 15 min MP3 workouts for the guys.

Are all Calories Created Equal

Now I know after last week you may be thinking the whole weight loss equation boils down to calories in to calories out. Well technically it does.

But your success at maintaining this how you feel day to day, your energy levels, general health and the massive issue for dieting how hungry you feel can all be impacted by where your calories come from.

You see 200 calories of nuts are not used by your body the same way as 200 calories of chocolate.

When you eat food your body breaks it down in order to utilise it’s nutrients and create energy. This creates heat and is called the “thermic effect”. This breaking down process and turning into energy is essentially your metabolism. Overly processed foods require very little breaking down and also provide very little long term energy so your body does not need to work very hard to process it and also receives very little nutrition by return. Whole, unprocessed foods on the other hand require your body to work to break it down, therefore it raises your metabolism, then you gain tons of usable nutrients from this food that can be used for energy, to build muscles, new cells, regenerate your organs and generally help you feel bright eyed and bushy tailed.

So don’t get me wrong it is entirely possible to lose weight eating chocolate alone providing your total calorie intake is lower than your total expenditure, but I’m pretty sure you would be ravenous most of the time and on a massive insulin roller coaster and after a few days feel pretty rotten so you aren’t likely to stick with this long term.

Also, if you consumed most of your calories from sugar and carbohydrates you would spend a lot of time with a raised glycogen level to which you would need to produce extra insulin to balance it out. Over time this could cause your body to become resistant to insulin. Firstly this will encourage your body to store fat and more importantly can lead to Type 2 Diabates. So although the odd bit of sugar won’t kill you, consuming it as a large part of your diet is a bad idea.

There is also to be taken into account the satiety effect of certain foods. Protein and Fats have been shown to help you feel fuller long term therefore if you made up a large proportion of your diet on lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, nut butters, coconut oil and seeds you would feel much more satiated than on bread and pasta.

Although as I have mentioned before there is still room for individual preference on this and there are some people who feel totally full on a high carb diet and feel great, so have a play around with your diet and see what works for you. Just don’t try to see how many mars bars you can eat per day to sustain yourself I promise you are better off with steak (and still have some room for champagne…..)

 

The Big Weight Loss Secret

What’s the one thing that sets apart those people that lose weight and keep it off and those that don’t? Is it some Magical diet formula, the paleo diet, slimming world, vegan………running eight miles every day?? Consistency! Yep, that’s the secret. Not eat well for 4 days then a blow out at the weekend, or train really hard and eat really well for 6 weeks then revert to previous habits. It’s week in week out eating well on a diet that works for YOU long term, training in a way that works for YOU long term so it has become Lifestyle.  People who lose weight successfully may still eat chocolate, eat out and drink alcohol but it isn’t done in excess and everything else round it is kept in check. For example if you know you will be eating a three course meal on Saturday then perhaps skip one of your snacks every day the week leading up to it, then eat lightly that day at breakfast and lunch if it is later you are eating. That could be well over 1000 calories saved so that 3 course meal doesn’t throw you off track. I find it quite common when people are on weight loss programmes that there will be events along the way birthday meals with friends etc. that makes people decide the whole week must be a write off or the diet should wait until after the event- then proceed to eat everything in sight until the DIET begins! Why can’t lifestyle overhauls start on a Saturday? Just because you still plan to have your curry with friends later why can’t you eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, resist the urge to spend the afternoon on the sofa eating biscuits and then go out later for that curry? That would still be a new habit forming of how you eat at the weekends, and it didn’t stop you being social. There is always going to be birthdays, events, bad days at work, busy weekends where you don’t have time to shop or food prep but using these as an excuse time and time again as to why you couldn’t eat well. These events are all part of life and well I’m afraid you are just going to have to man up and deal with it! Or if you aren’t going to please stop moaning, asking why you aren’t losing weight etc. because you already know the answer. Il let you into a secret at the weekend I ate a 3 course meal plus birthday cake and a glass of wine, all week leading up to it I dropped 200 calories per day off my daily amount (usually 1800 so I dropped to 1600) except for Saturday I still had 1800 couldn’t deny myself my Saturday night chocolate ! So on Sunday I had breakfast – a bacon sandwich (how very dare I) Then had 3 courses, wine, cake etc. went home and had some herbal tea. You see I really didn’t need more food after all that so I didn’t have any!  Then we hadn’t done our usual food prep and it was now late and we were both tired so I had a look what was quick to make for lunch the following day from the contents of the cupboard. It turned out to be two peanut butter and banana wraps! Not entirely nutritionally sound but not necessarily all bad either. So I filled in MyFitnessPal and they fitted into my days eating fine with no deprivation elsewhere. Food prep done Monday night and week still on track. Then Tuesday morning I didn’t put the lid on my smoothie properly and it emptied itself in my bag- excellent! But I stopped at Starbucks got a coffee, a fruit pot and some porridge-day back on track.

What I’m trying to say is, life is always going to throw you curve balls but you have got to decide that they won’t derail you from your ultimate goal of losing weight.

Otherwise don’t come moaning to me I’m not the tea and sympathy type.

 

Low Carb Diets

Low carb diets have come up in conversation  a lot lately.

The thing is, if you go online and googled it there is actually very mixed numbers as to what is considered low carb. So I don’t think most of us actually know what a low carb diet really is or why they work.

Low carb diets like the infamous Atkins, South Beach and Ketogenic diet became popular in the USA as what seemed to be a great way to lose weight. Atkins was famous for its pictures of fry ups etc. But then the tide changed and a lot of Science suggested that diets high in fat would cause cardiovascular disease. Now we appear to have swung around again and have decided actually fat is good for you (it is) and that sugar and therefore carbs are the enemy again.

To be honest neither fat nor carbs are the devil alone. Refined sugar is however a different story but you already know that don’t you?

So, what does count as a low carb diet? From doing some research it appears to be anything from less than 300g to less than 150g and a ketogenic diet is less than 50g. I would say having looked at the studies etc. that around 150g is pretty much low carb but also this varies a little from person to person as to how their body reacts.

So why are low carb diets so popular?

When you strip carbs from your diet you can lose quite a significant amount of weight initially, but this is usually just water and glycogen loss i.e. not fat! So great if you are using it as a last minute pre party slim down-like celebs for the Oscars-not great if you try and live your life like that.

Also, with the idea that carbs cause your insulin levels to spike and more people having insulin resistance, the theory is the less it spikes the better the metabolic health. Sort of true but not the full story.

So why are low carb diets bad news?

In short, it can disrupt your hormone levels particularly in women. This includes your Thyroid, Stress Hormones and those that control your fertility and menstrual cycle. So your stress levels can go up and your metabolism and mood can go down. And fellas for you this means you have less testosterone and build less muscle……………………hmmmm.

Having looked at some of the studies on low carb diets there is one particular factor that is present in all of them and that is carbs are replaced with a higher protein intake. So could it be said that a high protein diet is actually the key to weight loss irrespective of carbs? Protein has a high thermic effect meaning your body works hard to digest it (This means it burns more calories…..and causes the meat sweats), it also makes people feel fuller longer and helps you to retain muscle mass. Go Protein!

Now back to the insulin business. In people with insulin resistance or early stages i.e. insulin sensitivity numerous studies have shown that reducing the carbohydrate does indeed begin to regulate insulin levels. However it is important to note that once Insulin levels are regulated and the body has reprogrammed to respond normally it is fine to go back to a moderate carb intake and monitor it from there.

Also, in people with a proper insulin response your body will ebb and flow the hormones as necessary to balance out your glucose levels and this is indeed a completely normal and healthy part of how your body should work. If you had consistenly low insulin levels your body would in fact struggle to maintain muscle mass, and by this I don’t just mean the bicep busting arnie type I also mean the more modest general ones that hold you up and help you move around all day. So we do need some insulin.

To be honest despite all the research the answer as to how many grams of carbs we should eat per day still varies from person to person. If you eat 300g of carbs and feel great then that’s fine, if you only eat 150g of carbs and feel great then that’s fine.

But thinking that just cutting carbs in your diet is the key to weight loss is misguided, the same equation of calories in and calories out still applies overall however the macronutrients are made up. You just may feel better with a different split between them than somebody else.

It also pays to take note of where your carb sources come from. I’m sorry but the Warburton’s white toastie loaf is not a good source, but grains like quinoa, wild rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, starchy veg like parsnips, carrots, beetroot and fruit are all great sources of nutrition and carbs!

So, please don’t buy into the whole no carbs thing unless you have specific issue with insulin resistance there is really no need. Just experiment with how you feel on different amounts and make them from good sources. I say it was fairly obvious that cutting out sugary cereals, high amounts of white flour and processed carbs like cakes, biscuits etc. is going to make you feel more energetic and lose weight but it wasn’t the lack of carbs that did it, it was more likely the lack of cr*p!