Sunday, October 31, 2010

Carbohydrate recommendations for fat loss

To maximally promote fat loss, the release of insulin must be controlled. The practice behind many of today’s popular diets is to lower body fat by decreasing the amount of insulin released. When insulin is elevated above normal fasting levels, fat cells start storing fat and inhibit its release. Carbohydrates increase insulin levels. Lower carbohydrate diets release less insulin than higher carbohydrate diets. That’s one of the main reasons low carbohydrate diets are more successful for long-term weight management and health.

If you’re on a ketogenic diet, carbohydrate selection won’t matter much as you will be eating less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. If you’re eating more than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day, then being careful with your dietary sources of carbohydrates will be especially important if you’re trying to lose fat. Your carbohydrate sources and amount will affect your rate of fat loss, your energy levels, appetite, and mood. This can make or break your fat loss efforts.

Now that we know that not all carbohydrate containing foods are created equal, what are some of the considerations we can pay attention to in order to choose the best carbohydrate sources for fat loss, muscle gains, and health? The glycemic index and glycemic load is what you want to consider first. In 1981, researchers from the University of Toronto developed the glycemic index as a way to allow diabetics to measure the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low GI. This is where the “good’ carbs (slow releasing) versus the “bad’ carbs idea originated from. A glycemic index value of below 55 was consider low, 56 to 69 was considered medium, and a glycemic index of 70+ was considered high. The glycemic index was far from perfect and suffered from many flaws. One flaw was that the glycemic index was based on the consumption of 50grams of a single food. Since humans rarely eat 50 grams of one food at a meal, a more sophisticated concept need to be developed, and that lead to the glycemic load. The glycemic load gave us a much better picture of determining the insulin output of a meal. The glycemic load of a meal is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food item by the amount of carbohydrate per serving, and dividing the result by 100. A glycemic load of fewer than 10 is considered low, 11 to 20 are medium, and 20+ is high. Try your best to stay on the low end of the glycemic load scale to best control your blood sugar.

This is just a brief explanation of the way scientist determine the blood sugar response to various foods and meals. Hopefully I haven’t scared you into thinking you must walk around with a glycemic index chart, a food scale, and a calculator to design your diet because you won’t, but I do want you to be aware that you can make better food choices. Eating your steak with a potato and eating a steak with a salad with yield two different blood sugar responses. In my practice I don’t write any meal plans. Instead I determine how much protein and fat the client will need and how much carbohydrates they need in order to lose fat at a respectable speed and coach them on making better food choices

TIP: familiarize yourself with the content of proteins, fat, and carbohydrates in the foods you eat. Be aware of both glycemic index and glycemic load. My advice is not to worry too much as this will just increase you level of anxiety associated with dieting. Losing fat is easier than most people think. Adding stress and confusion during a fat loss cycle will likely cause you to give up the diet entirely. Instead, I recommend people eat vegetables exclusively for their carbohydrate sources instead of starchy carbohydrates like breads, pasta, and potatoes.

In the future I will review studies that compared low versus high glycemic index and load on fat loss and other health issues. If you have any questions or need some assistance with your diet and exercise program please contact me at