Monday, June 13, 2011

Back to Basics - What to Eat for Successful Weight Management

I read all too often in the MFP forums people asking what to eat, what is a good ratio of carbs/protein/fat, to eat or not to eat breakfast, etc. It all boils down to people overthinking their nutrition & listening too much to media hype about this, that, or the other. We also give too much weight to marketing ploys that decorate the food we eat! Just because it says it give "60% value of daily fiber" does not make it healthy!

I highly recommend the K.I.S.S. method:

Keep It Simple Silly!!!
This goes for the food you eat as well as the thought you put into it. By keeping the food simple, I mean keeping it in its simplest form, i.e. NOT processed! The fewer ingredients, the better it is for you. The easier to pronounce the ingredients, the healthier it is for you!

By not overthinking what you are eating, I mean maintaining a simple balance will most likely result in the ratios you need without a ton of calculations & formulas! It is just this simple: keep your meals to a portion of lean meat (like chicken or fish), a portion or 2 of brightly colored vegetables (brighter colors indicate more nutrients), a portion of fresh fruit (like blueberries or raspberries), & a portion of whole grain (like brown rice or quinoa). There you have it! A simple meal with simple foods in their purest form!

Only after you have educated yourself on the differences between macro & micro nutrients, simple & complex carbs, and why or why not to adjust your ratios should you worry about it. Even then, you need only worry about it if, & ONLY IF, you intend to achieve the fitness level of an athlete! Otherwise, there really is no point in stressing about it.

Here are a couple of great articles about what you can do for successful weight management about getting back to the basics on what you eat.

Friday, June 3, 2011

To Eat or Not to Eat Carbs - I'm So Confused!

I see a lot of discussion in forums about carbs. Many people are recommending to keep the carb intake low. I also see recommendations for minimizing the consumption of fresh fruits due to their sugar content. All this disturbs me to a degree. It is obvious that people are not doing their research before making recommendations and are speaking mostly based on the myths they have been told themselves.

I wanted to take the opportunity to clarify the topic and provide some links to research I have done. I'm all about arming oneself with education. It is your BEST tool in life, including and especially when trying to lead a healthy lifestyle (I loath the term "diet" because it has an implication of a temporary event).

There are 2 types: simple & complex. Generally speaking, simple carbs are the bad carbs, i.e. refined/process sugars.

Allow me to define, briefly, the meaning of refined/processed. Simply put it means exactly what it implies - processed, or undergoing a process to become what it is. Processed foods have to be "man-handled" with machines & chemical injections to become the foods you then purchase off the shelves. This is NOT healthy food! The short of it is if you have to pull it off a shelf, DO NOT eat it! Nearly all simple sugars are found in nearly all processed foods. These sugars have had to be added in order to give processed food a shelf life (making it last for weeks/months/years). If these foods can have such a long shelf life, think about how long it will take your body to digest them.

Now, this is where bad simple sugars come into play. Simple sugars are quickly broken down and used for energy, thus the term "simple." Your body can store only a small amount of simple sugars. When that store has been fulfilled, it must do something with the excess sugar. The only other option the body has to process that sugar is to store it as fat for future consumption. Here is your "ah ha moment!" Therefore, excessive consumption of simple sugars leads to excessive weight gain due to increased fat stores. Got it?

Can you eat simple sugar at all? Yes. It is also found in whole, natural, fresh fruits. Because fruits contain these simple sugars, people generally recommend limiting their consumption. However, that is not necessary! Why? Whole, natural, fresh fruits also contain fiber, some more than others. Higher fiber content combined with the simple sugars in the fruit cause the sugar to become complex sugars. Fiber slows the bodies processing of the sugar, which is how the simple sugar then behaves like a complex sugar. This is why fruits are your best source of sweets and are a powerful tool when trying to kick processed sugars to the curb!

This brings us to complex carbs. What the heck are they and why do people say they are better than simple? Complex carbs cannot be quickly used up by the body. The body must constantly work to burn these carbs. Therefore, it is constantly getting the energy it needs from the carbs. Because complex carbs are used up more slowly, the body does not require as great a number of them. Here is why it is important to keep the carb count low. However, it is be kept low using ONLY complex carbs. Complex carbs are also high in fiber, which causes the body to be full for a longer period of time. Fiber, again, is used more slowly.

So, the next time you list all your food for the day, take a look at your carb number. Then, look at the foods that make up that number. Ask yourself whether the foods are complex carbs or not. Are they high in fiber?

You MUST consume carbs so your body has the fuel it needs for energy. Did you know your brain runs on carbs? I didn't either until today.

Here is the link where I got the best, simplest explanation:

Here is a list of simple & complex carbs:
Here is another list of complex carbs, including processed: