Oh man, we are going to be diving into the often misguided area of CARBS today!!!
This topic is easily one of the most confusing and miss understood areas of nutrition for women. Why? because we have been told a hundred things under the sun about how we should be eating carbs- mainly that we shouldn’t be eating them!
And there in lies the issue at hand.
As women, our bodies produce and regulate hormones much differently then men, and that hormone regulation is very sensitive to fluctuations in our energy intake, aka food- including carbs.
That sensitivity becomes even more effected when you bring menopause into the picture.
Regardless, when we have a a negative energy balance for extended periods of time (say low carb diet) it tricks our body into thinking there is a threat, and therefore sends it into survival mode.
This mode of survival can often mean hormonal disruption that throws your bodies hunger, appetite and satiety hormones (ghrelin which stimulates hunger, leptin which reduces hunger and peptide YY which increases satiety) out of whack.
Without getting too involved (because I’m all about keeping things simple) you will basically end up with a reduced production of leptin and peptide YY and increased production of ghrelin, the opposite of what you want to occur for fat loss.
This of course then leaves you feeling more hungry and struggling to work that willpower to the max, not to mention pissy and irritable!
This may produce some weight loss in the very beginning, which gives many women false hope, because it’s not lasting (plus research shows hormone disruption can continue for up to a year after dieting (1) and it takes away valuable muscle tissue along with any fat lost in the initial stages. Not to mention, it’s often un-enjoyable and turns you into a version of Cruella Devil that I’m sure your friends and family just love to be around- good times!
So what role do carbs play in all this non sense?
Well when people want to restrict calorie intake in the efforts to lose weight the first place they often look is their carbs.
While this is definitely something to address, problems can arise when it’s the only factor being looked at, and when it’s done incorrectly.
In most cases carb intake is increased as a result of emotional eating and/or in-adequate protein intake in one’s diet.
When protein intake is addressed and adjusted properly, carb intake is often reduced naturally AND without causing feelings of hungry or depravity (protein is very filling and uses a lot of energy to breakdown and digest).
Emotional eating is a whole other issue that we aren’t going to get into here, but it can also be improved by actively increasing protein intake.
By addressing protein intake, it becomes much more simple and sustainable to make adjustments to the your carb intake.
This means eating less refined carbs (high sugar, fast digesting, low fiber, low nutrient, high glycemic) and more complex carbs (high fiber, nutrient rich, slow digesting), except in the case of pre and post exercise, in which fast digesting carbs can be beneficial, but we aren’t going to get into that here.
Once this is executed effectively, then it can be very simple to start playing around to figure out the ideal amount of carbs to meet your individual energy needs to promote whatever your weight goals are (in most cases it’s fat loss).
The first step in doing this is being aware that your ideal carb intake is going to vary based many factors such as on your age, activity level, stress levels amylase production and body weight.
So it becomes imperative to be in tune with your body and your needs, so you can make adjustments when necessary, especially if you prefer to use the intuitive approach to eating as I do, vs. spending endless amounts of time trying to count calories and weighing your food.
This is where the help of a nutrition or health coach can be beneficial as everyone’s bodies are unique, but I will recap and give you a few key steps to get you started in the right direction.
5 TIPS FOR EATING CARBS FOR FAT LOSS
1. Eat More Protein!
- Include 1 serving of lean, complete protein (20-30g or the size of your palm roughly) with each meal, every few hours. (Or, if you eat less frequently, eat a bit more protein with each meal). Try getting your body weight in grams of protein EACH DAY! This will ensure that you are getting adequate protein and complete amino acid intake which will reduce carb cravings and intake.
2. Replace refined carbs with complex carbs.
- Aim to get most of your carb sources from veggies, fruits and legumes.
- CLICK HERE for a list of healthy complex starchy carbs
3. Limit carb intake based on activity levels. One serving size is a cupped handful.
- During days of light to no activity, try limiting carb intake to just 2-3 servings a day or around 100g.
- During days with more activity or exercise increase carb intake to 3-4 servings, more with greater activity.
4. Track your carb intake for 3-5 days by recording how much and what kind of carbs you are eating each day and how you feel after each meal/ snack.
- You don’t want to feel lethargic, low energy, over stuffed or moody after. Record any changes to your body as well.
- If necessary, try eliminated 1/2 a serving a day at a time for a week, until you start to see and feel the changes you desire. You don’t want to get below 100g of carbs a day so you may need to play around with your sources (increase veggie intake and limit fruit etc or starchy carbs) until you find a system that works.
5. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly when you eat.
- This gives the salivary amylase (enzyme in your mouth) more time to break down your carbohydrates which leads to less over eating.
These are just very basic tips to get you started, but it’s going to come down to trial and error to find what works the best for your body and needs.
So just be patient, and take it one step at a time to avoid hormonal imbalances and completely falling off the wagon.
Consistency is key in the nutrition game! I wish there was a sexier secret I could give you but that’s the good old truth.
The key is just focusing one one things at a time to keep things simple.
Now go tackle those carbs lady!
If you would like more individualized coaching to address your nutrition to reach your goals you can get in touch with me here.