Understanding how carbohydrates affect your body will give you a great advantage when you are planning and choosing the foods you eat. Simply by changing your carbohydrate intake and timing, you can turn your body from a fat storing machine into a fat burning one. Whether your goal is lose fat, build muscle, or maintain your current weight, carbohydrates are one of the major keys to your success. Through following the principles I have described previously (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and will describe in this article, it will become possible to shed fat and protect your muscle mass simultaneously. Please note that weight training is incredibly important for body changes and is much more effective than cardio for changing your body composition. If you want to tone up, build muscle, or get bigger then you will most definitely need to include weight training into your daily routine.
If losing fat is your main concern there are several key things to consider. Many subscribe to the belief that calorie restriction is the best way to loose fat; however, calorie restriction not only slows your metabolism but it also contributes to muscle wasting. By using carbohydrate intake as the signal to our body on how to behave we can keep insulin levels high at the right times, while keeping glycogen stores low enough to burn fat for metabolism. Through carbohydrate intake manipulation it becomes possible to burn fat even without changing the amount of calories we consume.
The ultimate goal of fat loss with carbohydrate modification is to keep your glycemic load low. Low glycemic load= low insulin levels=less fat and glycogen storage= you start preventing fat storage and burning more stored fat. The best way I can suggest doing this is with a diet called the metabolic diet. This consists of a low, moderate, and high carbohydrate diet that alternates each day. For example: Mon.-low carb intake, Tues.-moderate carb intake, Wed.- high carb intake, Thurs.- low carb intake, Fri.- moderate carb intake, Sat.- low carb intake, Sun.- high carb intake (with one all out cheat meal). The basic idea behind this diet is that you keep calorie intake relatively consistent while you switch up the amount of carbs you consume each day instead. By keeping the body in a state of confusion you can maintain fat burning hormones while keeping fat storing hormones like insulin low throughout the week. Insulin levels and blood sugar levels stay low, you burn more of what eat, and low carb days burn fat since your glycogen stores are low. One day per week you allow yourself one all out cheat meal, this maintains your sanity and also further tricks your body.
By using an alternating diet you can confuse your metabolism and keep your sanity at the same time. It is much easier to keep a diet where you know you will have two days a week to have some carbs, and you’ll get one cheat meal each week. It is important to make all of your carbs throughout the week quality carbs, which mean low glycemic index.
Low carb days should consist of a high protein and high fat intake, along with very low carbohydrate intake. On low carb days do not eat any grains, keep fruit consumption low, and get most of your carbohydrate intake from vegetables and low glycemic load fruits like watermelon or berries.
Moderate carb days should be high protein, moderate fat, and moderate carbohydrate intake. Eat 1-2 servings of quality, complex carbs: rolled or steel cut oats, sweet potato, brown rice, whole wheat bread or pasta, or quinoa. Keep vegetable intake high, and continue to limit fruit intake to 1-2 servings.
On high carb days look to keep protein intake high, drop fat intake very low, and increase carbohydrate intake to a higher level. 2-4 daily servings of quality, complex carbohydrates like those listed above, lean meat, lots of vegetables and unlimited servings of fruit: these rules make up your high carb days. On one high carb day per week you can allow yourself one cheat meal, in your cheat meal you can eat whatever you want. Eat low quality carbs like sweets or candy, eat greasy foods like burgers or pizza, or go nuts and eat two tubs of ice cream. Your cheat meal means you can have whatever you want, as much as you want, but the only catch is you have to eat it all in one serving, so you cannot eat more than your stomach can handle at one time.
General fat burning rules to accompany your metabolic diet.
Try to eat 4-6 meals/snacks per day and never eat a carbohydrate by itself: so if you have whole wheat bread, eat nuts or peanut butter with it; eating carbs along with protein and fat slows digestion and lowers the GI, this decreases fat storage (due to decreased insulin response).
A good rule of thumb is to try to consume between 0.5-1 grams of protein per lb of body weight, but this can vary based upon activity level.
Eat high fiber foods; high fiber intake lowers insulin levels and helps you feel full longer after snacks and meals.
Eat a serving of vegetables with every snack and meal. Veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals and fiber; consuming vegetables at every meal will help you avoid overeating, and will also lower glycemic index of the carbs you eat.
Eat low glycemic load carbohydrates except for during your cheat meal.
Exercise or increased physical activity will help you burn fat, especially on the days when your carbohydrate intake is lowest. Try to add in some cardio on low carb days for an added benefit.
Following the metabolic diet and the tips listed above will set you up on a path to fat burning and the body you have always wanted, without destroying your willpower. Stay tuned for part 5 on carbohydrates coming soon!