Tag Archives: Blood Pressure

The Problem with Carbs…UPDATED!

What’s the problem with Carbs (carbohydrates)?  Nothing!  Nothing….UNLESS, you eat too many or all you eat is carbohydrate.

Consider 2 conditions: Quantity and Quality

Quantity:  If you eat too many calories you will very likely gain weight.  Eating too many calories is a highly relative event.  It’s relative to yourself and no one else.  It’s relative to your genetic disposition (look at your parents) and it’s relative to your level of activity (more likely a lack of activity).  Simply put, people who are overweight and/or are suffering from symptoms of metabolic syndrome may very well be consuming too many calories.  Not all!  But, many!  Therefore, the 1st order of business/effort for someone desiring to get better/healthier/lose weight is to EAT LESS.  This is by no means the end all, be all, fix all as there are many other circumstances that prevent success in the face of calorie cutting.  But it’s a logical start.

Quality:  The glycemic scale measures a carbs impact on blood sugar (and thereby, insulin release).  It’s range is 0-100 with 100 being “high glycemic” and causing the most rapid rise in blood sugar.  Carbs range all up and down this scale e.g., white bread is very high whereas veggies tend to be very low (slow) in causing blood sugar increases.  People who are diabetic or who are pre-diabetic or who are living la vida high-carb should heed this index.  Having steady blood sugar is ideal.  Processing is a necessary and almost unavoidable event in today’s world and carbs have many aliases (maltodextrin, cane sugar, glucose, lactose, fructose, sucrose, sugar, corn syrup….on and on…) so just be aware that long ingredient lists tend to indicate more processing/more sugar potential  – exercise caution.

I say again – EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.  Whereas some folks are carbohydrate sensitive (they readily clear excess glucose) others are the opposite (cells are insulin insensitive causing a buildup of glucose AND insulin as they have no where to go – an issue compounded by continuous feedings) and have high glucose levels which typically results in Type 2 diabetes.

One very well known fact is that with the presence of insulin, the body’s ability to oxidize (use/burn) FAT as a source of energy is inhibited.  Eating CARBs causes an immediate response from the pancreas – a release of insulin.

One might consider this carb = insulin release = fat storage/non-fat oxidation sequence when he/she chooses to indulge in the non-science/sense (to date, to my knowledge, there is NOT a single study proving/supporting this dogma) supported notion that eating 6 (several) meals a day is a viable means of losing weight.  6 opportunities to store/not burn FAT!  Woo hoo!!!

The Time:Benefit Truth About Exercise. If only you could invest your money this way and have such a guaranteed return.

Without writing a book, I want people to realize, know, discover, acknowledge the truth behind the large Return On Investment (improved fitness/health/wellness) to the small amount of time/effort one actually has to spend in order to receive this benefit.

The human body can more or less be broken down into 2 divisions that are largely affected by exercise or lack of.  There’s the musculoskeletal system (muscles, bones and connective tissues i.e. tendons, ligaments, cartilage) and the cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory system (lungs, heart, blood vessels, blood, oxygen).  They’re inseparable and co-dependent SO it’s NOT optimal to train one system and not the other, which is what most people who attempt exercise end up doing.  In fact, training both is really simple.

You do aerobic activity that is intense enough (none of that chatty treadmill walking nonsense) to cause you to sweat and perhaps even not be able to talk in complete sentences.  Labored breathing!  What you do isn’t so important as frequency and duration.  Here’s the time thing.  Do it for 20 min.!  Consistently…everyone blows this rule.  Even me from time to time and I pay the price.  Be consistent!  Consistency means you do it 3-5 days per week.  3 is good and 5 is better – that simple.  Aerobic efforts need not be more than 20 min. IF done as described – exertion not conversation!

You do some form of resistance training.  I’ll use my mom as an example of what a soon-to-be 60yr old boomer can and should do.  Push ups!  Off a wall or in her case I tell her to find the Smith machine at the local big box she goes to and do push ups till she can’t (muscle failure).  She sets that bar anywhere from chest to waist height and starts pushing to failure.  Then again and again (at least 3 sets)…c’mon MOM!  She does body squats and if she’s feeling peppy she can use dumbbells or a kettlebell for added resistance.  She and everyone need to work the whole body.  Front, back, upper and lower.  So, posterior (back) is next.  Seated rows!  Lat pull down (done correctly)…  Done!  Probably lasts all of 30 min.

Resistance training, IF done consistently, need be done 2x / week and never on back to back days.  A little aerobic in-between (active recovery) or even a full rest day (full recovery) is warranted.  More is not necessarily better.  Rest & recovery are as critical as the activity.

Back to my initial point…. The health benefits garnered from consistently adhering to this protocol (fancy shmancy word) are simply:

On the cardio side of things, you (geez where do I start) become more insulin sensitive (no diabetes or perhaps reverse your diabetes), your blood pressure normalizes, LADIES – your bone-density increases, your oxygen uptake/delivery ability improves in both your lungs and your almighty heart.  Your HDL (good) cholesterol goes up and the “bad” (LDL) goes down.  MEN – your testosterone levels INCREASE!  I’m thinking of at least 4 medications (statins, BP meds, insulin, hormone therapy…) and a lot of $$$ that you’re no longer requiring or will not require.

On the resistance-training side of things you increase both the strength and endurance ability of your muscles (means everything you normally do which requires your muscles, i.e. everything but sitting and sleeping – will be easier), you develop stronger connective tissues (means your potential for injury is reduced), and you look & feel like a God/Goddess!

Relatively speaking, the above effort takes very little time.  It took me longer to brush my teeth, wash my face, find my shoes, holler for some toilet paper, etc. this morning than it did to do my jog and my 4x400meter sprints this morning.  Each lap took me approx.. 1min,20sec. (don’t laugh).  Point being, the getting ready/prepared and the drive to your gym are gonna take longer than the actual effort.

Soooo, wouldn’t it be cool if all you had to do is wake up and your trainer was there with the necessary equipment, the schedule already designed and a hot cup of joe to get your other eye open?  Or wouldn’t it be cool to be able to go straight home from work and have that same trainer there so you can get it on, enjoy the effort and enjoy the benefit of minimal time investment with maximum health benefit.

That would be VERY COOL!   You agree?!

Physical Activity, nutritional choices, weight loss, cardiovascular health, weight loss maintenance…how does it all more less fit together?

I hear statements/questions daily like, “Greg, what exercise can I do to lose weight?” or “I need to ‘tone up'” or “My doctor says I am a ticking time bomb, my cholesterol is high, I’m fat, I’m pre-diabetic…”

So, obviously where lie many problems, lie many answers and this creates a conundrum more commonly referred to as CONFUSION.  Note: Don’t fret over my potential misuse of the irregular verb “lie.”  If you’re smart enough to get what I meant, you’re gonna benefit from what I share henceforth – perhaps.  If not, sorry.

I’m trying (always trying) to keep it simple.  So, I’ll try again.

Caloric restriction (eating less), more so than macronutrient composition (% carb vs. % fat vs. %protein) is the key determinant of weight loss.  DONE!  It’s that simple.


What if you need to lose weight because you’re pre-diabetic and have high blood pressure?

Then, Physical Activity (PA) can help as well.  PA alone is of limited benefit in inducing weight loss (more on that in a few) but PA plays a critical role in improving cardiovascular health in both average-weight and overweight/obese individuals.

Benefits of consistent PA: Decrease blood pressure, improve blood lipids (increase HDL, decrease LDL), Decrease visceral fat (belly fat), Increase insulin sensitivity…

PA isn’t the most effective means of losing weight.  Why?  Because, most people can’t find the time or motivation to engage in the volume of activity (eg. 35 miles of walking a week) to achieve even 1 pound/week.  Sad but true.  Can’t out-exercise a BAD diet (one where you eat too much every day, all week…).

PA and weight loss maintenance: study after study show (Wadden, 2012 and Jeffrey et al) that PA is a critical component of long-term weight management.

Lastly, although macronutrient composition isn’t a huge determiner in weight loss, choice of diet should be determined by desired management of your areas of illness i.e. diabetes, CVD, impaired glycemic control, gluten sensitivity, etc. as well as personal preference.

The great benefit of weight loss is that it is associated in a linear manner with improvements in CVD risk factors: A1C, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol.