Tag Archives: Weight Management

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!!!

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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.

EXCEPT…

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.