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Eating Too Little Contributes to Weight Gain


That’s right, eating too little at the wrong times can actually have a negative effect on your weight loss efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day weight loss is still a very basic calorie calculation: weight lost = calories out – calories in. Consume more than you burn and you gain weight. Burn more than you consume andyou loose weight. Simple math.

However, eating too little at critical times of the day, like breakfast or prior to exercise can actually have a negative effect on your ability to loose fat.

Skipping breakfast, for instance can create a hormone imbalance that triggers the body to go into”starvation mode,” and consequently triggers the body to store more fat than it otherwise would by reducing your metabolism. Not good.

Further, as the day progresses, this hormonal imbalance unnaturally increases appetite to the point where you’re far more likely to overeat for your next couple of meals according to the Journal of American Nutrition. That’s even worse.

Eating too little prior to exercise is another frequently made mistake.
Whether you’re heading to the club to lose body fat, add muscle tone, or just feel good about yourself, it is critical that you have a small pre-workout meal.

And here’s why.

Energy for exercise always comes from a blend of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. But fat sources only work at very low intensity levels, and carbohydrates are quickly utilized and must be constantly replenished.

So, while you might hope that your body will always use fat as an energy source during exercise, stored fat is metabolized ONLY when you are either sedentary or exercising at a very, very low level of intensity.  You will, indeed, burn more calories when you exercise at more rigorous levels, but you’ll burn no more fat. Check out my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report for LOTS more detail on this.

Most exercise is aerobic in nature. The energy source that will help you work harder to burn more calories, and work more efficiently to recruit additional muscle fibersis carbohydrates.  Unlike fat, which is stored as fat, carbohydrates are stored in the blood stream, muscle tissues, and organs as glycogen and glucose (and, technically ATP at the cellular level, but we’ll ignore that for now).

These immediately available “sugars” are your primary energy source for exercise… at least until they’re gone, which can be in as little as 20 minutes, depending on your metabolism and the nature of your exercise. Once the supply is spent (metabolized to exercise), your body needs to replace those spent sources with new sources .. .your pre-workout meal.

So, when you’re consuming your pre workout meal, you’re really filling your gas tank for the second half of your workout.

If you get it right, you’re in good shape for high energy levels and higher levels of intensity during the second half of your workout.  If you get it wrong, you’ll “hit a wall”, struggle with even moderate intensities, and ask your body to metabolize less efficient sources for energy, like proteins. That’s right, even if you’ve got 30 pounds of body fat to loose, if your body needs energy sources beyond the immediately available carbohydrate sources, it doesn’t convert your stored fat, it converts proteins!

Unfortunately, it gets worse yet, for if those proteins aren’t in your bloodstream (from a consumed meal), your body converts stored proteins …your muscle tissue … through a process called catabolism.

And if you are catabolising you will almost certainly gain fat because maintaining lean body mass is a key factor in loosing body fat!

So, (ahem), here’s the skinny on your pre-workout meal. You don’t need to have much, but be sure that you have a few hundred (200 to 400, depending on your body weight) balanced calories between 30 and 60 minutes prior to exercise. This window will vary from person to person (and your hydration levels and prior daily food intake), but 30 to 60 minutes ahead of your workout is a good place to start. A well balanced snack should consist of approximately 25% protein, 65% carbohydrate and 10% fat. One half of a peanut butter sandwich and half a banana handle this perfectly.  Or a yogurt and a few crackers.

This pre-workout requirement is also well recognized, and aggressively marketed by the nutritional supplements industry (Cliff, PowerbarGatoraide, etc.). Products from these suppliers also nicely handles the requirement.  However, just be sure that you consume the product far enough ahead of exercise for benefit: it takes most digestive systems 30 to 40 minutes to move food to the bloodstream. Consuming these productsduring exercise is almost always too late for any benefit for exercise shorter than 90 minutes.


Looking for more healthy tips on eating right and proper nutrition?Ask me about our New Nutrition Together program!

Respect the Gray Squirrel and be Healthier this Winter!


If you’re looking to stay healthier THIS WINTER, and wonder why your FLU SHOT DIDN’T WORK LAST WINTER, you might not want to look any further than the Eastern Gray Squirrel  for a role model!

Busy in fall gathering and building food caches for the winter months, humans who similarly scurry now for some sunlight now can in fact build sufficient stores to outlast a long, dark Minnesota winter!

For while much has been written about the significance of Vitamin D for good health, The New York Times recently stated that humans can store up A FULL YEAR’S SUPPLY  of Vitamin D with daily doses of just 5 to 10 minutes of direct sunlight during the summer months.  Summer’s gone now, that’s true, but it isn’t too late to roll up the sleeves and pant legs on sunnier fall days to build up your Vitamin D stores … especially if you’ve shunned the sun all summer long.

Exercise is, of course helpful in fighting off infections and preventing many diseases,  but your next best bet could be as simple as getting enough Vitamin D.   Especially in northern climates where exposure to the sun, our primary source of vitamin D, is limited during the Fall and Winter, increasing attention is now being given to vitamin D requirements. And vitamin D deficiencies.

In fact, some physicians contend that a major portion of winter ailments can be attributed to Vitamin D deficiencies, including heart disease, chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, hypertension, arthritis, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, PMS, CrohnsDisease, cancer, MS and other autoimmune diseases. Wow!

A Minneapolis client of ours has seen Vitamin D deficiencies in action 1st hand. Working through lower back pain for several months, she’d gone through physical therapy, chiropractic care, and had several MRIs and X Rays performed to help diagnose the source of her ailment. Nothing worked. Eventually, her physician suggested a diet loaded with Vitamin D, and her back pain went away!

The problem is, it’s really, really hard to compensate for the lack of sun.

Your body manufactures about 20,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D with just 20 minutes of sun.  To get that much vitamin D in your diet would require something like 40 glasses of milk per day! (3300 calories, even if it’s skim milk). The good news is that Vitamin D is fat soluble, so your body is capable of storing D in your body fat. You won’t need to consume the entire amount that you would otherwise manufacture, but if you can’t get some sunshine, some dietary intake becomes critical.

In fact, to be keep your levels of Vitamin D sufficient,  an occasional trip to a tanning bed is probably the surest route!  This, of course, carries the added risk of developing skin cancer, so many of us avoid those.

As a Result, Natural Foods, become your next best source of vitamin D, and here are some high quality choices:

Salmon, canned (3 ounces) 530 IU
Salmon, cooked (3.5 ounces) 240–360 IU
Tuna, canned (3 ounces) 200 IU
Soy milk, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Orange juice, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Milk, low-fat, fortified (8 ounces) 98 IU
Cereal, fortified (1 cup) 40–50 IU
Eggs (1 large) 20–26 IU
Swiss cheese (1 ounce) 12 IU

The problem is, even a diet with only these foods you could still be deficient in D!   So we’re not done yet. How much, exactly, you need daily is still under debate, but a daily intake of up to 2,000 IU is currently considered a safe upper limit. The medical community agrees that up to this much won’t create other problems, even if they can’t agree on what the required minimum should be.

So, even with a naturally rich vitamin D diet, some supplementation is recommended. The best way to take vitamin D supplements is with Calcium. The two nutrients work together to build strong bones and teeth.

Furthermore, it’s been shown that taking vitamin D with Calcium can actually reduce your fatty food cravings and help you lose weight!

So, with the Sun getting further and further away for the next 3 months, be sure to Squirrel away some natural sun D when possible this fall!

And the next time you wonder if the little grey guy is actually going to make it to the curb in time, remember … some sun now could keep you healthier this winter!

Looking for even more useful nutrition tips? Ask me about our new Nutrition Together program!

Conquering Carbohydrates Part 3: The Complex Carbohydrate Conundrum


A few weeks ago, we posted Carbohydrates For Dummy’s Part 1: Saccharides and Such. 

A week after that we posted Part 2 of the Conquering Carbohydrates story: an introduction to Complex Carbohydrates.

Then came a few distractions and the Annual Fair Foods Blog, but we’re back on track today  with the 3rd and final part of the Conquering Carbohydrates Conundrum.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

If sugar, starch, simple carbs, complex carbs, and ne t carbs weren’t enough to test your meddle, two other sometimes confusing carb-centric terms to contend with are Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL).

Glycemic Index simply ranks foods on how quickly they affect glucose levels in the blood stream.  Developed in Toronto in the 1980s to help doctors prescribe diets for diabetics, foods that quickly elevate blood sugar levels have a high glycemic index.  Foods that increase blood sugar slowly have lower glycemic indices.

In addition to Diabetics, Athletes also tend to be highly aware of blood glucose levels to both prepare for and recovery from intense exercise.   Regular exercisers can also benefit from an awareness of blood sugar levels, however, because the of the effect cortisol has on glucose metabolism when you are low on blood sugar.

You might think that you’re doing yourself a favor skipping lunch, when in fact, doing so triggers your body to generate more cortisol.

Cortisol … the “your under stress hormone” counteracts Insulin production and reduces the metabolism of glucose.  The result of this is disproportionately more fat storage in anticipation of famine!  Additionally, the increased Cortisol increases appetite so you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal!

It would be great if you could simply categorize carbohydrates into glycemic index groups that fit nicely within some saccharide category, but the truth is, it’s somewhat of a frustrating memorization exercise.

Take roots.  Carrots & yams (both simple carbohydrate foods) have relatively low GIs of 39 and 51, respectively, while potatoes have GIs as high as 85!   The difference here is that potatoes are very starchy.

So, starchy means high GI then?

Not quite. Plenty of other starchy carbs, like Oats, Bran, Rye and Barley are actually quite low in GIs scoring in the 20s and 30s.  Similarly,  wheat and most rices also score fairly low (50s), while brown rice pasta has an exceptional and soaring 91!

And then there’s fruit.  Unless I’ve missed something, no fruits are starchy.   They’re fibrous and watery, but not starchy.  But here’s the rub: some fruits have very low GIs, like grapefruit (25), plums (39), and apples (38); and some fruits have moderate GIs, like mangos (56), apricots (57), and raisins (64).  Why then, does watermelon have a sky high GI of 72?

It makes no sense, and in the end, you must simply memorize or carry GI tables with you to get it right!   Here’s one build for the sometimes-popular South Beach Diet.

Attempting to solve this mystery steps in Glycemic Load.

As it turns out, part of the reason why inconsistencies exist across the simple to complex carbs GI spectrum is related to quantity consumed.   For example, a single piece of hard candy (nearly all sucrose) will trigger a smaller glucose response than a bite of a banana.  But if you consume 2 cups of each, the candy outpaces the banana quite quickly!

What’s more, Net Carbs also have a role.  As mentioned above, the fiber content will affect digestion speed, which, in turn, effects blood sugar fluctuations.  So, in the late ‘90s,  the Glycemic Load became a more popular way to determine food effect on blood sugar, defined as the percentage of GI times Net Carbs:

Glycemic Load = Glycemic Index / 100 x Net Carbs

Got that?  Well, before you start looking for a smart phone app to calculate GL, have no worries, many nutritionists have simply done the math for you with tables they’ve built themselves.  In fact, one of my all time favorite nutrition sites, NutritionData.com doesn’t list GI at all, but instead lists an Estimated Glycemic Load number for most of it’s nutritional listings.  The values are estimated simply because complete data on GI and Net Carb values simply hasn’t yet been compiled for all foods.

What you also need to know about GI vs GL numbers is that a high GL number could be a low GI Number:

Within the heavily debated carbohydrate controversy, exists a separate embedded micro controversy around GI and GL.  As with carbohydrates, many experts propose low GI/GL diets within the weight reduction context, while others staunchly oppose it.  A 2008 German study, for instance, actually found that low GI/L diets actually correlated to higher bodyfat results.

Withstanding GL wizardry, one food category that emerges consistently high in the GI tables is highly refined grains, particularly those in baked goods.  French bread, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, rice cakes, and many breakfast cereals ALL SCORE very high on GI tables.

Refined Grains and Added Sugars

Refined grain products (cookies, cakes, cereals) also suffer from two other significant problems: added sugars and nutrient deficiency.

In fact, according to the  USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the single largest problem with many American diets is, indeed,  these refined grain products.

Not only do they trigger a short, spiky bust in glucose, but they are also reasonably ‘empty’ calories with very few micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  To make matters worse, they frequently include added sugars to make an already unhealthy food even more caloric.  Sometimes inclusive of saturated and/or hydrogenated fats as well, and well, these products are really quite evil to health and fitness professionals.

The Carbohydrate Conundrum: What to do?

With all of this going on, it’s no wonder the general public is confused about carbohydrates and their dietary relevance.  Here then is my professional recommendation on the topic.

First, if you are diabetic, follow your doctor’s orders, not mine.

For all the rest of us:

  1. The easiest way to defuse most of your concerns about carbohydrates is simply to exercise more!  Not only will you metabolize more calories in doing so, but other hormones involved with exercise and exercise recovery help keep cortisol and insulin balanced.
  2. Recognize that carbohydrates are, above all else, your body’s primary fuel source.   While it’s true that your body always metabolizes a blend of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, carbohydrates are your primary fuel source.  If your engine is just idling, back off on the fuel!
  3. Adjust your complex carbohydrate intake with your anticipated physical activity
    1. If you are sedentary, you need very complex few carbohydrates.  Most of your energy will come from stored energy sources (glycogen and body fat).   Eliminate most complex carbohydrates from your diet to avoid gaining body fat.
    2. If you are active, you need some complex carbohydrates.  Try to get most of your complex carbohydrates early in the day, typically before 2:00 PM.  Switch to mostly simple carbohydrates after that.
    3. If you are regularly exercising, or an athlete, you need a LOT more carbohydrates. Get most of your complex carbs early in the day, but do include moderate quantities later in the day.  Don’t hesitate to include higher amounts in your diet if you have a high intensity exercise event the following morning.
  4. Eat a wide variety of and large quantities of fruits and vegetables.  Follow the seasonally available produce and you’ll get plenty of variety.  Make sure you get at wide variety of color in your diet.   A lot of people miss out on the yellows: squash, yams, yellow peppers.
  5. Try to incorporate more legumes into your diet: green beans, black beans, pinto beans, white beans; etc.
  6. When choosing complex carbohydrates, focus on whole grains, and high fiber sources.  Steel cut oats, whole wheat, and wild rice are good examples.
  7. Always avoid or minimize highly refined grains, particularly those with added sugars.  MOST of the grocery store bakery fits into this category: cookies, cakes, pies (it’s the crust), french bread, muffins, and doughnuts.   What’s worse is that many of these will also include partially hydrogenated fats.
    1. Avoid or eliminate them if you are serious about your health.
    2. Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death for men and women in America and these fats are deadly
Did I Miss Anything?   What’s your burning or unanswered carbohydrate question? 

Trainer Approved State Fair Foods


For those of you looking for Part 3 of the Conquering Carbohydrates Series, we’ll get back to that in a few days because THIS IS URGENT!

The Great Minnesota Get Together starts This WEEK!

Feared and Dreaded by trainers across the state since the beginning of time, this single event can cause more damage to a client’s otherwise predictable progress than Thanksgiving and Valentine’s day COMBINED.

12 days of high fat content food. 12 days of grazing and lazing.

But it doesn’t have to be so!  We’ve done some research on the deep-fried-lard-on-a-stick alternatives, and have found that a trip to the fair can be fun, friendly, and fitness freak approved!

Orange/Strawberry Treet Sales

But before I get into the food tips, let me give you two other pieces of advice for making the fair regret-free to your fitness goals.

First and Foremost, Get your workout in BEFORE you go to the fair. Most venues don’t open until 8 or 9AM, so get up early, get that workout in, boost the metabolism going into the battle, and you’ll have a few more caloric liberties while you’re there.

Secondly, PLAN for riding your bike to the fair.  It’s easy, free, and will knock down a few cals.  Search for and plan to park by Como and you’ll have less than a mile to ride to any of the FREE bike parking lots.

You’ll still want to bring a lock, but the fully attended corrals will check-in your bike to ensure that everyone leaves with what they brought in. Three Gates host bike corrals:

  • Como-Snelling Gate (#6)
  • Hoyt-Snelling Gate (#2)
  • Commonwealth-West Dan Patch (#15)

Bike Corral Hours: 6 a.m. to midnight daily.

Bicycle corrals are sponsored by Twin City Bike Club.

Visit them online at www.biketcbc.org

As far as food is concerned, my recommendation would be to have a healthy, hearty meal before you go.

BUT, I know a lot of folks flock to the fair simply to enjoy the delicacies, so here are a list of the least damaging choices.

Category 1: Your Trainer will love you

Andres Watermelon

Caribbean Fruit Smoothies

Midwest Dairy Association of Minnesota “All The Milk You Can Drink For $1”

Minnesota Apples

Orange Treet

St. Martins Olives

Category 2: A few good choices, though not all good

Bayou Bob’s Gator Shack (watch the sodium)

Beef Kabobs (kabobs OK, side dishes marginal)

Buffalo Burgers (kabobs OK, side dishes marginal)

Cafe Caribe

Corn Roast (skip the butter & salt – good sweet corn needs neither and your thighs will thank you!)

Demetri’s Greek Foods (Salads)

Dino’s Gyros (Salads)

Falafel King (stay away from the fried vegies)

Hawaiian Shaved Ice (go light on the cream & nut toppings)

Jerky Shoppe, The (watch the sodium)

MinneKabob (watch the sodium)

Minnesota Buffalo Association, E-18 Judson Ave.

Ragin Cajun (peel/eat shrimp or boiled crawfish only!)

Smokin’ Joe’s Smokehouse

Turkey To Go (drumsticks!)

And that’s a LOT of Food!

Much of it wouldn’t fit into the optimal, healthy diet, but will blow your diet LESS than almost anything else you’ll find at the fair.

Aug. 26-Labor Day, Sept. 6. 2010 | Minnesota State Fair

What’s your favorite healthy fair food?

 Please comment!

Carbohydrate Quiz


Conquering Complex Carbohydrates – Part 2 of Carbohydrates for Dummy’s


 Part 2 of a 3 part series on conquering carbohydrates, today, we focus on Complex Carbohydrates: where they’ve fit into diets and dietary conversations.

Last week, we covered Carbohydrate conversational history, and Simple Carbohydrates: Saccharides / Sugar.

Disaccharides

Chaining two saccharides together creates a slightly more complex type of carbohydrate called a DIsaccharide.   Three of the most common disaccharides are Sucrose, Maltose, and Lactose, all formed with a different combination of monosaccharides:

Disaccharide

Monosaccharide + Monosaccharide

Sucrose =

Glucose + Fructose

Maltose =

Glucose + Glucose

Lactose =

Glucose + Galactose

Sucrose naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables and is highly concentrated in cane sugar and sugar beets.    

It is also common table sugar.

NOTE: Some canned fruit and vegetable products will also ADD refined sugar (like high fructose corn syrup and common table sugar) to the processed food, to sweeten the flavor.  You need to be careful of the extra sugar and extra calories.

I also learned this week, courtesy of Breakfast Club Guest Speaker Steve Zeller of Waconia’s Parley Lake Winery that Winemakers sometimes add sucrose to highly acidic wines to improve palitability. 

Polysaccarides

Stringing 3 saccharides together creates, you guessed it, a trisaccharide, while 4 or more saccharides builds a polysaccharide.

And this is where things get really interesting … and controversial. 

Three of the most common polysaccharide carbohydrates are Starch, Glycogen, and Cellulose.

Starch is insoluble in water and must be digested by animals.  It is a glucose reserve for plants (excess plant glucose is converted to starch).  Rice, wheat, and corn are common sources of starch in the human diet.

Glycogen is a reserved form of glucose for animals (not too unlike how starch is a glucose reserve for plants).   It is manufactured by the liver and is stored in the liver and muscle tissues.  It must be converted back to glucose to be used as an energy source.

Cellulose is produced by and forms the primary structure of plants. While technically a polysaccharide carbohydrate like Starch and Glycogen, the cellulose molecular structure makes it indigestible by mammals.  It is therefore considered fiber, and not really an energy source.

Complex vs. Simple Carbs

If you’re observing the carbohydrate reduction battles, these complex carbohydrates are exactly the carbs that tend to be under the most scrutiny.

The easiest way to separate Simple Carbohydrates from Complex carbohydrates is to identify Starch.  Complex Carbohydrates will almost universally contain Starch.

Fruits and Vegetables do not; they consist primarily of water, cellulose (fiber), and fructose.

Complex carbohydrates are then primarily carbohydrates with a starch element.  These include most of the grains (wheat, oats, barley, rice, and corn), some roots (potatoes, yams, turnips), and some legumes (beans).   Most also have significant cellulose content making them high in fiber.

Low and No Carb Diets

While extremely low carb diets like Atkins eliminates nearly all carbohydrates, mono and disaccarides included, some diets, like South Beach allow for most monosaccarhide and disaccaride carbs, but banish the more complex ploysaccarides.

The big difference in these two approaches is that the carbohydrate threshold below which an Atkins style diet places your body in what’s called a state of ketosis whereby glycogen stores are depleted, requiring that energy comes entirely from the metabolism of fatty acids.

Most of the medical community considers this a highly risky and potentially life-threatening taxation on the liver.

Ketosis risks notwithstanding, another at least as significant problem with many low/no carb diets is micronutrient deprivation.  Despite the phenomenal products from many supplement providers, matching natural food vitamin and mineral content is extremely difficult.  Missing out on all of these in the absense of a saccharide smart diet is simply not a healthy, long term way to provide nutrients to your body.

Net Cabohydrates

Net Carbohydrates are an interesting new term in the diet world whereby the diet du jour architects and food manufacturers have decided that the carbohydrate content defined by the USDA isn’t meaningful for the fibrous component in a food product.

So, what they’ve done is created a new value: Net Carbs, defined as the total carbs in a product less the fibrous content.

In no small way, this is merely a ruse to position products in a more favorable light to carb conscious dieter.  

While the Net Carb idea is somewhat honorably used to identify the energy sources relevant to body fat storage (or elimination), disregarding the fibrous (often cellulose) component in this way sidesteps several other metabolic and digestive considerations.

For one, high fiber carbohydrate products digest more slowly, and in some cases much more slowly than a low fiber food.  This results in a slower, and more steadily produced stream of glucose in the blood stream … something highly significant to 25+ million Americans with diabetes.

Second, high fiber diets are healthy!  They reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease, have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, and help with weight control programs by providing ‘filler’ the body often identifies as food to reduce appetite. 

As a result, the Net Carbs numbers tend to do more clouding than clarifying.

In the end, your time would probably be better spent simply looking at and monitoring the sugar and fat content of a food than bothering with the net carb calculation.

In fact, as an isolated factor, you might actually choose a less healthy product on it’s net carb merits!

For instance, a serving size of McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal has 27 grams of carbohydrate.  Of that, 3 g are dietary fiber, while 2 g are Insoluble fiber.  Hence, the net grams of the product are:
27 – 3 – 2 = 22g.

On the flip side, a serving of General Mill’s Cocoa Puff’s has 23 total grams of carbohydrate.  Of that, 1 g. is dietary fiber for total net carbs of 22g as well.

Equivalent products then?  Not even close.  The oatmeal has than 1 g. of sugar while the Cocoa Puffs have a whopping 13 g of sugar!  Further, the serving of oatmeal includes 4 g of protein while the serving of cocoa puffs has just a meager 1 g of protein.

What’s more, the 5 g of dietary fiber in the oatmeal will give it a much lower glycemic index (tune in next week) than that low fiber General Mill’s product, something that will effect hormones in a far more influential way.

Though … from a net carb perspective … the products look equal.   

Unfortunately, a desperate public blindly following the net carb lemmings may make poor, and uninformed decisions.  Don’t let that be you!

Next Week: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load; Refined Grains; what to do? 

Like last week, leave me a comment and we’ll spot you a free water bottle!

Carbohydrates for Dummy’s – Part 1


A client recently asked me if I supported low carbohydrate diets.

 I responded with an absolute maybe.

It depends, I told her … are you interested in reducing all carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, refined grain products, sugars, and/or starch?”  

I got “the gaze,” scheduled her for a Nutrition Together session, and decided it was time to write it all down.

Here then, is Part One of a Three Part series on Carbohydrates …

… compete with two polls … please vote!  And, as always, if you comment on my posting, you’ll be entered into a contest to win free personal training!

We’re going to get a bit technical here in the 1st week.  You don’t really need to know the chemistry (I’ll give my layman’s recommendations in week 3), but following along will definitely improve your awareness of marketing hype and improve your diet!

Question # 1 for you:

A (very) Brief History of the Carbohydrate Conversation

If you thought that Low Carbohydrate (Carb) diets were a consequence of modern dietary remediation, you’d be right.  And you’d also be quite wrong.   

In fact, many anthropologists believe that the early hunter-gatherer humans of thousands of years ago consumed a diet largely consisting of proteins and fats with relatively low carbohydrate content.   Of course, they suffered from very low life expectancies, widespread disease, and chronic illnesses, so it’s probably best not to give too much credit to that <ahem> tribe’s eating habits.   They were also generally more active than our current society. 

More recently, physicians sporadically treated diabetic patients with medications and low carb diets as early as the 1700s … more than 3 centuries ago. 

And if that’s not all, the Glycemic index, an indication of how quickly carbohydrates metabolize, was actually introduced by Dr. David Jenkins around 1981 more than 30 years ago!

But the “low carb craze” as we now know it really started in the 1990s when Dr. Robert Atkins introduced his diet and philosophy on fat.

By that time, of course, highly refined grains had permeated much of the American diet, and, according to the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, they still do.

Considering the position we held on the Obesity Curve in the 1990s, carbohydrates became an easy target for a problem that seems to be getting <ahem> bigger. 

Dozens of Medical Research Communities have studied low carb diets over time, developing both staunch supporters of and staunch opponents to the concept.

In short, it’s a complex topic.  While much there is much consensus around protein and fat intake requirements for varying levels of human activity, the camps on carbohydrates are very much divided. 

 

Further complicating the picture is that we have a very diverse range of activities to consider.  Athletes, weekend warriors, and fitness freaks all need different nutrition than the average consumer.  And the average consumer is different in activity behaviors than highly sedentary folks in the community.
In the end, no diet is right for everyone, and, over the next few weeks, I’ll show you why!
What’s more, carbohydrates cover an extremely diverse category of foods.
 Everything from vegetables to vermicelli is under the carb cover.
Simple table sugar is a carbohydrate just as a bowl of oat meal is.  So to, are cookies, pie crusts, and brussel sprouts.
Everything from simple fruits to complex, highly refined grain food products has been thrown under the carbohydrates-are-bad bus, and that’s just wrong.

Organically Speaking …

Carbohydrates, as the name suggests, are a long chained carbon molecule (carbo -) with oxygen and hydrogen (hydrates).  The ratios of hydrogen and oxygen are about 2:1 (H2O), though the molecule itself has very little in common with water.
Proteins and Fats are also long chained carbon molecules, but with much different ratios of hydrogen and oxygen.   (See the skinny on fats and protein primer).  
The simplest of all carbohydrates is a single unit of a saccharide,  or sugar.  It is called a monosaccharide (C6H12O6).    How the molecule is structured, however, determines what type of a sugar it is, even though it has the same molecular formula (C6H12O6).

Three commonly recognized monosaccharides are Glucose, Galactose, and Fructose.   Glucose, of course, is human blood sugar, an immediately ready source of energy for cellular respiration – the product of which is ATP, our primary energy source.

 

Galactose is the sugar commonly found in dairy product (and is responsible for ‘lactose intolerance’), while Fructose is the sugar found in honey and fruits.    

High Fructose Corn Syrup is a fructose manufactured as an sweetening ingredient from corn starch,  and is a highly controversial processed food ingredient.

 

In fact, if you believe Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivor’s Dilemma, Corn and High Fructose Corn syrup play a major part in the American Obesity Epidemic.
Enough for now.  Next week – the Glycemic Index, and Simple vs. Complex Carbs. 
But before that, please tell me …