Aaron Chy, BSc General, PharmD Student
Losing weight is a two-way battle. If you read our last article on NEAT, you’ll know a little bit about how daily activities, staying mobile and basic metabolic processes all burn calories on top of exercise. What’s just as important, though, is making sure you eat right. For ages now, experts have preached on reducing fat for improved health, weight loss and preventing heart disease. And yet, so many people don’t see any changes despite doing all the right things: avoiding greasy foods, cutting out the oil in their cooking, and exercising regularly. So what are they doing wrong?
Going Against the Grain
A recent study compared athletes on a low-carb diet against those on a high-carb diet to measure differences in athleticism and fat-burned over time. The results were quite surprising: athletes on a diet with low-carbs burned more than twice the fat and were described as “spectacular fat burners” by researchers.1
It gets better; the most surprising result was the low-carb athletes had the same level of glycogen in their muscles during workouts and at rest. Glycogen is the storage form of energy in the body, so in other words, the low carb athletes had the same level of energy and strength on top of burning twice as much fat.1 It’s a win-win.
How low were the carbs in these diets? Athletes in the low carb group received 10% of their calories from carbs, and received the remaining 90% from fats alone, along with fruits, vegetables and enough protein to sustain muscle growth. Naturally, this is a large change from your everyday Joe’s diet, but the benefits of cutting out carbs are undeniable.
But I’m Not a Pro Athlete!
Even if you’re just an ordinary person looking to take care of yourself, this little change-up can still make a great difference in your health. Recent data showed that a high fat, low carb diet is associated with a lower risk of death and cardiovascular disease. You read that right; a high-fat diet does not necessarily increase mortality, but a high carb diet does. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t work towards cutting trans and saturated fats from your food, but it’s just as important to think about what you’re replacing your fats with, rather than only focusing on removing them.2
This brings us to the discussion of high-quality versus low-quality carbs. High-quality carbs are those that provide you additional nutrients, fibre, proteins, and vitamins; these include seeds, whole grains and legumes.3 On the other hand, low-quality carbs like white rice and white bread provide you with little more than excess glucose. When the body has too much glucose, it gets stored by converting it to fat. If you remember our example last week of how a few slices of bread can cancel out a 5-kilometre run, it’s easy to imagine just how much of a difference this makes.
Here are a few small, easy changes you can make to your everyday routine that can have a huge impact on your future health:3
- Substitute any white rice with quinoa or unprocessed brown rice. Not a fan of the change? Small steps are always easier. Try starting off with a half-half mix of white and brown rice first.
- Change out white bread with whole-grain or brown bread. The same goes with pasta. In addition to doing this at home, many restaurants, food-vendors and fast-food places are beginning to offer this as an option.
- Are you a fan of potatoes? Yams are a delicious and nutritious alternative. Also, swapping out snacks like chips with almonds and nuts can introduce fibre and healthy fats into your daily intake.
- Avoid sugary beverages like juice and pop. These aren’t carbs per se, but they’re high in sugar and have the same effect.
The Bottom Line
Stay active, and eat right. Everyone talks about getting it done, but not nearly as many people talk about how. Hopefully today, we’ve helped change that.
As always, we hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- Jeff S. Volek, Daniel J. Freidenreich, Catherine Saenz, Laura J. Kunces, Brent C. Creighton, Jenna M. Bartley, Patrick M. Davitt, Colleen X. Munoz, Jeffrey M. Anderson, Carl M. Maresh, Elaine C. Lee, Mark D. Schuenke, Giselle Aerni, William J. Kraemer, Stephen D. Phinney. Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners. Metabolism, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.metabol.2015.10.028
- Salim Yusuf, DPhil et al. Fruit, vegetable, and legume intake, and cardiovascular disease and deaths in 18 countries (PURE): a prospective cohort study. The Lancet, August 2017 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32253-5
- Canadian Food Guide