Low Carb Diets- Good or Bad?

Low Carb Diets- Good or Bad?

If you didn’t know already, there are numerous studies about the importance of Carbohydrates and the impact of low carb diets on the body. You may have heard people talking about these types of diets before. Typically they fall into two categories:

  • Elite athletes that can effectively cycle a period of low carb intake before a competition to ensure they hit a particular weight category.
  • And the average gym goer who doesn’t know much about the subject but thinks it’s a good way to lose weight.

As you can see, there is an “informed” and “uininformed” camp. My advice is that if you don’t have your own nutrionist, or extensive knowledge on the subject,  generally steer clear of them.

A Short Synopsis of the Study

In case the study has already slipped from your memory, researchers from Harvard examined over 25 years of data from about 15,500 adults from four separate U.S. communities. They then pulled data from seven other studies involving more than 432,000 people in 20 countries.

They found that those who followed a low-carb diet (defined as less than 40% of daily calories) and those who followed a high-carb diet (more than 70% of daily calories) were tied to a higher risk of death than those who did moderate-carbs (50 to 55% of daily calories).

What do Carbs do?

Carbohydrates are a misunderstood substrate of energy, the studies show that if we have too much then it can be problematic for the body. But now if we have too little it can be the same thing? That buzzword of ‘Moderation’ springs to mind. Carbs have many benefits to the ordinary function of the body:

  • They supply the brain with the glucose it needs to function properly.
  • Supply Glucose to working muscles so that movement is possible
  • Can be a source of fibre and other vitamins and minerals

The revelations about high-carb diets being bad for you didn’t surprise anyone, but the news that low carb diets resulted in shorter life spans caused some furrowed brows among athletes because their diet is typically lower in carbohydrates which, according to the carb study, supposedly targets them for an early death.

Why High or Low Carb Diets Can Cause Early Death

It can be simplified greatly. Those that had low card diets were typically skipping the carbohydrates that are considered essential, fruits, vegetables, grains etc.

Conversely, the high carb people had issues because they included alot of refined carbs, things that you know you shouldn’t be eating on a regular basis. This caused what you’d expect. Diabetes, obesity and organ failure. Those guys sitting in the middle with ‘moderation’? Their diets were healthy and as a result kept their blood glucose low. This caused longer life.

A Little Bit of Context

If you’re a sportsperson or anyone remotely interested in looking good, you may be falling into the catergory that would put you at ‘risk’ of carb deficiency. Despite what the Harvard scientists suggest, you’re likely not going to die earlier than your moderate-carb intake cohorts. That’s because you’re not the typical low-carb person described in the study. While you might eat a relatively low-carb diet. You’re presumably relying on high-quality sources with carefully chosen vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains.

 

 

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FAT And Facts That May SURPRISE You

Benefits of Fat

Fats are the best source of energy for the human metabolism. They also don’t influence blood sugar. Here are 5 reasons why fat is our friend:

  1. Fat regulates our appetite. It helps us feel satisfied.
  2. Fat provides long lasting energy that carbohydrates are no match for.
  3. Fat has very low insulin (the hormone of aging) response, especially compared to sugar. One of the greatest side effects from the low fat craze – besides tripling childhood obesity in just one decade in the US – is its impact on mental decline.
  4. Fat is essential to the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), which are vital for health.
  5. German nutrition expert, Konrad Biesalski, points out the counter-intuitive reality that many of the nutrients implicated in protecting against cancer (vitamin A, folic acid, selenium, and zinc). These are not only more abundant in meat but are also more available than they are when they’re coming from plant sources. This means that these nutrients are better absorbed when consumed from meat rather than vegetables and fruits. Obviously that doesn’t mean that you if you get your protein from more plant based sources that you should stop, only that it seems to be a better source.

Which Fats Are Best… And Best Avoided?

    • There are three types of fats you should include in your diet: saturated, mono-unsaturated, and poly-unsaturated.
    • Despite what we’ve heard in the past, saturated fat and cholesterol are needed for the synthesis of the steroid hormones in the body, including testosterone.
    • This means muscular strength and tone, which is good for independence in old age, sex appeal, resistance to disease and also Vitamin D synthesis.
    • Trans fats (Cakes, doughnuts etc) are nice to have as a treat once in a while but they should be consumed minimally. It can take a bit of mental strength to do this but you’ll thank yourself in your 50’s.
  • As a general rule, studies have shown that a fat intake making up less than 15% of overall calories in the diet can significantly decrease testosterone levels.
  • If you’re on a carb-restricted diet, make sure you include a decent amount of saturated and mono-unsaturated since they’re good for energy metabolism.
  •  Saturated fat and cholesterol help to maintain rigidity with cell structure.
  • Poly-unsaturated fats should be included at lower quantities since they’re sensitive to oxidation. Still, these have specialised roles to help optimise cell function, cognitive behaviour, and inflammatory modulation.
  • Eating high carb and high fat at the same meal isn’t a good idea since insulin promotes fat storage in the wrong environment.
  • Never cook with poly-unsaturated fats. Cook with coconut or palm oil. Other than brain boosting and fat-busting benefits. The reason to favour these tropical oils for cooking is because they’re extremely saturated. This means any chance of oxidation from heat is minimised.
  • They also contain low amounts of Aldehydes once they are heated, which are substances linked to the development of some diseases.

Good Sources

Our ancestors thrived on a 4:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Nowadays the average diet leans toward 1:16 which is unhealthy. A reasonable aim would be a 1:1 ratio. This can be achieved by way of supplementation and good protein choices e.g. grass fed beef. Good options are to invest in Free range or organic foods. The only problem with these is that they can be more expensive. You can get a lot of good benefits in terms of healthy fats and protein from Oily fish such as salmon and mackeral. Which are cheaper choices in some places.

Broccoli: King of the Vegetables

Eat your greens!

There are many reasons that Broccoli is widely considered the best vegetable to include in your diet in terms of bang for your buck. I’ll go through a few points as to why it is such an integral food.

Macro nutrients in Vegetables

Broccoli is a vegetable that contains large amounts of macro nutrients that are needed in everyday life and for good functioning health. Per 100g it contains 2.8g of Protein and 2.6g of Fibre. These two are instrumental in not only maintaining a healthy balanced diet, but also ensuring optimal mental and physical well-being. I wouldn’t say that it is the best source of Protein to use for your diet, as the amout is quite small. But the amount that is present will certainly help growth and repair of tissues and encourage fat loss. Fibre is instumental in ensuring that the digestive system works properly, meaning efficient digesting and passing of waste.  It has been shown to reduce the risk of Cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html

Broccoli is also a source of carbohydrates (7g). These aren’t carbohydrates in the normal sense that you would find in bread or pasta. More in line with the natural sugar found in Fruit. This means on the dinner plate it’s a great source of Carbohydrates.

Micro- nutrients in Vegetables

Also contained within this vegetable is a huge amount of vitamins and minerals both also needed for optimal functioning of the human body. I’ll go through a few of the best.

  1. Vitamin A is important for healthy skin, teeth and bones,  contributes towards retinal development (so being able to see in the dark properly). It contributes to a healthy and active immune system (which aids in the prevention of diseases). But probably most importantly it contains a lot of Anti-oxidants. Anti-Oxidants are the bodies first way of combating free-radicals, which are a series orf events that leads to the damaging of a cell formerly a process found in the development of terminal diseases.
  2. Vitamin C is the chief vitamin that helps to prevent Scurvy. Something that the British Navy was plagued by in the past. They combated this by including limes and lemons in the sailors rations. Scurvy was a nasty disease that led to losing teeth and rotting gums. Lack of Vit C can also lead to longer time of wound healing. It also protects bones and contributes to a healthy immune system.

It’s a very cheap way of staying healthy, you can buy a weeks worth of  vegetables for less than £5 in certain supermarkets. But can you put a price on health?

 

Calories: Know your count

Misunderstood

Calories are probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in the gym. Many people are uneducated through no fault of their own. They don’t realise that calories are not always just one number and also that the gym machines don’t burn off “200 cals” because you walked on them for 40 minutes. Everyone’s ‘Basal Metabolic Rate’ is different, and that’s the tool you need to understand just how to burn your calories properly.

BMI

One test that gives the user a rating of their body composition is the BMI. The algorithm is based on whether the user is the right height for their weight. Generally this can work for those of average height and non gym users, as the skeletal muscle to fat ratio is lower.

Basal Metabolic rate

For users that train regularly and have a higher muscle- fat ratio, the results can be absurd. For example- using myself. I get a result of being overweight despite being 6 ft 2 and a regular weights lifter. The idea is not to heavily rely on this test, if you’re trying to find out whether you need to lose a bit of weight or not then you would benefit from working out your daily calorie expenditure, otherwise known as the Basal metabolic rate. This rate allows the user to ascertain how many calories they will burn a day at rest. That is the daily functioning of the body, without daily activities (gym, cleaning etc).

Try the link I have posted below. The result of this test will make it a lot simpler for you to ascertain how much or how little you should be consuming in terms of calories. The website also gives you a breakdown of where your calories should be coming from, based on the level of activity you provide.If your overall goal is to lose some weight? Then you need to be eating less than the current allowance.

If your overall goal is to gain some weight- ie muscular mass, then you need to eat more than the allowance says you are on. The food MUST be of nutritional value, contributing to healthy anabolic growth- simply doubling your intake in pizza will add on weight- but NOT the good kind.

http://nutritiondata.self.com/tools/calories-burned

Aspartame. Good or Bad?

Aspartame. A topic that is hugely discussed in the world of nutrition and health- particularly since the “Sugar Tax” was recently introduced in the United Kingdom. Drinks manufacturers have ditched sugar in favour of sweeteners like Aspartame and Acesulfame K to comply with the Governments policy.  Both substances are 200 times sweeter than sugar. Meaning that drinks need small amounts. Also saving on revenue for companies.

EFSA completes full risk assessment on aspartame and concludes it is safe at current levels of exposure.

As well as giving people headaches, dizziness, tiredness and bowel problems, what are the inherent risks of these substances, if they exist at all? Companies taking the iniative to remove sugar from our diets is a good thing surely? Even when motivated financially?

Is Aspartame as dangerous as we think?

In regards to these chemicals giving people issues like the ones mentioned above, it is hard to relate these specifically to Aspartame and Acesulfame If you consume too much sugar then you will likely suffer from the same ailments, rendering this argument unlikely. They will produce the same “Excito-toxins” from the brain which normally produce a ‘craving’ for more. Hence why you could drink a whole bottle of coke by yourself.

My thoughts are that these substances are less dangerous than pure sugar. There is not much to suggest that they will contribute towards the same inflammatory things that sugar does. I do not possess any comparable research so take that as my two cents.

During my Personal Training course, the same info was given to me about how bad these substances are for our health. Which I obviously believed without much further thought. A few months back I was having a talk with a chemist friend of mine and he sent me these studies.

https://academic.oup.com/annonc/article/15/10/1460/170200

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/131210

You can make your own mind up about these studies. But they both conclude that Aspartame offers no real health problems to humans in the amounts that we would find them. Unless Salad and Water forms your daily diet.

Understanding Blood Pressure

You might have heard the terms “Systolic”, “Diastolic”, “Stroke volume” being thrown about when you last had your blood pressure checked and silently nodded at the Doctor without understanding a single word of what they were talking about.

You are not alone in this. Blood pressure is a commonly discussed and commonly misunderstood part of human health. Allow me to clear up a few of the terms and what you should actually be aiming for when you get it measured.

First of all, I would recommend (if you can budget for it) that you get hold an electric blood pressure monitor for home use. It is good practice to regularly monitor your own BP and record it- rather than waiting months before your Doctors visit. They are not that expensive and can provide an insight into your health without leaving the house.

The Terms, there is alot of science that can be thrown behind a topic like this but I shall keep it brief. “Systolic” refers to the pressure that is measured on your artery walls when the heart is contracting (sending blood out). “Diastolic” refers to the pressure measured on the artery walls when the heart is refilling inbetween contractions, this is why it is a lower value. “Resting heart rate” is, as the name suggests, how hard the heart is working to pump bloody when you are at rest, so the lower the number here is generally better. “Stroke volume” is not a term that is generally included within BP testing but refers to the overall amount of blood that is pumped in a minute. “Hypertension and hypotension” refer to high and low BP, respectively. There are several ‘steps’ to each of these and is sometimes given a colour to signify its severity, for example 140/90 would be given a red flag whereas 140/80 would be an amber flag. If you do a self read and you are not sure about your reading then consult a Doctor, 

A good reading is advised to be 120/80 Systolic/Diastolic, this is for most ages and for those that have an activity level of low to moderate, if you have an activity level of moderate- very high then it can be as low as 100/60. Resting heart rate is indicative of a strong heart and a good reading for this in the same catergory as above would be 70 or less. Likewise those that exercise regularly could have a RHR of <50.

Foods that help to decrease blood pressure will be nothing short of what you may heard before, eating fruits and veg are always solid pieces of advice, as well as avoiding excess amounts of red meat and salt.