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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Goal: Setting yourself up to fail Part 2

SMART Goal Continued

I started the other day by going through the SMART goal frame work and the meaning behind it. In this post I will discuss the framework’s draw backs, risks and limitations.

Risks

When planning a SMART goal, it’s important to be very ‘realistic’. You should go through all the apparent risks on that part of the frameowrk. Failure to do this can cause a few holes in the logic or risks to appear. For example a car manufacturer that wants to be the market leader in cheap cars. They may set themselves a goal to produce a car that costs consumers less than £5,000. This if course looks great on paper and would be a revolutionary idea. However, cheap parts means potentially a cheap job and could risjk the compaines future business plans. The bottom line is to evaluate the risks and not be too unrealistic.

Be aware not to set up too many goals at one time, it can be great to have a whole board set up with several tasks for the New Year. What is likely to happen is that they will either confilct with one another or you will get confused by trying to keep up with everything. Have one or two core goals that you are chasing at any given time.

Accountability

The SMART goal framework works well if you are able to discipline yourslef to achieve what you need to. There isn’t, however, any accountability included. To be properly successful with this framework you must make sure you are accountable to something or someone. This can be a close relative or partner. If you aren’t fully committed to what you’re doing then there is a risk that with no strong accountability, the goal will be lost.

Reliability

The person you choose to be accountable to needs to be reliable. Reliable so that when you’re faltering below where you should be, they will step in and re-position you in the right place to continue the goals. Briefness is a must here, and they must be able to remind you of any times you fall off the wagon.

Goals: Setting yourself up to fail

Goals setting: The process

Goals are imperative to achieving something. If you have a target that you want to reach then it must be done in a calucalted adn methodical approach. Most of the time this is done through “Smart Goals”. This is a way to break down the goal down into manageable pieces and also allows you to track your progress effectively.

So many people do not go through this imperative process, and set themselves up to fail. Similarly, people attempt this process but don’t fully understand what it is or how it works. This article will help you understand the process a little better.

‘SMART’ Goals

I have a love hate relationship with this method of goal setting. Initially I found it very annoying, but I have come to realise it is a very useful tool in goals acquisition. Each of the letters stand for something but also have a vast depth of understanding behind them.

Specific

Specific means to be precise. Many goals are lost or just forgotten because they are too complex. Keep it simple and it will stay attainable.

Measureable

This is a means of how you will measure your progress through the goal. If it is a training goal, then you will use a notepad or measureing tape for example. It must be measured in a tangible way, otherwise it will never be completed.

Achieveable

This is a way of reality checking your goal, is it actually achieveable within the time frame you have set, or with the resources you have? Make sure the goal is bullet-proof otherwise it will fail at the first hurdle.

Realistic

Something else to consider is that it is actually within the realm of possibility. As a trainer I’ve had people with extreme goals in their mind, such as losing a stone in a week. All the positive encouragement in the world will not complete that goal healthilty. Make sure that it is realistic.

Timebound

Very important. Without a time limit or deadline then you might as well be not doing anything. Make sure it’s an appropriate deadline that you can reallistically stick too. Otherwise, as above, your goals will never work.

 

You are not the only person concerned about body image.

Every person in the developed world thinks about their body image at least once a week- posititively or negatively.

I saw an advert for a beauty cream- that claimed it could remove your bodies ‘imperfections’ the other day and I was pretty angry about the message it was sending- in the eyes of big companies you will never be perfect in your own skin. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to sell anything to you.

This needs to change.

If you aren’t looking at yourself in the mirror and being totally happy in your skin- then it has huge knockon effects that can have lethal consequences, all the way up to depression. Millions of women and men across the world are fed the image that they are not good enough, that only them spending their money on the latest cream gives them any right to breath in our planets oxygen.

This, of course is not true. It’s also not to say that your body is perfect, you may well be in need of curbing a certain food or losing a few pounds. But when you look at yourself, you need to see the unfinished canvas and recognise that you have every right to the body that you want. The hardest part is the thought process, one of my favourite qoutes from a coach is “The more you succeed in habit, life and competition, the more habitual success becomes. Prove to yourself repeatedley that you have the courage and ability to overcome obstacles”.

Fit shaming is also a thing…

Unfortunately shamers also target those that take great pride in their appearance- this tends to happen more amongst women. Women that are hugely keen on weightlifting and being strong often hear things like “You look like a man” or “I wouldn’t date a girl that can lift more than me”. If you’ve ever heard that then you have my support, you have the right to feel great in your own skin.  It is very easy to consider yourself inadequate, or not as good as those you see on magazine covers. It is very hard to put yourself in your own compartment. To worry about your own body and not what everyone else thinks is the hardest thing to do.

I find that it helps to spend some time alone with my head, observe the traffic of your mind. Don’t try and run through it. Get in tune with how you feel and what drives you, at the end of the day all the external factors that make up your own body image are the least important. The most important is what goes on in your head.

The more you succeed in habit, life and competition, the more habitual success becomes. Prove to yourself repeatedley that you have the courage and ability to overcome obstacles.

Weight training: Overcoming adversity

I had one of those days recently, a culmination of tiredness and fatigue that just makes you feel like you don’t want to do anything. The ones where you feel lethargic and I didn’t want much food- it’s a horrible and unexplainable phenomenon that plagues most of us. We all want success in our lives- in some form. Whether it’s financial, physical or professional. The true path to success lies in being able to show to yourself that you can overcome adversity in every day life. Life is full of tough breaks and times that push resilience and make you feel like quitting.

Weight training (or any kind of tough training) is not only beneficial for the skeletal, muscular and cardiovascular systems. But it is also a chance to showcase your own ability to yourself.

Life is about repeatedly showing yourself that you have the ability and courage to overcome everyday obstacles

I use this time to do things that I don’t want to do, Squatting at maximal level for 5 repetitions is tough, and sometimes nauseating. But the result is that my mental toughness improves. When I have a bad day I know it’s just one in a line, I know that life is about repeatedly showing yourself that you have the ability to overcome obstacles. Overcoming adversity is not a cure for never having bad days. It is an additional mental weapon to fight the Dragons and demons that seek to get inside your head every day. Build mental toughness and you will be able to shout louder than the voice inside your head, telling you you’re no good, that you’re not special.

Run until your lungs burn

Punch until your vision is blurry

Push. Everyday. For greatness

What you think is what you get.

 

Can I workout at home?

The answer to this question is, Yes. You can. But there are benefits to attending a gym that cannot be always achieved through home workouts:

  1. The main benefit to a gym is that everything you need is there for you to use. The building has machines, weights, bands, medicine balls, kettlebells and more. These are all designed with a certain purpose in mind and each contribute to different aspects of the ‘Fitness continuum’.
  2. If your goal is to get strong or train for a particular event, such as triathlon, marathon etc. Then a gym may be the best place as it has all of the equipment (including a pool sometimes) that you need to achieve that goal. If you want to get strong then it is a must as unless you own your own gym, home workouts cannot supply the stimulus needed.
  3. There are like-minded people all around you, there is a generalisation that a gym is full of judgemental people, of course there are some. But for the most part a gym is full of people that all have a goal in mind, and it can be very refreshing to be surrounded by people who are closer and further away than you to the goal, whatever it may be.
  4. Personal Trainers are there to help, and most will be happy to help you with a quick question if you are not in mind to pay for their services, they can offer you with good exercises that you might not have used before, or a piece of equipment that you want to try, but don’t want to look like a fool trying.

Home workouts are picking up in popularity of late- with people choosing to use their own body weight or certain pieces of gym kit as stimulus. They have some benefits which I will list below:

  1. If you don’t enjoy a room full of sweating bodies- or crowded machines with people on their phones, then a nice workout in the comfort of your own home can be quite enticing. You can set your own intensity and have your own space. The only thing you need to have in both cases is Discipline.
  2. For older trainee’s who’s main need is just increasing a bit of strength or gaining balance then a home workout can be a good introduction to getting the body moving before you moved onto weights or swimming. It can also be a good confidence booster.
  3. If you struggle with the motivation to get up and go to the gym after a long day. Then it can be useful to try some home training. It is a good way to build habits- if you want more advice on habits then see my post How to (help) stay motivated

Whatever you choose to do, hopefully you can get moving soon, or if you already are: Keep it up!