WARNING: don’t get sucked into this fad

meserviceThe 80’s were all about low fat. Fat was the devil, responsible for heart disease, cardiovascular conditions and a whole host of other ailments and illnesses.

From it the era of “low fat “ emerged and a plethora of “diet” foods were sold and marketed as the healthy option. Thankfully we are much wiser now, and much less susceptible to clever marketing… or are we?

One of the major qualities fat provides food (and we’re talking commercial products here… Anything from yogurt, ready-meals, ice cream to baked goods) is taste. Here’s an example… Think about it with milk. Full fat milk is creamy, rich with oodles of taste, it’s skimmed counterpart is thinner, lighter with a much, much milder taste.

Removed the fat, and you have to replace that rich taste with something. Here manufacturers pump in chemical substitutes or sugar.

Back to the history lesson… what happened next? We got fat. Really fat. So just to summarise, we are told fat is the devil, so turn to low fat, and end up fatter with rates of heart disease and CV illnesses going through the roof….

Fast forward to the new millennium, and it’s taken a good decade but thank goodness, the media has put down the diet-soda and picked up an avocado. We now all know fat rules… we just have to chose the right kind (basically the most natural, untouched versions of nuts, fish and avocados).

So here comes the warning… The latest “fad” is actually nothing new…. It’s something we have all heard at one point or another from a magazine, a friend trying a new diet, or it may even be something we are adopting ourselves:

“carbs are the devil”

As a Personal Trainer I’ve spoken with a lot of women, and men as they’ve started their fitness journey, and when the subject turns to nutrition, the first thing so many of them proudly declare is…“I don’t do carbs”. There is always a pause as they wait for my PT approval, which is actually the time I’m thinking…“then how do you live??”IMG_1138

Here comes my warning. The health risk of carbs has been banded about by the media and oodles of fad diets for many years now… but do we want to look back in 20 years time (just like with the low-fat phenomenon) and slap our foreheads in shame…?

I’m writing this warning because over the last week I have been criticised by several people for my macronutrient intake and choices… “…oooh I wouldn’t eat bread…” or even “…I’d never have potatoes for dinner…” to outright “…you eat way too many carbs…”

Now these motivational speeches came from a variety of sources, including a fellow PT.

The message I’m sending is a statement we should apply to everything we do in life. Make your life choice with knowledge, and stick to it with belief. Don’t let someone with only a snapshot of your lifestyle, judge you and tell you what to eat.

What are carbs? They are our life fuel. As an endurance athlete (or a wannabe one at least) they literally keep me running. They break down to form glucose which feeds our muscles and our brain. Excess is stored in our muscles ready for action and activity, too much is stored as fat.

Remember that too much of any macronutrient will be stored as body fat… That does not make carbs the bad guys.

P1020468Just eat the right kind. All veg and fruit contain a moderate to high amount of carbs. Pure fuel for the Ferrari. Whole grain foods such as bread, rice, pasta are more processed, but as long as the sugar content is low (less than 3 g per 100g) here we get added fibre and shed loads of vitamins and minerals. Other grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, spelt provide more nutrients without the gluten (for the tiny percentage of people who are celiac).

If you have a gluten intolerance (this is the protein inside the wheat) you would know about it. It’s very serious stuff. If you don’t have it, don’t worry, and chose the most whole grain option possible (fibre, fibre, fibre 🙂 )

So what is the devil then? Refined, processed carbs.

These monsters have no nutritional benefits, no fibre and convert into energy so fast our poor bodies can’t cope. Too much energy for our body to process can only mean one thing. Body fat.

Yet, the impact of these refined carbs is much more deadly, as during this process they reek havoc with our hormones (remember these guys are our NASA station – keeping our body finely in balance) which is what leads to insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease. These carbs are often combined with very processed fats, so they taste great, but are then so unnatural our body does not recognise them as macronutrients and guess what…. stores fat.

processed bread (bake your own 🙂 ), white pasta, white rice, pastries, muffins, chocolate bars, crisps.

Final word, vegetables and whole grains are amazing clean carbs, providing clean nutrient rich energy. Don’t deep fry them.

Vegetable and grains are not going to make us fat, what we do with them before we eat them just might.

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