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The Truth about Low-Carb Diets vs Controlled-Carbohydrate Meals

by Mike Geary, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Specialist

bad carbs - pancakesOne of the problems I see with “diet talk” is that nobody seems to agree what “low carb” really means… One person may think of “low carb” as an Atkins style diet with as much fatty sausages, hotdogs, and nitrate processed meats as you want and virtually no carbohydrate based foods at all.

Another person may view “low carb” as 40% of daily calories coming from carbs instead of the traditionally recommended 55% to 60%.

If you think about it, in a 40/30/30 type of diet, the majority of the calories are coming from carbs, so that obviously can’t be called “low carb”…yet some people do call it that.

Because of these drastic differences in how different people view the term “low carb”, sometimes my clients are confused as to what I recommend.

First of all, I don’t recommend “low carb” or “high carb” per se… I don’t think it’s vitally important to have any sort of exact ratio.  I think everyone needs to explore for themselves how they feel at different ratios of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

After all, the most important aspect to your success is your total caloric intake vs your caloric expenditure over a given time period.

But where carbohydrate intake becomes important is in how it can affect your hormones and blood sugar in your body and stimulate cravings. You could tell someone to eat 2500 calories/day of a higher fat and higher protein content combined with reduced carbs and they may actually finish the day at 2500 calories because their appetite is satisfied.

However, tell that same person to eat 2500 calories per day in a high carb fashion, and they may end up eating 3000 or more calories per day because the higher carbohydrate diet stimulated their cravings and they ended up overeating.

I know personally, if you throw a big steak in front of me and a big pile of vegetables, my appetite will be satisfied when I’m done that meal and for hours afterward.  However, you throw a big plate of pasta in front of me, and I’m gonna devour the entire plate, and then head back for seconds and maybe even thirds.

This is what happens for a lot of people… once you start eating large portions of carbs like pasta or rice or cereals, it becomes hard to stop and then you’re craving more carbs an hour later too!

So what I’ve found to work best for me, and a large % of my clients in the past is to eat in a “controlled carbs” manner… this doesn’t mean atkins style… it means very reduced grains, zero refined sugars (to the best of ability of avoiding), and instead, getting almost all of your healthy carbs from vegetables, fruits, and maybe beans on occasion.

This ends up being very similar to the hunter-gatherer type of diet of meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies, which I believe is the healthiest way to eat.

Sometimes it just takes thinking a little differently about the way you eat and what’s considered “normal” in order to get rid of some of the useless grains and sugars in your diet.

For example, why do we need to eat a burger on a bun? Most people don’t even think of doing it any other way because that’s what’s “normal”.

One of my favorite lunch meals lately has been cooking up a grass-fed bison burger with no bun, and then I top it with grass-fed cheese, sliced avocados, diced onions, and salsa.  I have a big side of sliced fresh veggies like carrots and red peppers (with hummus sometimes), and then maybe have a little bit of fruit or berries on the side too.

What you end up with is a meal that’s pretty well balanced between protein, healthy fats, and healthy carbs instead of overloaded with the refined grains from the typical hamburger bun.

Think about breakfast too…

do you really “need” the toast with your eggs, or can you do much better with loads of veggies with your eggs instead?

That’s what I like to do for breakfast… whole eggs with cheese and loads of veggies, avocado (yeah, avo’s are one of my favorite foods), and some green or white tea (or lately I’ve been really digging this mango yerba mate tea…mmm) with a little raw honey.  So I get my carbs from the veggies and the little bit of raw honey instead of from the typical toast and orange juice that loads you up with extra carbs.

…Just some ideas in case it helps you to think differently about where you get your carbs from.

By the way, here is one of the best nutrition plans for healthy fat loss that I highly recommend: The Fat Burning Kitchen (Click Here for Review)