Some professionals have suggested that diet is the most important factor in weight loss and maintenance. In a study comparing women from Nigeria to those from Chicago, the results are astonishing. Chicago women weighed an average of 57lbs more than Nigerian women. The difference was not in physical activity, but in diet. Chicago women ate diets very high in fat and lower in carbohydrates. The Nigerian women ate a diet that was low in fat and animal protein, and high in fiber and carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are essential Macronutrients in the human diet. The carbohydrate structure is a sugar molecule. They can be simple sugars or complex. Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, have been altered from their natural state. When you eat refined carbs they enter your blood fast and cause a surge of insulin production. A surge of insulin causes a surge of energy and then a quick drop in blood sugar after the energy is used. When your blood sugar drops, you may feel sluggish, and your appetite may increase.
Now when you eat carbohydrates that have not been refined (brown rice, fruits, whole oats) and still have the fiber, the insulin released into the blood is released at a slow and steady pace which regulates energy and therefore will not unnecessarily increase appetite. Insulin also determines when fat is stored and released. If your insulin is kept low your body will not hold onto stored fat or store as much of what you have eaten as fat!
Fiber from healthy carbohydrates binds to fatty substances in the intestines and flushes them out as waste, helping to lower LDL Cholesterol. In some studies low carb dieters showed increases in LDL cholesterol, because of increased intake of protein and fat and decreases intake of fiber. Therefore, your body is not able to flush out these substances in your system.
If you have lost weight on a low carbohydrate diet, most of it is probably from water weight. Reducing your carbohydrate intake will deplete glycogen stores which causes diuresis (increased urination). Trials published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, show that those on a Low Carb diet lost more weight than Low fat diets in the first 6 months but it was the same for both groups after a year. Many trials note that the low carb dieters had a very difficult time staying on the diet for more than 6 months. It’s important to ask yourself if you want to lose water weight or fat weight. Ask yourself if you want to have long term results or short term results. Is this a diet that you can maintain?
During Exercise 50-60% of energy is derived from carbohydrates. However, a more trained person will use more fat as fuel for aerobic activity than a trained person. Athletes and very active people often are undernourished. It is very important that adequate calories are consumed in order to maintain lean muscle mass, maintain proper endocrine functioning, and keep the immune system healthy.
The American Dietetic Association notes that long term safety of a low carbohydrate diet (less than 35% of calories from carb) has not been properly evaluated. They suggest caution to individuals attempting this method for weight loss. It is best to stay with a moderate percent in your diet. This means that about 50% of your calories should include healthy, complex, carbohydrates. If you are not sure how your daily intake is distributed between protein, fat, and carbohydrate, you can use www.livestrong.com to determine how balanced your diet is. You can also determine your calories. Personally, I am a strong proponent of the idea that each individual is different and that means that some people are fine with 40% of their daily calories coming from carbohydrate and some need 65% to feel energized and satisfied. Listen to your body.