Read this if you work out.
Looking to lose weight quick? You wouldn’t be the first person to think, rightly or wrongly, the carbs have got to go.
But avoiding bread and sweet potato can leave even the most placid person in a hanger rage and too weak to workout.
Enter 'carb cycling', the diet growing in popularity with fitness experts, that allows you to pick and choose what carbs to consume based on the exercise you undertake that day.
The role of carbohydrates within our body is to provide the working muscles (along with some organs) with fuel. The idea behind carbohydrate-cycling is to eat varying amount of carbohydrates, on a daily basis, according to our activity levels. For example, on a highly active day, we will require more carbohydrates than a day where we are less active, explains Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian Tim Stewart.
It may help to think of your body like your car. If you’re taking it on a drive from Sydney to Byron Bay you want a full tank. That’s the same as a big day of exercise you’d want a lot of carbs as fuel. But if you’re parked in the driveway, you don’t need as much fuel. So if you’re not doing as much exercise, you don’t need as many carbs.
But Stewart isn’t sold on carb-cycling as a weight loss tactic, saying it's use is in fuelling performance.
While it’s useful from a training perspective, doing this for the sole reason of losing weight is not appropriate. We know from the research that when we eat with the goal of weight loss as the primary focus (rather than for fuelling our active bodies) we know that we are taking a short-term view which is not likely to be sustainable, he says.
We already have a store of carbohydrate called glycogen in our muscles and liver, therefore, the body will never become fully depleted. However, if you are planning to do more than 60-90mins of activity in one session, then increasing your carbohydrate intake before, during and after this session will help maintain performance and prevent fatigue, says Stewart.
Rather than sticking to a strict carbohydrate target each day, Stewart recommends choosing foods to match your energy and appetite levels. I would really encourage people to experiment with different types of foods in order to understand what best works for them, he says.
Stewart recommends trying the following:
- Fruit (bananas are quite popular)
- Bircher muesli
- Fruit and yoghurt (for those who can handle dairy before exercise)
- Sweet potato savoury muffins
- Baked potato (this may include sweet potato as well)
The final word?
Carbohydrate-cycling does have merit in that it allows you to best understand the role of carbohydrates for your body but is not a weight-loss strategy. The more important aspect is that using this as a weight-loss strategy is a short-term view which will most likely lead to a longer term failure (as we know that all diets fail and that dieting actually leads to weight gain, not weight loss, over the long term).
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