Over the past few weeks I have covered various articles including different types of training along with different types of ways to eat. All of these are the ‘bricks’ in building a healthy body. However what holds all of these principles together is your diet and nutrition. This acts as the mortar and holds everything together. It can’t be over emphasised the importance of the types of food you eat.
Remember you can’t out train a poor diet so eating clean will enhance everything else you do into living a fit and healthy life.
So what is a healthy diet? Apart from breast milk as a food for babies, no single food contains all the essential nutrients the body needs to stay healthy and work properly. For this reason, our diets should contain a variety of different foods, to help us get the wide range of nutrients that our bodies need.
The government has produced this chart known as the Eatwell Guide to help people choose their foods.
As you can see from the Pi chart the government recommends our diets to be composed of at least a 33% carbohydrates. This is where current research shows this to be somewhat out of date. As you can see from the chart it is loaded with foods such as bread, potatoes, bagels, cereal, pasta and rice.
All of these foods have a high glycaemic index (GI). You may ask yourself what exactly is that. The glycaemic index (GI) is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. It shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own.
The rating system runs from 1 to 100 and a rating lower than 55 is deemed as low. Boiled potatoes have a GI rating of 85 with pure glucose being the benchmark at 100.
Carbohydrates that are broken down quickly by your body causing a rapid increase in blood glucose are rated as having a high GI rating. High GI foods include:
- sugar and sugary foods
- sugary soft drinks
- bread, bagels
- white rice
Low or medium GI foods are broken down more slowly and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels over time. Low GI foods include:
- most fruits and most vegetables including sweet potatoes
- pulses such as beans and lentils
- wholegrain foods, such as porridge oats
So what are the benefits of choosing foods which have a low GI rather than a high GI.
Low GI foods leave you feeling fuller longer, ease food cravings and provide you with greater and more sustained energy levels. If you’re looking to either lose weight or maintain your existing weight, a low GI lifestyle is the perfect option.
Also, if you find yourself lethargic, losing concentration, or experiencing mood swings an hour or so after eating, a change to low GI foods may show immediate benefits. In term of long-term health, Low GI Diets are important in reducing the risk factors of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other degenerative diseases. However, if you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, low GI diets have been shown to improve both lipid and glucose levels, maintain more stable insulin levels and reduce insulin resistance, which is important in reducing the risk of long term diabetes related complications.
More and more health benefits associated with choosing a low glycemic diet are constantly being realised, so a low GI lifestyle will provide benefits to all members of the family. After all, food is fuel for our bodies – eat well and your body will reward you! So, to get started, just do your best to avoid high GI foods as much as possible … and choose medium or low GI alternatives wherever you can. Not always, yet as a simple guide, the less processed a food, and the closer it is to its natural state, the lower it’s GI. It becomes easier once you understand the basics, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll be forever consulting charts and adding up numbers to succeed. Begin by continuing to learn a little about the glycemic index and you’ll soon have a better “feel” for which foods to choose.
So if I were to rewrite the Eatwell guide I would replace all the High GI carbs with Low GI carbs. That way your body would avoids spikes in insulin which would be released to bring down your blood sugar levels. High levels of insulin in the body ultimately cause you to store the excess glucose into fat cells leading to weight gain.
You may ask why is that? Well insulin plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels and converting food energy into fat. It also helps break down fats and proteins. During digestion, insulin stimulates muscle, fat, and liver cells to absorb glucose. If the cells do not remove glucose from the blood, the body will store it in the tissues as fat.
A few weeks ago ago I wrote an article on the ‘Keto’ diet. Well this diet works mainly because it uses ketones for energy rather than glucose broken down from carbohydrates. This way of eating keeps your blood sugar levels stable and thus your insulin levels low minimising weight gain.
Likewise with intermittent fasting the period of fasting keeps your blood sugar levels stable again minimising weight gain.
So whatever foods you choose to eat try to stick to a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, eggs, fish, good fats and low GI carbohydrates and stay away from too many processed foods such as cakes biscuits etc etc.
Im a believer of everything in moderation and like everyone I like the odd treat such as chocolate. Don’t deny yourself these forbidden foods just eat them in moderation as a reward for all your hard work in the gym. Remember the average amount of calories needed per day for a woman is 2000 calories and for a man is 2500 calories.
It's quite easy to go way over these amounts consuming hidden sugars such as alcohol. A pound of fat equates to 3500 calories. So an excess of 500 calories a day will lead to a fat gain of one pound in a week. Likewise the reverse works too. Drop your calories by 500 a day and you will see a loss of 1 pound of fat and this is without putting your body in a further deficit by training at the gym.
Remember ‘Eat clean train dirty’.