Contrary to what most people believe, you can be on a diet and still eat mouth-watering meals, day in and day out—that is, as long as you understand what role carbs, proteins, and fats play in your success. If you want to lose a few pounds and live a healthier lifestyle than ever before, it’s not all rice cakes and bottled water in your future. Read this blog, pair what you’ve learned with daily exercise, and you’ll see results in no time!
What Are Carbs?
Carbohydrates are one of the three main ways that the human body gets it’s energy (alongside proteins and fats). When it comes to creating balanced diets, carbs should always be a main component. They consist of the sugars, starches, and fibers that you find in a variety of natural products, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Even though carbohydrates have a stigma in today’s dieting world, they are an important element in the creation and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle.
Here are just a few things that carbs do for us on a daily basis:
a. They provide fuel for our central nervous systems.
b. They help with brain function and overall mental health, influencing both mood and memory.
c. They enable fat metabolism and stop the body from burning protein energy (which you need for muscle growth and retention).
d. Some carbs are a good source of vitamins and nutrients.
Let’s Get to Know the Three Types of Carbs a Little Better:
There are natural sugars that come from fruits, honey, and syrups, and then there are added sugars (like table sugar) that you can use to sweeten up foods and drinks that don’t have a naturally sweet taste. Because sugars are often high in energy (calories) it can be easy to consume more calories than you need, which in turn makes weight loss more difficult.
The simple carbs that are found in candy, sodas, and desserts are highly processed and refined, meaning that they don’t bring any vitamins, minerals, or fiber to your diet. When they’re consumed, the process is very, very quick--and it is for this exact reason that many people call them “empty calories.”
You get to indulge, but your body doesn’t really get anything out of it. When it comes to balanced diets, sugars don’t need to be cut out completely in order for participants to see results, but checking labels and cutting down on added and refined sugars can help you better manage your sugar consumption.
Though starchy foods don’t usually tend to taste sweet, starch itself consists of many sugar units that have been bonded together. Starchy foods are typically plant based and they include foods like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Though most fad diets swear against the consumption of starchy foods if you want to lose weight, that’s not necessarily true. Without a good amount of these complex, starchy carbs in your system, your body will try to break down muscle tissue instead—which is a whole other problem area that we’ll get to later.
On a side note, for those who are looking into balanced diets that are perfect for athletes, starchy carbs are a must-have. Due to the fact that they provide a slow release of energy throughout the day, rather than an immediate rush like sugar, these carbs are an excellent source of energy for those who indulge in a lot of physical activity.
When it comes to your overall health, fiber is arguably the most important carbohydrate. As most people know, fiber is very important when it comes to keeping our bowels healthy, but did you know that some types can even help to lower cholesterol, too? Eating a lot of fibrous foods can help to lower your risk of not only bowel cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, but because it provides volume and takes quite some time to digest, it also helps those who are dieting to feel fuller for longer.
To work fibrous carbs into your balanced diets, make sure that you get enough vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. To go the extra mile, make sure that you always eat your vegetables like potatoes with the skin still on!
Here’s a Tip: Don’t Avoid Carbs; Learn How to Skillfully Portion Them Instead
While some of the fear surrounding carbohydrates is founded in truth (if you eat a lot of sugary carbs, it’s likely that you’ll gain weight), it’s important to know that some of the popular backlash is misguided. Like most things in life, there are good carbs and there are bad carbs. This means that not all carbs have to be restricted in balanced diets. Whether you want to drop one waist size or five, you should know that you can indulge in even the worst kinds of carbs from time to time, so long as you don’t go overboard.
Dieting isn’t about denying your body the things it craves; it’s about gaining the willpower you need to stick to healthy portion sizes. Instead of cutting out carbs, just monitor how much you consume on a daily basis, stop yourself from going overboard, and replace fatty, sugary foods with starchy foods that are high in fiber whenever possible so that you can reduce the number of calories you intake while allowing yourself to feel fuller for longer.
What All of This Means for You?
To have a healthy lifestyle, you should always include carbs in your diet. Depending on your activity levels and the preference of your palate, your carb levels and what types of carbs you’re eating may differ from those standing around you in your yoga class. It’s not a bad thing. Your diet should be unique to you. However, you should always focus on staying true to the fundamental idea of portion control, which will help you curb overindulgence and maintain a healthy calorie count.
If you want to lose weight, focus on eating good carbs (high in nutrients, low or moderate in calories, high in natural fiber, no refined sugars or grains) and stay away from the bad ones as much as possible (high in calories, lots of refined sugars and grains, low in nutrients and fiber, high in sodium and trans fats) though you can have a cheat day from time to time.
Moving On to Proteins
While most first-time dieters have heard the horror stories about both carbs and fats, protein has typically been lauded as the saving grace of macronutrients across the board.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are typically grouped into two different categories: essential and nonessential. To break it down, essential amino acids cannot be obtained through any of your body’s own processes, therefore they must be obtained through nourishment. Nonessential amino acids, on the other hand, can be made by your body’s own processes as long as it has the right essential amino acids and other factors available.
What Exactly Do Proteins Do?
Proteins provide the building blocks needed for a healthy body. Whether you’re looking to tone your muscles, lose a few pounds or simply take care of the body that you have, they should be an essential part of your diet.
Athletes of all disciplines make sure that they work protein into their balanced diets because, like foods that are high in fiber, protein rich foods also help you feel fuller, longer. But that’s not the only reason. To learn just how important proteins are, here are a few things proteins are in charge of:
a. They’re used to make countless structural components of the human body, from your internal organs to your muscles, and even outward to your skin and nails.
- b. They’re used to repair those very same components when they get damaged (including muscle tissue, bones, skin, teeth, and hair).
- c. Hemoglobin (which carries oxygen tissues in the body) and hormones like insulin (which regulates blood sugar) are both proteins, and they both play an invaluable part in your body’s health.
- d. They help keep the correct amount of water in our cells, they have a key role in the success of our immune systems, and maintain our body’s sodium/potassium balance.
Choosing Between a Carb-Rich Diet & a Protein-Rich Diet
It’s true that both carbohydrates that are high in fiber (such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables with the skin still on, etc.) and proteins (such as meat, fish, eggs, and beans) can help you feel fuller, longer. However, that doesn’t mean that you should only opt for one or the other.
Carbs that are high in fiber go the extra mile when providing your body with essential nutrients like B vitamins, zinc, calcium, and iron, and proteins make sure that your body is strong and sturdy.
To live a healthy lifestyle, you shouldn’t focus on a protein-rich diet or a carbohydrate-rich diet. Balanced diets are always more rewarding than choosing a single route and avoiding all others. Even vegetarians and vegans should make sure they get both carbs and proteins, whether they have to eat a lot of nuts and beans to get by or purchase supplements.
If you don’t have enough protein in your diet, your health can go downhill at an alarming rate. For starters, there’s the very real issue of wasting away. I mentioned earlier that if you starve your body of carbs, that it’ll be forced to fuel on your proteins. However, if you starve your body of protein, your body will not just go to another source of energy. It will need to feed the protein hunger it’s been craving, and often this results in a breaking down of your muscles and vital organs.
Yes, it’s that serious.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Protein?
There’s no doubt about the fact that proteins should be an essential part of any and all balanced diets. However, there is a point where too much of a good thing becomes something bad, even with something as pivotal to your healthy diet as protein.
Here’s the issue some people find with eating too much protein: if you find yourself eating meals that are heavy on the meats and dairy products, your diet can become high in saturated fats. These saturated fats are fine when they’re kept in check, but if you have an overabundance of them in your diet it could lead to a wealth of degenerative conditions like cardiovascular disease.
What All of This Means for You
Whether you’re a vegetarian who noshes on beans, nuts, and other plant based proteins, or you’re a meat connoisseur, remember that any food can be fattening when you overindulge—but that doesn’t mean that you should go too light on your protein intake, either. As long as you maintain a healthy, balanced diet, then you shouldn’t have to worry about protein deficiencies or the possible negative effects of a protein-heavy diet.
And Lastly, Let’s Talk About Fats
Like carbohydrates, most people who are interested in losing a few pounds are told that they should avoid fats like the plague. Not only do fats make you gain weight, as opposed to losing it, but they’re also found at the root of countless health problems. Is the stigma surrounding fats really founded in truth? If we cut fats out of our balanced diets, will we get the body of our dreams, just like that? Not exactly.
Forget what you think you know about fats—we’re going to start over, right here and now. Diets that are high in fat can be very harmful, yes, but diets that are lacking in fats aren’t good for you either. Fats are a necessary part of all of our balanced diets, you just have to monitor which types of fats you’re taking in and how much.
Here Are a Few Ways that Fats Help Your Body On a Daily Basis:
a. Fats allow the production of testosterone and estrogen.
- b. Fats protect and run your immune system.
- c. Fats play a key role in your body’s nutrient absorption.
- d. Fats help your body’s cells carry out their intended roles, and are even good for your heart!
Eating foods that are all fat and nothing else isn’t the route to go, but if you know how to choose foods carefully, you can find that skillfully working high-fat foods into your diet can even bolster weight loss. For instance, if you eat a snack that’s high in both protein levels and fat, the protein will help you feel fuller, longer. When paired with the fat’s calorie burning prowess, you’ll be left with a snack that will increase the efficiency of your metabolism.
A Fat Is a Fat Is a Fat, Right? Not Exactly.
There are lots of different types of fats out there, from good fats like monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat to the misunderstood fats, like saturated fats. Only trans fats should be completely avoided.
Let’s talk a little bit about each and how your can work them into your diet:
Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and solid when chilled. These fats are a great alternative to both trans fats (which we’ll get to later) and unrefined polyunsaturated fats.
Here are a few of the health benefits you can see in your future if you work monounsaturated fats into your diet:
a. Reduced belly fat and even weight loss
- b. Decreased risk of breast cancer
- c. Reduced cholesterol levels, which can in turn lower your risk of heart disease and stroke
To work monounsaturated fats into their balanced diets, most people make sure that they switch out vegetable oil for olive oil, canola oil, or peanut oil, and that they add plenty of nuts and avocados to their grocery lists.
Like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and though they start to turn solid when chilled, they never quite get there. Also, more importantly for you, they can do wonderful things for your heart health when consumed in moderation—especially when you use them to replace unwanted trans fats and saturated fats when creating balanced diets. They can even lead to weight loss.
Polyunsaturated fats do a number of the same things that monounsaturated fats do, like lower cholesterol levels, risk of heart disease, and stroke. They also provide your body with essential fats that your body can’t produce on its own, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
All balanced diets include good fats (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated) and if you want to opt for the latter, you can switch your preferred cooking oil with soybean, corn, or sunflower oils, and try to work some fatty fish into your meals as well, at least once a week. From the fan favorite salmon to mackerel, herring, and trout, you’ll have plenty of options.
Now, moving on to the most misunderstood fat: saturated. Now, some individuals believe that eating meals that are high in saturated fats lead to a slew of health problems (like obesity and heart disease.) However, that truth has never been proven.
With all of the quarreling going on by the top dieticians in the world, it’s clear why you may be confused about saturated fats. But let’s get one thing straight: your body naturally stores leftover carbohydrates as saturated fats, that way they can be used for energy later, so when it comes to fats that are safe, they can’t be all that bad.
In fact, when it comes to weight loss, skipping out on saturated fats can be a bad call on your part. For instance, by eating milk and yogurt you can reduce the amount of fat absorption from other foods, allowing you to stay lean.
When it comes to creating balanced diets, know that saturated fats are an essential component to have on your side. Don’t avoid saturated fats altogether, just make sure that you don’t overindulge. You can have your red meat, pork, butter, eggs, and milk, just don’t live entirely on them. When you have the opportunity to replace foods that are high in saturated fats with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, go for it—but don’t think that you have to deprive yourself of saturated fats.
Okay, now this one is just as bad as the rumors you’ve heard. Though trans fats are found in foods that you love to eat—pastries like cakes, pie crusts, and donuts, margarines and spreads, and basically anything that’s deep fried—they are one of the worst things for your body.
There are two kinds of trans fats: trans fats that are naturally-occurring and often found in the animal products we consume, and artificial trans fats, which are far more common. It’s unclear whether both forms of trans fats can have a negative impact on your health, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
Whether they’re used to give foods a desirable taste and texture, to give liquid vegetable oils a more solid consistency, or to help deep frying oils have a longer lifespan, they’re no good for human consumption. In fact, some countries have banned them outright.
What Trans Fats Can Do to You
a. Raise bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol levels
- b. Increase your risk of heart disease and stroke
- c. Increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
What This All Means For You
Fats shouldn’t be completely avoided—unless we’re talking about trans fats. Balanced diets require the inclusion of fats, and as long as you’re mindful of which fats you’re eating, they can have a positive effect on your health.
Also, while it is scary to eat trans fats, you should know by now that balanced diets don’t focus on adamant restrictions. You can still eat a donut from time to time, just make sure that you limit your frequency. Also, to take matters into your own hands, you can choose to make some mouth-watering donuts all by yourself, and replace the trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. For instance, try frying the dough in canola or peanut oil for a change--and remember to balance out those little indulgences with a healthy amount of exercise, too.
Balanced Diets Are Only One Part of the Equation—Don’t Forget the Exercise!
It doesn’t matter which kinds of foods you fuel your body with if you don’t finish the job. Always remember to pair your balanced diets with a healthy dose of daily exercise! If you’re in L.A., stop by Krav Maga Worldwide. Not only will you have the supportive atmosphere you need to work off the calories and tone your muscles, but our trainers will help you stay on track with your fitness goals every step of journey—and we even have our very own nutritionist on staff! Contact us today for more information.