High fat, Atkins diet, low fat, high protein, blood type diets, metabolic typing, somatotype, low carb… you’ve heard of, and perhaps tried them all! Am I right?
We often receive advice from people based on what works for them. But what works for them or may not work for you. A diet that is effective for one person, won’t necessarily work for everyone. Some of us thrive on high carbohydrate diets, yet a lot of us thrive on low carbohydrate diets. Then there’s a whole bunch in between, who are also getting great results!
So, where does that leave us? How do you know what you should eat?
Studies involving questionnaires, blood type, or other physical characteristics have been conducted to determine how much fat, protein or carbohydrate one should eat. Unfortunately, most of these just haven’t panned out and there is no definitive answer.
What the literature does tell us is though is that one’s level of insulin resistance may affect whether they respond better to a high, or low, carbohydrate diet. Insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity dictate how well we respond the effects of insulin- the body’s primary ‘fat storage hormone’. The more sensitive we are to insulin, the more readily we lose fat and the less likely we are to gain it. These findings are very preliminary but are important because of the growing rates of metabolic and insulin resistant disorders, such as ‘pre-diabetes’.
So, is insulin sensitivity the answer to all of our diet confusion woes? Perhaps… but there are a few tricky, yet vital things we need to determine:
- Are you insulin resistant?
- Just how insulin resistant you are?
- Thirdly, restricting your carbohydrate intake to match this is still guesswork, at best. It’s also likely to involve lots of calories and ‘macro’ counting… which isn’t going to be much fun.
Currently, there are studies being conducted involving randomised, controlled trials to evaluate several markers of one’s tolerance to carbohydrates. Consequently, within the next few years, we will likely have a much better idea of how to more accurately determine whether someone should be following a lower- or higher carbohydrate diet. But in the meantime, you might be thinking:
‘Well, that’s wonderful… but what on Earth do I do now?’
If you are currently doing great, eating lots of carbs, you’re lean and your blood work looks great (low triglycerides, good HDL and LDL ratios, normal-low HbA1c) then stick to what you’re doing!
But, if you’re not as lean as you’d like to be, or your bloods (especially HbA1c and triglycerides) are elevated, then reduce your carbohydrate intake by eliminating certain carbohydrate foods, one-by-one, using the steps below.
Firstly, let’s make sure that eat least 80% of what you see on your plate, at any given meal, is natural, whole and unprocessed food.
Observations have been made in clinical trials that when people focus on whole foods incorporating at least 6+ serves of veggies per day, they have a remarkable ability to ‘autoregulate’. In other words, they tend to not overeat, and they eat appropriate amounts of carbs, fat, and protein for them without even trying. And that is the key! So, if your plate more often than not doesn’t fit this description; then you’ve got your “step 1”- make the changes! If your food quality is good, try the following:
Step 1: Cut the processed sugar. Avoid all processed and added sugars for a couple of weeks. If you start to see and feel great results from this, stick with it! If you aren’t losing fat or seeing any changes (3+ months in your blood results), then advance to step 2.
Step 2: Eliminate gluten grains, or grains in general, etc., until you find the level of carbohydrate intake that works best for you. Once you find a good level that you’re starting to see results with, stick with it until your goal is achieved.
Step 3: Maintain + reintroduce. Once you have achieved your desired level of leanness or the desired changes in your blood markers, you can ‘step down’ and start to reintroduce (again step-by-step), some good quality carbohydrate foods. Some people will end up being very low-carb using this strategy, others will find that a moderated carb diet gives them all the results they’re after, without the stress and worry of calorie counting.
At the end of the day, a diet that helps you to eat an appropriate number of calories, while still being satisfied, and is easy to implement in your daily life is the one that is best for you. And this is not necessarily the diet that is supposedly the best for your body! So, start with natural and then find your carb-appropriate level by using the steps outlined above.
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