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Should You “Carb Cycle?”

Carbohydrates have become a source of fear for those trying to shed pounds; yet carbs are an essential part of our energy intake. In the last decade there have been innumerable diet trends and nutrition philosophies centered around carbs – from low and zero carb diets to the most recent trend of carb cycling (a regular, scheduled intake of carbs based on activity level). Finding a balance can be tricky, so we’ve asked Woodside Lead Trainer Matt Scheipeter to give us some insight.

“First of all, it’s important to recognize the source of carbohydrates. It’s not just white bread. Vegetables and whole grains are a source of carbohydrates too. There are different types of carbs; complex (which take the body longer to break down, providing a more sustainable energy source) and simple (made of quickly digestible basic sugars which provide a quick energy rush).

It’s true that consuming too many carbs can result in weight gain, high blood pressure and heart disease. But too few and you aren’t optimizing the way your body uses energy.

Our bodies burn through foods in this order: carbs, fats, proteins. Too many carbs and you won’t burn fat. Too few, and you’ll burn through your protein, suppressing muscle growth and depleting energy.

A typical daily diet for an active adult should look like this:

Carbohydrates: 40-55% (whole grains, greens)
Fats: 20-30% (avocados, tomatoes, nuts, healthy oils)
Proteins: 15-25% (fish, poultry, steak, turkey, eggs, beans)

Don’t eliminate carbs altogether. Reduce your intake if you are consuming too many, and be sure you are eating the healthiest types of carbs, including greens and whole grains. Avoid foods with low fiber, high sugar and white flour. Not only are these the bad types of carbs, there is very low nutritional value to them.

Also, be smart about how you prepare your food. Chicken with fresh vegetables and quinoa is a great balanced meal, but if you prepare it with too much oil and salt you can inhibit weight loss and contribute to water retention. Prepare meals simply, with very little butter or with a touch of healthy oil. Experiment with fresh herbs for seasoning to reduce added sodium.

As for carb cycling, it’s just not practical for most people. But, if you know you are going to be inactive for a while (a weekend relaxing at the lake, for example) try to limit your carbohydrate intake, since you aren’t going to be burning a lot of energy. When you are ready to get back to the gym on Monday, start incorporating more of those healthy carbs back into your diet to optimize your body’s fuel.

As always, talk to your trainer or health care professional to ensure your program is best for your individual needs.”

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