Tag Archives: carbohydrates

What Does it Mean to “Eat Right”?

Eat right and exercise – the generic plan for most who embark on the journey to getting better, healthier. At the turn of the New Year, it was the promise or resolution made by many. Now at almost half way through only the second month of the year, did they ever clearly know what it meant? Exercise is easy, right? Join a gym or a program, start running, or use the exercise equipment received over the holidays. But eat right right? What does that even mean?


Eating right has got to mean eating more fruits and vegetables and I think most would agree. No one has gained weight from overeating vegetables or fruit. But wait! I thought fruit was dangerous from the sugar. Hold on. Proof number one of the dietary myths that permeate the landscape. Fruit in and of itself is nature’s candy sweetened by a substance known as fructose. However, in the presence of the fiber and water that accompanies fruit that is consumed should offset the “fear” of eating fruit for its sugar content. Fruit juice on the other hand is simply sugar flavored water, no where near the same thing. While most would agree consuming more fruits and vegetables is a good start, I would question where or how they actually increase consumption of the two. Potatoes are not a vegetable. They are a starch. Corn is the same thing. A starch is defined as a type of carbohydrate, or more specifically a complex carbohydrate, since it is made up of long chains of sugar molecules. Other sources are peas, beans, pasta, rice and grains. No vegetables here. What about the dangers of carbohydrates? Proof number two of bad dietary myths. Carbohydrate is an essential macronutrient to our living, functioning bodies. A small, small percentage of the population has to control and monitor their carbohydrate consumption due to its effects on their blood sugar. For most of us, carbohydrate presents no reason to avoid it like the plague. Its gross popularity has grown from the simple fact that we consume way too much food in general, not just carbohydrate. Carbohydrate gets its undeserved reputation because it’s in more than 70% of all food consumed. Eliminate or drastically drop how much carbohydrate you consume and of course changes are going to occur. You do the math! What about meats and proteins? Everything from grass-fed, to antibiotic, cage free, wild caught, sustainable, etc. has created a big furor of, “What the hell am I supposed to eat?”. These terms are only meant to describe how the animal is treated and/or harvested. Says nothing about a protein being good or bad. Protein is another important macronutrient to the body and vitally important because our bodies don’t manufacture protein on its own, a component to all living tissues and cells.So my question again is, do people really know what it means to eat right?

A General Consensus

Most of us will eat the way we were raised; what we learned from our parents. Food science has changed a little bit, but not that much. Fat, protein, and carbohydrate are essentially the same thing we knew them to be over 100 years ago. We have a better understanding of how we react to certain macronutrients but in small percentages, not the vast population that marketers and the pseudoscience would have you believe. Nutrition is a very individual concept. What works for others may or may not work for you. As frustrating as that may seem, you have to go with what works for you and no one or no diet may have the answer for you. Not overeating is a great start and if you think you don’t overeat, I would suggest examining closer just how much you consume. Quantity and quality of food are very different. Cut down on the amount of everything you consume and instead focus on quality of the food you consume (less processed, less dining out, etc.) and you’ll be on a better way to eating right.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 8 – Dieting Made Simple

(This is part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

I can’t stand diets. In fact, if you tell me you’re on a diet or just trying to “jump start” your metabolism I interpret that as you’re prepared to fail. And why do I feel that way? Plain and simple, DIETS JUST DON’T WORK! Period! You’d think after all of these years of constant failures we would get the message. This time of year, people often look to trend diets for a quick way to lose weight. But, as I’d hope you know and understand, sustainable, healthy eating habits are the key to achieving lasting results. No question. It’s not easy but proven to be much more successful in the long term, which should be the goal. Here are a few simple tips and I emphasize simple.

1. Eat a variety of colorful fruits & vegetables. But you knew that already, right?
2. Consume protein at regular intervals throughout the day. Protein is the only macronutrient our bodies must consume from the outside. Fat and carbohydrate can both be manufactured by the body. And the importance of protein cannot be understated. Everything about you minus bone is made of protein. Digest that one.
3. Focus on consuming healthy fats. Fat is not the enemy. To lump them all together is admittance in not knowing or understanding basic nutrition. And fat does not make you fat. Energy (calorie) excess does.
4. Choose whole grains when available. Carbs are not the enemy either. To lump them all together is also another admittance in not knowing or understanding basic nutrition. Carbohydrates is the preferred energy source of the body.
5. Drink fluids throughout the day and during exercise based on individual needs. Hydration is key and is not to be taken lightly.

That’s it! Simple, right? There’s no sexy way to go about it other than to stop confusing real nutritional science with the ton of nutritional pseudoscience that’s out there. May be the day will come where the consumer is wiser than the manufacturers will give us credit for. Until then, you must fight on.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars


Nutritional Common Sense

downloadPhilosopher Voltaire said, “Common sense is not so common.” While that could be true in most aspects of life, it is certainly accurate when it comes to healthy nutrition. Eat right and exercise is the common sense response you will get asking a neighbor or from listening to the morning talk shows to the million dollar question of what is the best way to get into shape and lose weight. Yet if the majority of people knew that to be true, why is there such an alarmingly high incidence of obesity in this country? Could it be that we just don’t eat right? Could it be that we just don’t exercise enough? Is it a combination of both? These questions pose interesting points to ponder; points that can not be easily answered in one word answers or explanations. However, the answers to these questions can be traced back to the source of the evil, and that evil is misinformation and confusion.  And nothing can cause more confusion than what does it exactly mean to eat right.

A Platter of Disaster

Each year, a new diet book debuts on The New York Times Best Sellers list that either completely contradicts the other diet books already on the infamous list, or simply adds to the confusion. One book preaches the “evil” of carbohydrate consumption; another one cites the necessity of eating foods in certain combinations; one talks about eating like caveman did; yet another claims that all one needs for optimal health is to eat a particular food item. What is one to do and who are you to believe?  If you kept track of everything you ever heard you were not supposed to eat, you would be left with nothing at all.  While so many people say they need to eat right, the truth is they really have no idea where to begin.  An understanding of nutrition fundamentals, not folklore, and a little common survival sense should clear some of that confusion.

In the Beginning

First, understand that at the cellular level, biochemically all humans are relatively the same.  That being said, what fundamentally affects one of us at the cellular level will most likely affect all of us.  There are only three sources of energy that our bodies can ingest.  They are collectively called macronutrients, better known as protein, carbohydrate, and fat.  Our bodies need all three sources of energy, so eliminating or drastically decreasing intake of any one of then with no consideration for what the effects and potential consequences are is like playing Russian roulette with your health.  Sure, you may see some immediate satisfaction, but chances are sooner or later it‘s all going to blow up in your face. It’s not as simple as eat this, not that, and there is no magical combination of foods that is going to yield a desired result.

Stop With The Dieting

Want to eat better and start feeling great – stop dieting! Looking closer at the root of the word “diet” and you will see the word d-i-e – die. To DIEt guarantees failure and not always in the short run, which is where too many of us have our focus.  If you still believe you must diet, ask yourself these questions: Is the diet realistic? Is the diet maintainable? Is the diet palatable? Is the diet livable? If you answered “No” to any of those questions, stop while you are ahead.  Learn to love and appreciate real food and make it a larger portion of your calorie intake as opposed to fast, packaged, and highly and deceivingly marketed processed food.

Keep It Real

What constitutes real food? Basically, any consumable that is as close to its original biological make up as possible: meats, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, fruits, vegetables, unrefined sugars and starches, and water.  A movement known as “eating clean” has gained some popularity but here’s no objective definition of what that means. Packaged and processed food, even those labeled or perceived as healthy, are deceptive. Reading labels and recognizing more than just the calories but the ingredients will make you question a lot of what you put into your body.  It is however not always just about what you eat, but how much you eat.  Portion distortion is what the “experts” have named the typical American plate.  Our perception and the reality of meal portion sizes are vastly different.

Eating is a necessary and vital human function. Why it has become so gray and diluted is because people are always ready to make a buck at your expense. When it comes down to it, nutritional common sense comes down more to the two old axioms “You are what you eat”, and “You get out only what you put in.”  And that is all the nutritional common sense you will ever need.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Carbo Loading: Fact or Fiction

carbsmainSeems spring has finally arrived here in southeast PA and after the winter we had it couldn’t have come soon enough! Grass in green again, flowers are blooming, and the trees are budding back to life. Other than the obvious indicators of spring returning one of the not so obvious signs to some is the return of outdoor athletic events that take a small hiatus over the winter, such as charity walks, 5Ks, half marathons, marathons, triathlons, etc. For some, these types of events were perhaps the goals of their training over the winter; or maybe they represent a chance to improve upon last year’s time; or maybe they’re just something fun to do for the physical activity. Whatever the reason and like most topics surrounding exercise type events, there are usually some circulating tales and myths of how to prepare and train properly. None of which could be any bigger than the concept of carbo loading.

What Does It Mean To Carbo Load?

When talking about nutrition as it pertains to weight loss, one can get swept up easily into the poor common fad diet recommendations such as fats are bad, carbs are bad, etc. However, when talking about physical performance, nutrition is all about fueling; fueling to provide enough energy for the physical work ahead. Is there really a difference between fueling to live versus fueling for performance? Yes, but it’s a lot simpler than you may think. At the cellular level, the body’s primary fuel source is glucose. It can get that by ingesting it (i.e. sugar); it can get it by breaking down stored glucose, otherwise known as glycogen; or it can get it through the costly negative effect of breaking down protein. In an athletic event such as a run or bike ride, the body’s primary fuel source remains glucose. Problem is, what do you do when it runs out? Hence the theory of carbo loading was born. In 1969, Ron Hill won the European Championship marathon having employed a technique termed carbohydrate loading which involved complete depletion of stored carbohydrate (training with little to no carbohydrate ingestion taking place) before entering a “loading” phase days prior to event to rebuild or “supercompensate” (eating primarily carbohydrates above normal rates) the body’s ability to store carbohydrate. Science has come a long way since then but the carb loading theory still exists. So is it a myth or does it have merit?

Pasta, Bread, Rice and Bagels, Oh My!

Carbo loading is not a myth but like most things nutritionally it can be taken to extremes. Research has shown there is little evidence to support carbohydrate loading for any event less than 60-90 minutes. In a well-structured training plan that has included sensible nutrition allowing for adequate carbohydrate AND fat and protein consumption, there’s no need to bolster carbohydrate intake. To be more specific, you wouldn’t get the most out of your physical training plan if you weren’t ingesting adequate carbohydrate during that time. Participating in an event that you poorly prepared for isn’t going to be magically rescued by “carbing” up days or the day before the event. Furthermore, the night before pasta dinners or bread fests that usually accompany these types of events have little to no effect physically and often times can cause more gastric distress issues. For events longer than 90 minutes, properly planned carb loading goes something a little more like this. About 3 – 4 days out from the event as the physical training should begin to diminish, carbohydrate intake should be increased a little bit more than what you would normally consume, approximately anywhere from 300 – 600 calories extra daily. That can easily be accomplished by adding a bowl of cereal at breakfast, or snacking on bagel during the day, an extra portion of pasta or rice with lunch or dinner. It isn’t necessary to overload your body with carbohydrate. All that matters is that you “top off” with what you might normally consume and make it a point to replenish carbs if and when possible during the event with portable fuel sources, such as fruit, gels, bars, or drinks. Understand that with increased carbohydrate intake comes increased water retention and that can certainly slow things down a bit.

Whether you participate in one of the mentioned events or not, the important message to understand is that food is fuel, whether just living or playing, and when taken to extremes can be detrimental to both arenas. If mentally you believe what you do works for you, then keep doing it. Just know that there is another level to reach, another minute to shave off, and another goal that can be achieved. Be smart and treat your body like the amazing machine it deserves to be treated.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


12 Days of Fitness 2011 – Day 10: Not All Carbs Are Created Equal

carbs(This is Part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

In the 80s the word “fat” scared people right away from their French fries.  In the 90s, the mere mention of a “carb” scared them, well, right away from their French fries again. Apparently, those who didn’t get the memo back in the eighties about fat got the message a decade later with a new name. Now if that all sounds ridiculous – it is! But nothing is more comical to me than listening to someone who has no sound knowledge of nutrition (except for what they learned on Oprah or from the latest diet book) and hear them tell others all they know about carbs and how bad they are. Yet when asked what they eat, there’s a carb at nearly every meal. Why is this so? Because popular knowledge and scientific knowledge are usually worlds apart.

Know The Difference

First, you have to understand that despite what you may have heard or thought, carbohydrates are good for you.  Most of them anyway. Like fats, it is unfair to categorize ALL carbohydrates as bad.  At a basic level, carbs can be broken into two primary categories: refined and whole, or natural.  Whole carbohydrates are those that are eaten close to how they grow in nature: fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etc. Refined carbs are food items where everything in the food is taken away: the vitamins, minerals, and most importantly the fiber, leaving behind only the starch and sugar. With refined carbohydrates, all that was once good about the carb is now gone. Doesn’t sound good, does it?  It’s not.

A Bad Neighborhood

When eaten, refined carbohydrates give your body a quick boost in glucose (a.k.a. sugar), which can be helpful right before you get started in some sort of athletic endeavor, such as a sprint or a soccer game. However, eating refined carbohydrates on a regular basis, regardless of what you’re doing afterward, can leave you with a rather useless store of carbs. It’s like dumping sugar right into your blood stream and no one is recommending that as a good idea. All you need to know is how to identify refined carbs. Most often, refined carbs are white on their own, but they can hide inside various foods without being recognized. A few common foods that are labeled refined carbohydrates: white bread, white rice, foods ending with the word “starch”, foods that use puffy or shredded grains, etc.

A Better Choice

Since refined carbohydrates aren’t doing your body much good, you ought to do your best to go for whole, natural carbs. Whether you call them good carbs or all-natural carbs doesn’t matter.  What matters is that the “good” carbs have not been stripped of their fiber. Fiber is helpful for good bowel health; avoiding diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and kidney stones; and obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight. So when referring to eating carbs focus on foods that contain fiber-rich carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Bottom line is, you need carbs, just more of the good and less of the bad. So then the next question is usually, “How do explain weight loss following a low carb diet?”

Why No-Carb Diets Work

If you’ve ever gotten into a diet that cuts you off from all carbohydrates, you probably lost some weight. If you’re supposed to need carbs, why did you have such great weight loss success when you cut them from your diet? There are three reasons.

  1. Cutting carbohydrates from your diet often results in a loss of water weight, as not eating carbs may cause you to urinate more frequently and with greater volume.
  2. Any diet that forces you to avoid one sort of food altogether will result in eating fewer calories. While this is a good thing at first, it’s healthier to trim calories from all the food groups instead of picking on carbohydrates only.
  3. Diets that trim carbohydrates do not trim protein or fat, which both cause you to feel full faster and longer, reducing your desire to eat.

Don’t pass on the holiday cookie; just fill up at the veggie tray first.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.