Everybody knows fat used to be the big enemy of anyone trying to lose weight. Then it was carbs. Now we’ve got Oprah professing her love for bread on a Weight Watchers commercial. Why does it all have to be so confusing?
The truth is there’s no one right way to lose weight. Going the low-carb route can work really well for a lot of people. But for others, not so much. I personally don’t really believe that the average healthy adult should have to go to such extreme lengths to really limit any particular macronutrient or food type for weight loss (unless there are certain health conditions or allergies to taken into consideration). And yet, many people trying to lose weight still quiver in fear of carbs.
Carbs are definitely not evil. In fact, you need them to live. Here are some of the strategies that helped me incorporate and enjoy more of this essential macronutrient into my diet while trying to lose weight.
Pay attention to timing.
Carbs are your body’s number one source of energy, which can either fuel you or send the message to your body to store fat. Often the best time to fuel up with carbs is during breakfast, which is when your glucose tolerance is highest. Before and after working out are the other two best times to have more carbs since they can offer an energy boost and help replenish the body when it needs to recover.
The simpler the carb, the smaller the portion.
If you know a little about nutrition, then you’re probably aware that complex carbs like whole grains, beans and certain fruits and veggies are healthier than simple carbs like fruit juices, baked goods, certain cereals and other sugary foods. That’s because complex carbs are high in fiber and nutrients. If you can’t resist indulging in a simple carb when you really shouldn’t, try to stick to having no more than three bites.
Fill up on as many low-GI fruits and veggies as you want.
I’m one of those people who thinks calorie counting is overrated. If you give yourself permission to eat as many fruits and veggies that are low on the Glycemic Index as you want, you can’t do much damage unless you eat an abnormally large amount–which is virtually impossible for the average person. Let yourself go nuts on apples, berries, pears, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, bell peppers, green beans, onions and other low-GI foods.
Choose wet carbs over dry carbs to fight carb cravings.
When those low-GI carbs just aren’t satisfying enough and you need something starchier, aim to choose a “wet” carb over a “dry” carb if you can to tame your cravings. Wet carbs are those that need to be cooked usually with water–like oats, rice, barley, beans and even potatoes. The idea is that the added water weight from these wet carbs helps you stay fuller for longer. Dry carbs, on the other hand, include stuff like breads and cereals, which don’t have that added water to help fill you up.
Cheat once a week.
If you love carbs, and I mean REALLY love carbs, then give yourself one meal a week to cheat and eat whatever you want. Have cake, white bread, a donut, pancakes with maple syrup or anything else. It’s better to indulge than deprive yourself, and it will even benefit your metabolism if you’ve been in a calorie deficit all week.
These tips work really well for me, but I’m aware that they may not work for everybody. Whether you’re low-carb, low-fat, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, or a combination of of any of those, always remember to tune into your body and keep experimenting to find what works best for you on your weight loss journey.
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