Advanced Stuff: Optimizing Carbs

This week’s “advanced” topic comes in the form of optimizing your carb intake to get the most performance and weight loss benefits possible!  We’ll focus on optimizing the timing and when it’s okay to combine carbs with other foods.

One pre-requisite… If you’re doing a ketogenic diet (CarbX), carbs are basically off limits. Period. So you can stop reading right here because none of this applies to you (although you may wish to read #3 below to make sure you’re not caught in a common trap with Keto dieters who do heavy exercise).

Disclaimer – Please Read:

The advanced tips presented here won’t make a huge difference in your overall ability to lose weight. 80% of weight loss is what you eat. 15% of weight loss is exercise, and the other 5% is a series of completely optional “advanced tips & tricks” that you can choose to incorporate to get an extra edge. In almost all cases, if you’re not doing the other 95% of the things required to lose weight, the remaining “5%” isn’t going to make any difference whatsoever.  For that reason, I encourage people to skip and ignore all of these advanced tips until you’re 100% “on protocol” with everything else you’re doing. Don’t make things more complicated until what you’re doing no longer feels complicated.

How your body responds to carbs

When you consume large amounts of carbs (or even small amounts of simple carbs, like sugar), your body’s natural reaction is to produce insulin, in response to the new glucose (sugar) that’s being injected into your bloodstream.  Put another way: “if you eat sugar, or too many carbs at once, the result is what’s known as a “Glycemic Reaction”.. (Or in other words, your body “reacts” to the glucose (sugar) you just fed it.)

That insulin produced by the glycemic reaction has one very important side-effect:  It opens your cells up to ‘store’ the energy (glucose) you just ate.

If you need the energy (for, say, a heavy workout) this is actually extremely helpful, and a very efficiency way to transfer the energy from the carbs you’re eating into immediately-usable quick-hit fast-burning energy! (That’s why runners use glucose gel packs — it’s instant fuel!!).

The flip-side, however, is that your body isn’t capable of knowing what to store in those cells.  If you have ONLY sugar in your blood-stream, then ONLY sugar will get stored by the cells.  If you recently ate food containing large amounts of fat, then fat is going to be stored. And same for protein.

Pause on that for a minute.  Eating carbs will actually put your cells into a mode where it will store the contents of the food in your stomach more readily.

It’s no wonder people who eat large amounts of junk food tend to pack on the pounds easily. Not just because the junk-food is high in carbs, but also because it’s combined with large amounts of fat!  Carbs cause a glycemic reaction, and then the body injects the cells with the copious amounts of fat that are standing by.

Note that athletes have been known to use this to their advantage to combine a glycemic reaction with liquid protein, as a way to grow muscle, faster.

So with all of that in mind, here’s how you can optimize the way you utilize carbs in your daily diet:

1) Get your carbs from healthy sources

While the tenets of the Weightix protocol basically says “If it fits your macros”, eat it!  (in other words, as long as it fits within your carb allowance, don’t worry about it, a more disciplined approach involves sticking to only healthy food. (And yes, it really does make a difference in terms of weight loss).

Keeping your carbs confined to “clean” sources, such as whole-beat bread, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and avoiding the simple-carbs, such as sugar, white rice, white bread, will most definitely impact your ability to lose weight.

Note that carbs bundled with fiber (such as the ones found in veggies) digest very slowly, and are far less likely to cause a glycemic reaction than, say, carbs from white rice.

2) Spread the carbs out

Because our goal is to avoid a glycemic reaction, that also means we want to spread out the intake of our carbs across the day, as best as possible, so we’re not consuming so many carbs at once that it causes a glycemic reaction.  No more than 20g at a time, ideally.

3) Use the energy from the carbs

This might seem obvious, but carbs are the ideal fuel source for high-intensity activity (such as cardio, or strength training).  Fat, actually, is the better fuel source for every-day activity. If you’re not working out on a regular basis, you may be on the wrong plan, since your body can’t efficiency use the carbs you’re feeding it, and that can lead to difficulties in losing weight.  (You might consider switching to a Ketogenic plan, if that’s the case).

In other words, if you’re not doing the type of activity that requires carbs as a fuel source, not eating carbs altogether is likely a better weight-loss strategy.

That said, if you ARE doing that type of activity, you really do need to eat the carbs to go along with it, or you put yourself at high-risk of your body attacking muscle to get the energy it needs to get through your workouts.   In other words, if you do heavy physical activity and you aren’t consuming enough carbs to fuel those workouts, your body will eat its own muscle to give you the energy.

4) Never combine carbs with fat

If you’re eating food that’s relatively high in fat, avoid pairing the food with carbs, for reasons explained above.  The net-negative effect can make weight-loss more difficult.

Examples of foods that are high in carbs AND high in fats:  Pizza, donuts, candy, most breakfast cereal, potato chips, cookies, cake, ice cream, jam, and MUCH MUCH more.  These foods have the perfect combination of glycemic reaction + fat that will instantly cause your body to pack on the pounds.

But since fat is healthy (and a critical part of your healthy diet), the idea is to create meals focused on one or the other (carbs OR fat). For example, you wouldn’t want to eat a snack that consisted of cheese (high in fat), and crackers (high in carbs) at the same time. However, both of these items might be considered healthy, if served a few hours apart from one another.

5) Do combine carbs with protein

Combining your carbs with protein is actually a net-positive. The stored protein increases muscle building, which increases your metabolism at the same time!

Provided you do so on an otherwise empty stomach (and your stomach remains empty for an hour or two afterwards), a banana in your protein shake can actually be a net-win, (assuming it’s not bundled with any other fat, of course).  The sugar from the banana will cause a glycemic reaction, but the liquid protein is readily available for injection into the cells.

Again, if you use this strategy, I’d do so on an empty stomach, and carefully watch what you eat an hour or two before and after, to avoid eating fat in the middle of the glycemic reaction.

6) Measure the results. Often.

Buy and use a blood glucose meter

Refer to this article to learn more about how it works, and how to interpret the data you get from the meter.  The blood glucose meter will tell you if the food you’re eating is causing a glycemic reaction.  If it is, go back through these steps again to optimize your food.   If it’s not, you’re on track to highly optimized weight loss!  Any time you introduce new foods into the diet, you should perform a series of blood-glucose measurements to cross-check that it’s not causing any problems.

And now you’re on the path to massively optimized weight loss — not by changing what you eat, but simply by changing the timing, and measuring the results.