“Your blood sugar is a little high”.
Um, pardon me?
This was the scene after you finally got that long-overdue bloodwork done.
After your doctor saddled you with that newsflash, you weren’t really paying attention when they went into a mini-spiel about dropping 50 lbs as quickly as possible, giving up all sugar and starting a Couch to 5km running program.
All you could think the whole time they were talking was, “but I don’t eat sugar”.
And like a million questions started flying through your noggin’:
– Well, what the heck am I supposed to eat?
– There is so much confusing information on the internet – I just wanna throw my hands up in the air and eat a Snickers for supper.
– So is this diabetes? Or not?
– Can it go away?
– Someone told me honey is better than sugar. I’ll start putting honey in my tea from now on.
– No one else in my family has this! Why me?
And the inevitable conclusion:
– I’ve got it! I’ll just cut out all carbs. Done. No problem-o.
But before you go cutting out everything from fresh apples to your morning Special K to your fave spaghetti and meatballs meal (with Grandma’s Secret Sauce), I’ve got some (good) news for you:
You NEED carbs to optimize your blood sugars and lose weight.
I know. It’s sounds counterintuitive but it’s true.
Stay with me and read on for How to Lose Weight and Optimize Your Blood Sugars: The Top 5 Reasons to Ditch a Low Carb Diet and How To Eat Instead!
Having to follow an extreme eating plan like this results in you missing out on some of your favourites.
Birthday cake? No way.
Bun with dinner? Fugetaboutit.
Even fruit is restricted on very low carb diets.
Being that extreme isn’t good for your psyche, social life, or your relationship with food.
Yes, you want to lose weight and yes you want to optimize your blood sugars but if you’re reading this, I’m thinking you’re sick of “diets”.
Fads come and go – you’re not looking for some “quick fix”.
Plus, eating like a caveman doesn’t really turn your crank 😉
And I totally get that.
Which is why the no-carb or go-home diet is not something I recommend – ever!
Here’s the deal: When you don’t eat enough carbs, it is true that your first bit of weight loss is quick.
However, the weight that is lost is mostly water (not fat).
Because the body requires sufficient carbs to run properly, if there’s insufficient intake of carbohydrates from food, the body uses its stored carbs for energy.
The body stores carbs (in the form of glycogen) in muscle and the liver.
One gram of carbohydrate in the form of muscle and liver glycogen binds 4 grams of water.
The average person has about 500 grams of glycogen stored between the liver and muscle.
So when that’s used up in the first few days, you also lose ~2 kgs or 5.5 lbs and none of it is fat!
99% of the time, extremely low carb diets do not work in the long run (see #1 for a big reason).
Very low carb diets may provide quick results but the long term damage can be devastating on your waistline.
People start eating carbs again (typically voraciously – hello ice cream and cookies during the latest episode of NCIS) and the weight comes back on.
Over the years, I have found giving people plans that meet their unique, individualized nutritional needs and that move them towards their goals of improved blood sugar control and weight loss is the best way to go because it’s an eating plan they can follow for life.
It’s not a “diet” they start and stop (and start and stop again), it’s a new way of eating and looking at food altogether.
It’s a mindset shift from “dietiting” to “fueling”.
After you inevitably start eating carbs again, the body fills the glycogen reserves back up and voila, along with it comes the water and the number on the scale goes back up, often higher than before you started the diet in the first place.
To add insult to injury, your body composition changes after you lose and regain weight in this way.
You have a little less muscle mass (your body burned it for energy after using up the glycogen.)
And because muscle mass burns significantly more calories than fat, you need even less food than you did before you started the diet.
Make no adjustments in your caloric intake and what happens?
More weight gain.
To avoid this, instead have healthy carbs at each meal, such as whole grain crackers or wraps and be sure to get enough protein in your day to maintain your muscle mass.
Carbohydrates are required by the body to run efficiently.
It’s a non-negotiable aspect of how the body runs!
The best way to optimize your blood sugars is to consume a diet that provides approximately 40% of total calories from carbohydrate (meaning 40% of your total calories come from carbs.)
This is lower (by about 10-20%) than typical, government recommendations because the wider, public health recommendations are just for that – the PUBLIC!
The “general public” without any specific health issues.
If you have blood sugar problems like prediabetes and want to lose weight, you need a lower amount of carbohydrates in your diet to keep your body properly fueled and spare your muscle mass but not TOO much that you overload your system with excess glucose and make insulin resistance even worse.
If you want to optimize your blood sugars and lose weight, go for an eating plan that has 40% of total calories from carbs and you’ll be able to lower your blood sugars and lose weight.