It is hard to know what is the right choice to make when trying to lose or manage weight. There is so much conflicting information in the world of dieting. So, in an attempt to help by clearing the cloudy waters of nutrition, we asked two personal trainers to give some advice on the choices we should all be making.
Carbs are not our enemies
We begin with personal trainer and fitness model Ester Garcia, who considers the demonising of carbs in our diet as one of the biggest issues for weight management, particularly in women. If you choose to remove carbs from your diet completely then you are removing your bodies most essential fuel.
Not all carbs are equal, and so not all are going to lead to weight gain. Some carbs in fact can help in weight loss and management, as they will help your body efficiently use the calorie in-take. So, our body needs the energy source from such carbs as brown rice, oatmeal, pasta in order to work efficiently. The real measure should not even be the calories in these foods but instead the glycaemic load. The more the food is the processed, the more the food promises low fat – the more likely the energy will burn too quickly and we will feel hungry quicker.
So, carbs are a great source of fuel. They can give us the good bacteria for our intestines, which mean we can digest food and help us protect and build muscle.
Boom and bust food intake
Some of the biggest concerns personal trainers have about diet is the consistency of food intake. Dez Thomas is clear that not staying consistent with diet is the biggest mistake. The idea that you can stop eating for a period of time and then return to “normal” – rather than establishing a healthy lifestyle – where you eat food as a matter of routine.
In fact, it is the boom and bust of being on a diet and then not being able to keep to unreasonable restrictions that creates the biggest physical and psychological barriers to healthy nutrition. Simple carbs – commonly known to us as the good stuff like cakes and sweets – are addictive. There is documented evidence of people having to wean themselves of sugars and to slowly become less reliant on the stimulus that these sugars give.
What this addictive quality of simple carbs means in practice is that people on a strict regimen often have “cheat” meals. Don’t think this is something that is strange or indeed unique – your body is craving those elements you are depriving it. The problem is this: each time you “cheat” you reset the urge, the need for the sweetness. Therefore, cheat meals more than likely become your normal diet and you give up on trying to eat healthily.
To Fat or not to Fat
Now, you have barely recovered from the revelation that carbs are not our enemy – now Dez Thomas is asking you to believe that not all fats are bad. What is this craziness? Well, fats are in fact not that bad – depending on how you package them. The more processed the fat the more it is going to be a disaster for your waste. But – and this is a big but – the fallacy that low fat foods are better for us is a bit of a disaster. Low fat processed food tastes awful – or tastes of nothing at all. So, companies pile them high with sugars. Well – not going to say this is a little stupid – no, I am, it is a little stupid. Simple carbs – sugars – see above – and eat meals that are cooked from fresh ingredients. Then, you are getting the right fats and none of the processed additives that are so bad for your waistline.
There are a lot of fads out there and not all of them fit all people. The personal trainers we spoke to are clear that all approaches to nutrition are usually valid for a good number of people but not for all people. Therefore, it is about finding the approach that best suits you and your body, your training regimen and your goals. If you enjoy cardio or if you are a weight trainer – this will change your nutritional needs. A lot of training models require “re-feed days” – days when you rest and you eat to replenish your muscles.
Even IIFYM – or If it fits your macros – with macros being the balance of protein, fats and carbs that provide the adequate nutrition for your lifestyle – even something that focuses entirely on personalised nutrition – might not be the approach that best suits you. This macros approach tends to lean towards calorie counting and the shaping of a diet plan based on calorie intake. Although this is a great approach to balancing your food intake, it is a regime that can make people want to quit.
There is a reason why they are called personal trainers, I guess
The feedback from the personal trainers suggests that the approach to weight loss and weight management is idiosyncratic. They are “personal” trainers – therefore they understand better than most that the route to your nutrition is going to be bespoke to your needs and your routines. Therefore, here is what these personal trainers seem to be saying, in summary:
- Don’t dismiss any food group – carbs and fats have important roles in our nutrition
- Avoid overly processed food, especially foods that claim to be low in fat!
- Work out a balanced diet that you can live with all of the time. Don’t fad diet and then revert back to the bad old days of poor eating.
- Avoid sweet cheats in particular – remember our body starts to crave the sugar intake.
- Understand that there is a balance between the right diet and the right exercise programme. Sometimes, you need to rest from exercise and feed your muscles. Sometimes you need to find out the right balance of cardio and weights – which in turn requires you to eat the best food.
Are there any supplements that can help?
Personal Trainers are clear that relying on fat burners alone is not the answer. The answer is a balancing of nutrition, exercise and supplementation. Therefore, the supplement Gymnema Sylvestre, is an excellent supplement to use because it works to a) suppress your appetite and b) reduce your desire for sweet food.
In a Physiology and Behaviour Study, researchers tested the effects of Gymnema Sylvestre on average weight people who were fasting. For some, intermittent fasting is a common weight control system. They found that the supplement is a successful appetite suppressor. The plant contains a number of compounds, including acidic glycosides and anthoquinones, which reduce the tastes of sugar. This was found to reduce, in the short term, the taste of both natural sugars and artificial sweeteners. The researchers found that people offered food within one hour of taking Gymnema Syvestre were less likely to desire the food being offered.
A South Korean study also noted that the supplement can be used to block sugar entering our system. In a study with rats, they found that the amount of sugar making it into the rats’ system during digestion was much reduced. This is because glucose and gymnemic acids work in a similar way in the system and the body is tricked into believing that it does not need to absorb as much sugar through the intestine and into the blood supply. Therefore, “excess” sugar will be excreted from the body. This has a double benefit of the regulation of blood sugar levels and the promotion of a lean body mass, as less sugar gets stored as fat in the body.