Monday, 10 December 2012

Carbohydrates and all things sweet!

Oh how we do love Carbs. And so we should these are the nutrients that fuel our very existence, without them we are nothing. Every movement, every thought and every experience is all made possible by the fantastic role of carbohydrates.

I bet it's been a while since you heard somebody praising carbohydrates for the fuel they are! Carbs usually get the bad rap and we are led to believe that any good weight loss plan should be based on minimal if not zero carbohydrate intake. HOGWASH!
The key to a quick fix weight loss, where you shed a considerable weight is totally achievable on a zero carb diet but try and sustain your weight loss, oh but try, try, try. Let me save you the disappointment, it doesn't work. And the reason why it doesn't work is because physiologically it is "HOGWASH" regardless of what any magazine or wafer thin celeb tells you. Physiology is physiology is physiology! No matter what way you try to trick yourself, you can not trick physiology. It's millions of years ahead of us, literally!!!

The only way to lose weight and sustain it is by "a balanced diet" consisting of appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, fats and protein, and regular resistance training exercise which stresses the musculoskeletal system. This will force more muscle proteins (actin and myosin) into the muscle cells, increasing the metabolic demand. The muscles answer to this is to increase the amount of power stations (mitochondria) which will burn more fuel more often and therefor you can sustain your new desired weight.
By changing to a balanced diet which means thinking about the nutrients you consume and opting for foods which enable you to fulfil your functions will cause you to lose weight steadily. If you couple this with resistance exercise twice a week where you target all the major muscle groups with 20 repetitions of a specific exercise twice, your body will adapt to the change and it will change accordingly.
If you are consistent with this new way of living your body will undergo a metamorphosis over a 4-6month period (Yes! It takes time) and your metabolism will alter. So long as you maintain this you won't need to worry about gaining weight even if you fall off the wagon from time to time.
As you understand this process and your body you can begin to add new types of resistance exercise and different regimes but do remember there are lot and lots of ways of changing your body. BUT you can not change how the physiology works. Understand the process, want to change and read the Nike logo "Just do it".

I'm not saying that carbs can be consumed at will without any consequence. Carboholics are the people who generally end up being over weight. There are many types of carbohydrate foods and the one we all need to be careful of are the sugars. The dreaded sugars.
The two main types of carbohydrates are complex carbs (brown rice, oats, wholemeal bread and pasta) and simple carbs (sweets, biscuits, cakes and chocolate). Both types are essentially the same thing or at least we break them down into the same thing in our bodies but the big difference between them is the rate which our bodies can do this.
Simple carbs can be broken up very quickly, the energy is released very fast and it's totally pointless for our bodies to try and burn fats when there are simple carbs around because these are so economical at providing quick energy. However their staying power is so low that 20mins after consumption your energy will crash because they are all gone and it will take a while to start burning the fats so the bodies answer is to crave more simple carbs. The cravings come about because instinctively our bodies know that the only way to get more energy fast is to eat some simple carbs. That's why you never crave brown rice, fish and salad when you are really hungry.
So you have some more simple carbs and the cycle repeats until you eat a good meal consisting of all three macro nutrients. If you get on a daily sugar roller coaster it is very difficult to break it.
Complex carbs are much more difficult to break open and therefore their energy release is much more gradual than simple carbs. The gradual energy release welcomes the chance for the body to burn some fats with these carbs. Remember fats yield more than twice the energy per gram than carbs so it makes physiological sense to do this. If you have a good complex carb breakfast like porridge it will yield its energy over a long period throughout the day and this will reduce the risk of getting onto a sugar roller coaster.

When we eat any carbohydrate our bodies release a hormone called insulin from the pancreas. The role of insulin is to tell every single cell in the body to stop burning fat and to start burning carbohydrate. Remember in "Nutrition 101" I stated that to store carbs we need to dissolve them in water. This is not cost effective and is why we don't store a huge amount of carbs. Fats are not water soluble and are much more economical to store. So any left over carbs get mixed with fatty acids and stored in fat cells, these too are difficult to break up and will not be accessed so long as insulin and carbohydrates are around.

So a good diet consists of all three macro nutrients (Carbs, Fats and a protein) but the complex carbs are a much better choice every time over simple carbs. I know something's in life just aren't fair but here is the catch. Once you get to your desired shape and weight and you incorporate some regular exercise into your life, which no longer seems like a chore you will get away with eating a bit more junk, so long as you return to the righteous path after faltering!


Monday, 3 December 2012

Nothing as it seems! Net Protein Utilisation

This blog entry is a follow up to the entry titled "Protein", the carbohydrate story will follow this entry.
Protein utilisation in the body relies on a very important fact about protein consumption. I stated in early posts that protein is broken into its most basic form of amino acids before it can be absorbed from the gut wall. It's then shipped to the liver when the amino acids are constructed into self proteins. These self proteins are recognised as being friendly by your immune system and a war is avoided. Proteins are a chain of amino acids linked together in a very specific way. If one or more of the "essential" amino acids are missing then the protein can not be constructed. If one or more of the non essential amino acids are missing our liver can construct these by tampering with what it's got.
So what does all this mean?
If you now understand the importance of protein intake and you are trying to ensure you consume enough (1g per 1kg of body weight or 2g per 1kg of body weight if you exercise regularly) on a daily basis it's time to think again!
Net Protein Utilisation means we can only construct proteins with amino acids which total the smallest amount of essential amino acids consumed per meal.
Picture lots of Lego towers of different heights. Some are 8 blocks high, some 12, some 27, some 19, some 14, some 9etc. The smallest tower is 8 blocks high. You decide you want to build a big tower using all the blocks. But there is a catch! You can only use the first 8 blocks of every tower. The rest you have to discard.
In that analogy the small 8 block tower represents essential amino acid. You can use these blocks to build a nice big tower but you can not use more than 8 blocks from the remaining towers.
Then to make matters worse lets say you have 10 replicas of this 8 block (essential amino acid) tower but you have 20 replicas of all the other towers. Now you can only use the bottom 8 blocks from the 10 replicas of all the towers and you must dicard the other 10 or 50% of these towers. That means a lot of protein gets discarded if you are not careful, very careful.

This is why it is important to try and consume more than one protein source at your big daily meal. Say meat, fish or tofu, with some lentils, protein source veg or rice. The more proteins going in together, the higher the Net Protein Utilisation (NPU) and therefore the easier it is for your liver to build proteins.
So when you read a food label that says this food has 20g of protein per 100g this does not account for the NPU. There is a high chance that a lot of this 20g per 100g is unusable protein and therefore it will be excreted. (Once again explaining that calorie counting is so much a waste of time I often wonder why am I even writing about it?) Unless you combine that food with another protein food source. Protein combining is very effective and it usually brings the NPU up quite significantly.
Another way of increasing NPU is by amino acid supplementation. I have a few friends who are gym buffs (which means they love themselves) most of them supplement with amino acids but in true bodybuilder style, I'm not sure they know why they take these little amino acid packs. Most of these have 2g of protein per tablet. So not a lot of the grand scheme of things but very very valuable for increasing NPU.
I try to eat quite well day to day and don't ever supplement. The only exception being when I am in full training for a maratathon when I add some plant based protein to my daily smoothie.
It will never be the point of this blog to tell you what to eat or how to train. What I will try and do is explain how things work so you can make you own decisions based on how you and your body work!