So let me begin by introducing myself, I am a 23 year old personal trainer helping women to take control of their lives. I own a female exclusive private training studio, MISSFITZ with my business partner Rachel McCartan. Our studio is based in Northern Ireland and we work with a diverse group of women who have unique training and dietary needs.
With an abundance of information on health and fitness at your fingertips nowadays, my aim is to help you identify what information is useful and what you should ignore. As any good personal trainer knows, research is constantly progressing in our realm and I will be ensuring I give you the most up to date, scientifically-backed advice to get you the body you want.
For my first article I will be debunking the low-carb, low-fat diet fad.
Am I allowed carbs?
It still baffles me the number of clients who ask me this in their first consultation.
Yes, you can eat carbs, and yes, you will still drop bodyfat. The majority of crash diet plans usually adhere to either a ‘low carb’ diet or a ‘low-fat’ diet. I can tell you now that cutting any macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate or fat) out of your diet is an invitation to massive weight regain and possible negative health implications.
When did Carbs and Fats become the Bad Guys?
For you to understand why carbs and fats have been made the villains of the diet industry we must first take a look at their caloric value. When we talk about calories, we are referring to the energy we attain from the food that we eat which we then use to fuel our body. Each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories which is the same as protein also coming in at 4 calories. Fats weigh in at 9 calories per gram, therefore ranking at the highest calorie macronutrient.
Fats contain the most calories, so to reduce your daily calorie intake and drop bodyfat quickly get rid of fats, right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, so many diet plans adopt the attitude that fat makes you fat. Fat does not make you fat, eating in a calorie surplus is what makes you gain weight. Many people are not aware of the advantages of eating dietary fat to aid fat loss. Fat makes food tasty, and when you enjoy your diet you will stick to it, meaning the weight you lose will stay off.
Fats also increases your satiety, meaning you won’t be as tempted by ‘Fat Fridays’ in your office allowing you to turn down those glazed doughnuts between meals with ease. Omega-3 fatty acids; EPA and DHA play pretty big roles in maintaining healthy function of the brain and cardiovascular health. They’re also pretty important during foetal development but this importance extends to all stages of the lifecycle. They’ve even been associated with reduced risk and or onset of cognitive decline, dementia and or Alzheimer’s disease in old age. Most people aren’t getting enough, the bare minimum is two servings of oily fish a week and even that’s arguably not enough. Personally, I’d highly recommend supplementing with them.
So now we come to carbs, possibly the most hated food group in the diet industry. Name your favourite food. I’d bet a significant amount of money on it containing carbs. Majority of your meals throughout the day are likely to contain carbohydrates, so take carbs out of your diet and boom! The weight drops instantly! What you aren’t told is that you have mainly dropped water (carbs convert to glycogen in your body resulting in almost 3 grams of water weight being held per gram) and 4 weeks later when you can no longer resist that breakfast bagel you will rebound to your original size if not more. In addition, if your diet has been excessively low in calories for a prolonged period of time you could potentially damage your metabolism which means when you try to lose weight again you will have an even more difficult time dropping body fat than before.
Your body adapts to how many calories you feed it. In the fitness industry when someone’s metabolism adapts to their calorie consumption we call it a ‘plateau’. The person will stop seeing changes in their appearance unless they either increase their activity or decrease how much they are eating. This is where the problem arises. If you are on an excessively low-calorie diet you will start being less active in every day life and you certainly will not have the energy to exercise any more than you already are. So the only other option is to cut food but you’re already on such low calories that you’re constantly hungry and know you couldn’t eat less. You then feel like it is pointless to keep trying so you ditch the diet all together and eat every carb and fat laden item in sight, am I right?
This is the exact scenario I see walk through my gym doors day in, day out. It is deeply upsetting watching someone go through this frustrating cycle, and that is why I am asking you to please, ditch the diet!
Instead build a healthy relationship with food! Ensure you are including a balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in your diet. Don’t focus on ‘low fat’ or ‘low carb’ supermarket scams, instead read the back of the packet and look at the ‘nutrition per 100g’ section, opting for the lower calorie option. Keep the foods you enjoy in your diet in moderation. As a rough guide I suggest between 180-250kcal of your daily calories should come from fun foods, such as chocolate or crisps. If on average, you are eating healthier foods than you were previously, and you are more active than you were previously, your body will reflect those results in time. Be patient, remember how long it took you as a child to learn how to tie your laces? Well your diet is like that, its difficult to learn at first and you may need some help along the way but eventually its second nature to you.
Eating a balanced diet and dropping bodyfat is easy, sustaining your fat loss is the hard part.
Keep an eye out for part two of ‘Ditch the Diet’ where I teach you how to drop the bodyfat and keep it off!