The problem with very low carb diets
FIT TIP: Removing carbs from the diet has been linked to fast weight loss, with advocates assuming therefore that all carbs are fattening and the enemy of weight loss. This has some partial truth:
Eating carbohydrates — especially highly processed ones like white bread and white rice — quickly boosts blood sugar, which triggers an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas. That surge of insulin can rapidly drop blood sugar, causing more hunger. Low-carb proponents claim that people who eat a lot of carbs take in extra calories and gain weight. Limiting carbs in favor of protein and fat is supposed to prevent the insulin surge and make you feel full longer.
The problem lies here. To make up for the lack of carbs in the diet, the body mobilises its own carbohydrate stores from liver and muscle tissue. In the process, the body also mobilises water, meaning that the early pounds shed are water weight. The result is rapid weight loss, but after a few months, weight loss tends to slow and reverse, just as happens with other diets.
Many heart foundations caution people against following the Atkins diet (in particular) because it is too high in saturated fat, which can be hard on the heart, kidneys, and bones. The lack of carb-rich fruits and vegetables is also not ideal, because eating these foods tends to lower the risk of stroke, dementia, and certain cancers. The South Beach and other, less restrictive low-carbohydrate diets offer a more reasonable approach.
The main issue with carbs is that they are not all created equal. Highly refined sugary products are carbs with no nutritional value and very high in calories. Fruit and vegetables are carbs with a huge vitamin and mineral component, and low in calories.
The lesson here? Don’t remove carbs, our body needs them! Just remove the processed ones, and lower the percentage of carbs consumed during the day
Exercise – how to start if you can’t!
FIT TIP: There is so much confusion about where to start with exercise. What burns the most fat, gets you the fittest, gives you the most energy etc… so how do you choose? Here is a simple 5 step process to get you started:
- Just move. Start doing something, preferably something you enjoy (or dislike the least!!). Something that fits into your lifestyle and takes only 3-4 minutes, 3-4 days of the week. This way it won’t stress you for time. Don’t make it too intense so that you completely run out of steam. We need to form a habit of exercise, and going too hard too soon risks burning out before the habit is formed.
- Move more. After a period of time, when you feel comfortable with the simple program and you are sticking with it, try to do the same exercise but GO HARD for shorter periods, but more often. A 5-10 second burst (repeated when you get your breath back) is a great way to start. Try this for just 1 minute, but try and do it daily!
- Move more often. Aim to do a few repeat ‘sets’ of the 5-10 second GO HARD bursts. Instead of just doing one minute, do 3 lots of one minute. Allow yourself some time in between these sets so your heart rate can drop to a reasonable rate before jumping back up again.
- Move quicker. Aim to go faster over the same distance or further in the same time. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, but make sure at this stage you are MEASURING your abilities. A simple stopwatch is the best investment you can make.
- Move differently. Our bodies are sneaky things, always adapting to what we do. To keep progressing your fitness and body results, start introducing new activities. There are endless possibilities from sports, cardio machines, boxing, swimming, cycling, mini-tramp, hula hooping… variety stops boredom and keeps the body changing. Whenever you start a new activity, start from number 3 on the process.
Remember, a fit body burns fat faster, so your goal should be to get fit, and not focus on fat loss. Results do not come from how long you move but from how puffed you get!! To take the system even further, you can add a heart rate monitor into your training and set heart rate goals (e.g. 85-95% of maximum heat rate).
Most importantly – have fun!!
Should you be concerned about high intensity training?
FIT TIP: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and High Intensity Resistance Training (HIRT) programs have been in the news a number of times recently with people rightly asking the question – Are high intensity training programs safe?
The answer is a definite yes.
Not all HIIT/HIRT programs are created equal, and even a great system will be only as good as the trainer who prescribes it. A good trainer will have not only specific knowledge in a specific exercise style such as HIIT/HIRT, but also a qualification that enables them to understand all the surrounding issues that are needed to keep you safe. This includes a thorough understanding of how the human body works and responds to exercise, and any limitations you as an individual might have from a pre-screening health check before commencing.
Until a couple of years ago you would have been forgiven for thinking that HIIT and HIRT was for athletes, and stayed on the treadmill for 30-40 minutes of steady state training finishing with a few light weights. With the arrival of exercise products such as Tabata and Crossfit, HIIT and HIRT gained huge popularity, and the fitness and exercise landscape changed. While trends come and go, it is clear that HIIT and HIRT are here to stay.
And there is a good reason for this. When done safely and regularly, HIIT and HIRT get results, and it’s not just us trainers who think so. The latest research suggests that high intensity workouts can be more beneficial than longer, steadier state workouts.
HIIT/HIRT programs can be adapted to all fitness levels. ‘High intensity’ is a relative term, so for an untrained beginner, a high intensity program will be at a lower level than someone who has been working out for longer. The interval part of the program is the key here, with bouts of high intensity work cycled with rest periods. This is the foundation of any HIIT/HIRT program. If you can keep exercising at a level that doesn’t require regular rests, then it’s not a true HIIT program. And if the program is not progressed in difficulty, then the results will not progress either.