I first heard about “carb cycling” yesterday. I’m by no means a weightlifter and not associated with that community in any way. However, I crossed paths with someone who was and he mentioned he was carb cycling. Having never heard of that term before, I decided to go online to do a little further research to learn about what exactly carb cycling was.
As I mentioned, carb cycling is something that body builder types will do to get that shredded look with big muscles and little body fat. The goal of carbohydrate cycling is to get bigger muscles while stopping any weight gain from fat, or helping to lose fat in an ideal scenario.
The term “carb cycling” might lead you to believe that it’s a new fad diet or that there are strict rules to follow, but this is one case where the name is literally what you do: you cycle your carbs. When you’re carb cycling, you have some days where you have carbohydrates and some days when you don’t have any. Easy enough!
The idea of carb cycling is to keep your body on its toes. On days when you’re using your muscles in an intense kettlebell workout or simply weightlifting, you’d eat carbs. Eating carbs on these days will give you energy while fueling your muscles and helping them to grow. On days where you don’t exercise or you’re doing mostly cardio, you don’t eat any carbs. This will hopefully “trick” your body into burning fat for your energy rather than the energy it would be receiving from carbs.
With so many people on low-carb diets depriving themselves of delicious bread, pasta, and other grains, a carbohydrate cycling program might be the best of both worlds. You get the benefit of living a limited or no-carb diet while allowing yourself to indulge on days when you’re putting your muscles through a vigorous workout.
I was never a big fan of rice. I ate it occasionally but it wasn’t something that I ever went out of my way to make. That is until I first had basmati rice. The taste and texture of it appeals to me in ways which I cannot describe. I’m now craving it so much I have to tell myself to relax and space out my meals that include rice. After all, foods that are white are bad for you, right?
Well, it all depends what we’re talking about. Whole grain bread, pasta, and rice will contain more fiber than their processed, white counterparts. Whole grain rice also has more calcium and vitamin E than white rice. But is all white rice bad?
Something that’s common to all rice–white or whole grain–is that it’s virtually fat-free, low in sodium, and it’s gluten-free, too. People who have legitimate conditions where they cannot consume gluten can eat all the rice they want. White and whole grain rice also contains eight essential amino acids, vitamins, iron, and potassium. So white rice isn’t something that should be written off completely the way some people say all white bread is bad.
I think the key to eating rice is to have it as part of a meal rather than your entire meal. Sure, I could sit down and eat an entire bowl full of basmati rice with nothing else, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll use a bit of basmati rice as the base and then add things into it to complement it. A little bit of chicken and a lot of vegetables combined with the rice is a healthy way to satisfy my craving for rice while enjoying a balanced meal that’s delicious and filling.
Pasta has gotten a bit of a bad rap. Most people would agree that if you’re looking to lose weight or simply to maintain your weight loss, it’s best to cut out pasta completely. This isn’t necessarily true, though. As is the case with everything, moderation is key. Don’t eat it for dinner each night, and when you do, keep your serving size to a minimum. People tend to eat A LOT of pasta–certainly more than the single-serving that’s suggested on the side of the pasta box.
Along with limiting the quanity of pasta you consume, consider experimenting with other types of pasta as well. No, I don’t mean switching up your rotini for fusilli or your linguine for fettuccine. Traditional pasta that we all know and love is made with refined white durum flour. Think of this type of pasta as the white bread of the pasta world. We all know if you’re watching your waistline, you should avoid white bread and other refined starches. Fortunately there are many other options.
Switching from “normal” pasta to whole wheat pasta is definitely a healthier option, but it’s definitely an acquired taste. The texture just isn’t the same, but if you’re looking for a pasta fix, this is a suitable replacement. Just make sure that you keep the creamy sauces to a minimum, opting for a thick and chunky tomato-based sauce that will fill you up more than a thinner creamy sauce. An added bonus: whole wheat pasta has a lot more fiber than traditional pasta, which can also help you to feel more full.
Those on a gluten-free kick will likely be aware of the ever-growing availability of corn and rice-based pastas lining store shelves. These will likely seem like the healthiest option, but a quick comparison between nutrition labels will reveal that these gluten-free pastas tend to have more carbs and less fiber than the gluten-based pastas. So, unless you’re choosing gluten-free out of genuine health concerns, there’s likely a better option.
So what’s the best compromise if you want the taste and texture of traditional pasta but with the benefits of whole wheat pasta? Check out multigrain pastas at your local grocery store. They’re the best of both worlds, providing you with the increased fiber from whole wheat pasta with the familiar taste and texture from regular pasta.
There are a lot of myths and conspiracies in the world, from UFOs to 9/11 and ghosts as well, and there are a wide range of shows devoted to these topics. But myths can apply to your health, too. These are in the forms of myths like eating fatty foods can make you fat, foods with carbs can make you fat, and things along those lines. But which ones are fact and which are fiction?
I read many blogs, with one of my favorites being Lifehacker. Recently Lifehacker posted an article (linked below) which outlines a number of these myths and misconceptions. For instance, fatty foods don’t necessarily make you fat. In reality, our bodies need fat, the key is which fats you eat, and in what quantities. The right fats can also help you to feel full, and as a result, aid in weight loss.
Years ago the Adkins craze was in full swing, with tens of thousands of people cutting carbs out of their diets completely. Once again, moderation proves to be key rather than completely eliminating something from your diet. In the case of carbs, much like fats, the type of carbs you eat is what’s important.
Check out the full article for more details about food myths, including the ones mentioned above, along with others related to MSG, gluten, and high-fructose corn syrup. What the article finds is that some of these things may not be bad for you at all. There are also some myths related to exercise–such as exercises that purport to burn fat in specific areas–that I think readers of this blog, and those who are looking to lose weight and get healthier could really benefit from.
I try to eat healthy, avoiding carbs and starches whenever possible. That means I stay away from potato and tortilla chips, french fries, and pasta as much as I can. The one thing that I can’t seem to give up though is bread. I love it as toast in the morning, made into a grilled cheese at lunch, and as a side of garlic bread with a steak for dinner.
Like everything, there are good and bad options, and bread is no exception. Knowing which is which is important, especially with bread, as what you think might be healthy is anything but. White bread is bad, everyone should know that by now, it’s no secret. With all traces of husk and brain stripped away from the grain, refined white flour is then bleached with chemicals which eliminates anything that your body would recognize as being good for you. What’s left then has gluten and sugar added to it before it’s baked into white bread.
At the grocery store you may think that skipping the white bread in favor of whole wheat is a smart choice, but it’s really not. Unless it says 100% whole grain bread, you’re simply buying white bread with wheat added to it to disguise it as a healthy product. You’ll still experience the same sugar high that you’d get from white bread, and the inevitable crash that follows.
As I mentioned, the key to finding a healthy bread at the supermarket is to look for breads labeled as 100% whole grain. This means that the flour has not been refined so it still contains its nutrients. Whole grains contain fiber, which helps you stay full, vitamins, and protein as well. While all breads contain sugar to activate the yeast, you’ll want to make sure that it’s not the first or second ingredient. Four or five ingredients deep and you’re likely making a good choice.
But there are so many different types of breads to choose from, so which one is truly a good choice? Rather than looking at the packaging of the bread, flip it over and look for the nutritional information. The fewer ingredients the better. Avoid breads made with high fructose corn syrup, honey, or any kinds of coloring. The old adage of “less is more” proves once again to be true when it comes to the foods we eat.