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Sunday, January 29, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 28 Reduce Starchy Carbohydrate Intake

Photo by Johnny Jet on Flickr
They can be hard to avoid -- potatoes, beans, pasta, bread, cereals and grains -- are present in just about any meal. But if you're having a tough time shedding fat, you might need to reduce your intake of starchy carbohydrates.

We know that weight loss can be difficult if we eat too many carbohydrates in the form of sugary foods -- but it can also be difficult if too many starchy carbs are eaten.

The key is to reduce starchy carbs, not eliminate them entirely. Our bodies rely on the glucose derived from the breakdown of carbs to provide energy for all types of bodily functions from walking down the street to thinking about walking down the street. If you drastically reduce carb intake, you'll definitely feel it -- through crankiness, lack of concentration and loss of energy.

The body's immediate source of energy comes from the glucose circulating in the bloodstream from the carbs we eat, and starch being the main source.

As carbs are eaten and digested, they are converted into glucose. As the level of glucose in the blood rises, insulin is released in order to keep the amount of glucose in the blood at a safe level. Insulin helps transfer extra glucose from the blood to the muscles and liver for storage.

As discussed in the book "Advanced Sports Nutrition" by Dan Benardot, our muscles and liver can store excess amounts of carbs, but only to a certain point. It is when the muscles and liver reach a saturation point, that the excess carbs are then stored as fat.

This is why one can workout forever, but never quite get the muscle definition they desire.

Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and spinach are better carb choices because they are lower in carbs and don't have the same impact on blood glucose levels as starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn.

Determining what is a good amount of carbs to have is completely individual. Factors such as gender, age, weight and activity level need to be considered.

When I was training for my figure competitions, it took some trial and error to find what worked for me. I eventually found a good balance for myself -- heavy training days required more carbs and light training days I could eat fewer carbs to achieve my goal bodyfat percentage.

The Institute of Medicine recommends at least 130 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is minimal usage of glucose by the brain. The desirable daily range of carbohydrates (both starchy and non-starchy) is between 45-65% of total calories (also referred to as the DV, daily value).

A person consuming 1500 calories a day should have between 169 to 244 grams of carbs total for the day. Using that as a starting point, if you're exercising consistently 4-5 days per week and you are eating healthful meals daily, you might want to start to reduce starchy carbs for the day by 25 grams. Try that out for a week, see how it goes and then adjust further if necessary.

Advanced Sports Nutrition by Dan Benardot, 2006
Fitness Professional's Handbook, 2007

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