The Best and Worst Carbs to Eat for Fat Burning
YES! We hear it all the time… good carbs, bad carbs, no carbs… What’s the deal?
The most confusing aspect of the fat controlling diet and lifestyle is which carbs to eat, which to avoid and how much carbs to eat!
Carbohydrates are the one of the main stimulators of insulin and insulin is the hormone responsible for helping to us to build muscle but also store fat. If we aren’t active enough to burn any excess sugars (carbs) in our blood stream or create the stimulus and environment for muscle growth, then insulin will serve to only store the excess energy into the fat cells.
The easiest way (there are other ways too) to control insulin on a consistent basis is to control carbs every time you eat. When you learn to control your carbs to suit you, your metabolism and your activity levels, you will become your very own fat controller!
Get it wrong by eating the wrong carbs and too much of even the good carbs and you won’t be able to burn fat. Worse till, you will store fat.
Eat no carbs and you could create havoc with your metabolism and brain chemistry. So to recap…..too little carbs can stimulate stress and cortisol, too much insulin will dampen even your best efforts to burn fat. Confused?
Don’t worry. It’s not that complicated. I have broken it down into best to worst carbs:
- Beige and dead – worst
- Beige – moderate
- Fibrous – best
The good news is that there are loads of great carbohydrates you can fill up on, you just need to know which ones to choose. If you choose the right ones, you will be eating masses and masses of nutritious carbs that will keep you full yet trim, young and healthy.
So which ones are they and how can I tell them apart?
I have simplified this as much as possible. There are basically two main types of carbohydrates….starchy (broken down into best and worst) and fibrous:
Beige, DEAD starchy carbs!
Out of all carbs, Beige, starchy, dead carbs are the worst foods that will most likely block fat metabolism. They stimulate fat storage and stop fat burning. They are foods that don’t look anything like a natural food source and have been heated, cooked, dried or processed in various different ways. It often comes in boxes, cartons and packaging etc. The less it resembles any real food, the worse it is. Hence the term #beigedeadfood. Examples of beige dead foods to avoid as much as possible:
Bread, pastries, pasta, biscuits, potato based products, ice cream, sweets, chocolate bars, ready meals, pizza, sandwiches, wraps, couscous, cereals, cereal bars, crackers, *milk, cheeses.
Often I will practice a ‘one-bite’ rule (around 1 tablespoon) where you can simply taste the foods in a way that doesn’t impact fat burning yet allows you to feel a sense of satisfaction and avoid feelings of deprivation.
*Milk and cheese is included as generally modern cheeses and milks are largely processed and modified and can create a larger insulin response in some. Full fat yoghurt, greek yoghurts and strong cheeses can be tolerated in small amounts (bite rule) for flavour and meal satisfaction for some people.
Beige starchy carbs!
Next it’s beige starchy carbs!! Even natural beige starches when overeaten are likely to stimulate fat storing because of the way they stimulate insulin more than non beige ones. They are always usually beige in colour and often they are processed to some degree. The more processed, dry and the more beige, the more likely they will raise insulin and so will inhibit fat burning. Wet starches such as potato, oats, rice for example tend be better than dry ones.
One way to check is to ask the question: ‘how much does it look like real food?’
Just like beige, dead carbs, think of beige starchy carbs as energy and you have to ‘earn’ them. In other words, the more active you are and the leaner you are then better your body will manage them instead of storing them as energy in your fat cells. Regular exercisers and naturally slim people tend to tolerate more carbs (YEP I know…. totally unfair!).
These foods can be tolerated in small amounts for some people but not all. I usually aim for around 3 tablespoons (‘3 bite rule’) in 1-2 of my main meals. If fat loss is stubborn, you can limit to just one meal.
Examples of beige foods (that still look like real food) to limit and ‘earn’:
Potato,parsnip, quinoa, oats, rice, brown rice, grains such as millet and bulgar wheat, buckwheat, rye breads.
These foods tend to have very little colour even though it looks quite close to it’s original form. Remember, the wetter starches such as beans, brown rice, potato etc tend to be tolerated better.
Fibrous colourful carbs #VividVeg & #FeistyFruit
These foods are the king of nutrition and fibre. They are much much lower in sugar and higher in fibre than their beige (beige and dead even less fibre and more sugar) counterparts.
These are usually very colourful and look exactly like they did when picked from a tree or bush for example. Most often they grow above ground. Personally I do not practice a bite rule here. I just fill my boots!
Examples of fibrous and colourful carbs:
All green vegetables such as broccoli, chard, kale, courgettes, cauliflower and spinach. Add to that onions, peppers, leaves, cucumber, tomatoes.
Root vegetables tend to be more starchy despite the colour and so should be used in moderation: Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beetroot, pumpkin etc. are best used as an accompaniment rather than the basis of a whole meal. The same is true for beans, pulses and legumes as they are mostly starch. Again, wet starches tend to interfere less with the fat burning metabolism when eaten in moderation.
What about fruits?
Yes we need to consider fruit in the starch equation. It would be remiss of me to exclude fruit here simply because, despite being healthy, fruit is inherently high in naturally occurring sugars. And like honey and maple syrup for example, the body does not know the difference. It’s still ends up as sugar and will interfere with fat loss. So for that reason I have summarised fruit for you below.
The best fruits to eat:
Low sugar fruits such as berries, apples and pears, lemons and limes are the best fruits to eat due to their higher fibre and lower sugar content.
Caution with these fruits:
In particular the exotic types such as banana, pineapple, mango, grapes, kiwi, papaya, passion fruits etc as these are higher in sugars and can present a problem when eaten in excess despite being healthy. I prefer to use these on occasions as a treat or limit portion sizes to a small palm sized amount.
To simplify as much as possible, beige dead foods are the ones to avoid at all costs during weight loss phases. Replace with colourful, wet starches in moderation and aim to build each meal around fibrous, bright and vivid vegetables with lean proteins and you can’t go far wrong!
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Big love, small tummies!
Jill – The Fat Controller