I WAS LISTENING to a fitness podcast the other day in which the host argued vociferously against the idea of a low-carbohydrate diet
Interestingly I found myself agreeing with the points he was making while completely disagreeing with his conclusion.
On a purely scientific basis I couldn’t find fault in his logic. But I did wonder whether he had truly considered the practical advantages of a low-carbohydrate diet.
“If you're looking to lose weight then as long as you are in a calorific deficit there’s nothing wrong with having brown rice, boiled potatoes or quinoa,” he said as he outlined his stance that between 30-40 per cent of total dietary intake should come from carbohydrate sources.
When he said ‘nothing wrong’ it occurred to me that he clearly wasn't talking from a taste perspective.
Now from a nutritional standpoint there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting these high-fibred, nutrient-dense carbohydrates in your diet, but when it comes to putting something tasty in your belly I’m not so convinced.
If we reflect on the science carbohydrates are broken down to glycogen which is our body’s preferred source of energy during exercise, and since we know exercise is essential for health it makes sense that we need a healthy dose of carbohydrates in our lives.
The problem is that when many people get the green light for carbohydrates they rarely punch the air and think “Hell yeah, brown rice is back on the menu!”
Instead they’re more likely to be thinking of a multitude of breads and pastas and noodles and French fries. So previously banned foods like burgers, pizza, chicken chow mein, pad thai, lasagne are back on their plates, pretty much everything but brown rice and boiled potatoes.
Now of course there are those out there who will argue that with a little bit of creativity you can make an amazing quinoa and rocket salad. To which I’d reply put that quinoa and rocket on a sourdough bread base, cover it in mozaarella cheese and some tomato sauce, then throw that in a wood-fired over for about 20 minutes and then you can start using the word amazing.
Personally if I were offered the chance to eat as much of these ‘natural carbs’ as I wanted I’d be hard pressed to start eating any of them.
Alternatively offer me ‘high carb’ junk foods and I’ll stab you with my fork if you come between me and my plate.
I think this difference between preferred sources of carbohydrates is something that a lot of fitness professionals tend to forget. A lot of trainers I know have bodybuilding or fitness model backgrounds in which they think nothing of chowing down on ever-shrinking plates of dry salmon and boiled potatoes for 12 long weeks.
I even know one fitness model who once described a cauliflower-based pizza as a cheat/treat meal.
These trainers also overlook the laser-like focus that having 12-weeks to prepare yourself for the ordeal of posing in a tiny pair of pants while a hyper-critical audience scrutinises literally every fibre of your being for flaws brings you. Do we really expect our clients to show a similar sense of dedication when all they care about is not looking fat in next year's holiday snaps?
One reason I like a high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate diet where carbohydrates come from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and asparagus and high fibre fruits is that when you tell yourself you’re not having carbohydrates you stop immediately refuse yourself permission for taking them from the unwanted processed, junk food sources.
One reason I typically don’t like diets high in carbohydrates is that it’s so much easier to unwittingly over-eat carbohydrate meals and hence ingest far more calories than you were aiming for.
That is unless the carbohydrate sources in question are boiled potatoes and plain boiled rice, then it's just because they taste like shit.