First, let me offer an apology for my extended absence from the writing portion of this blog. I hope everyone has enjoyed the myriad Instagram shares and memes I’ve been pushing through instead!
This is a post I’ve been working on for a while and I just had a really hard time getting my ADD brain to focus enough in my off-work hours to get it where I wanted it to be.
So here we go!
With my recent blood panel results came the advice from my doctor to increase regular exercise, cut back on red meat/full-fat dairy consumption and fried foods… and to limit carbs.
I found this advice puzzling since probably 80-90% of my carbohydrate intake comes from fruits, vegetables, and a mix of processed and whole grains (okay, and beer). I average around 225 grams of carbs a day. I generally eat around 2500 calories, making this about 36% of my calorie intake – MUCH lower than the USDA Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range of 45-65%.
(I will note that in 2015 the USDA released the latest American Dietary Guidelines and no longer go specifically by macronutrient percentages, but now provides suggested daily servings for various food groups; for example, the suggested daily serving for grains is 6 ounces, of which half should come from whole grain sources.)
Now, you might say, why would you trust the Federal Government to tell you what to eat? Recent research has shown just how much the Feds have mucked up the American diet beginning with the introduction of various “food guides”, the first of which was released in the 1940s. By the 60s and 70s the USDA and American physicians alike were encouraging the heavy use of vegetable oils (we’re not talking the olive variety, folks) and trans fats such as hydrogenated soybean oil over animal/dairy fats. As we came to the end of the 1980s and entered the ‘90s, fat consumption of all kinds was heavily discouraged, and doctors began pushing Americans to consume more and more carbs in the name of heart health.
BUT, the science is firm: we need carbohydrates to function properly – especially folks who exercise daily and/or have jobs that have high physical demands (manual labor, etc.) This doesn’t mean end your heavy workout with a Twinkie – but it does mean have the oatmeal for breakfast (maybe along with an egg or two), and go ahead and have that tuna on whole grain bread for lunch, a banana for a snack, perhaps spaghetti and turkey meatballs for dinner, and, yes, even a small serving of ice cream for dessert.
For me, since I track my calories and my macros, I know my biggest problem over the last year has been my saturated fat intake – it’s a bit out of control. (I love the hell out of cheese and beef!) Again, the science is strong – high saturated fat intake increases LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides which can eventually lead to heart disease. My other issue when it comes to controlling my triglycerides (and avoiding heart disease)? Smoking. A habit I should kick for myriad reasons!
I need to reel it in with the saturated fats, but I don’t plan on touching my carbs. If they get much lower I won’t have the energy (which is already low due to that Vitamin D deficiency!) to fuel my workouts, the chemical magic to keep me satiated between meals, and (another fun fact) get the quality sleep needed to recover properly from stress and exercise.
One of the sites I’ve followed for a long time that is full of science-based information for diet/nutrition is Precision Nutrition. Here’s a neat little article they shared recently talking about low-carb and what that actually means and how it can affect your body in ways you don’t anticipate.