Nicole Nam has a Bachelors of Science in Public Health Nutrition Specialization and a Masters of Science in Kinesiology. She has a personal training certification from the American Council of Exercise, and has trained a variety of clients, including a contestant in this year’s Miss Nevada competition. Follow her on Instagram here.
Carbs raise a lot of confusion in a lot of people when they’re trying to lose weight or get in shape. Carbs are one of those very polarizing macronutrients. They’re the main component for anyone on the plant-based diet, yet they take up little to no space on a keto dieter’s plate. You either love carbs or are forced to hate them. You’ll never meet anyone who is just so-so about carbohydrates, which could explain why it is singlehandedly the hardest dietary component to moderate—we binge on chips and cookies, not deli meats, unless you’re Chad from The Bachelorette.
Before we dive in, let’s be completely clear on WTF carbohydrates are. Carbohydrates are chains of sugar molecules. The length and shape of those chains determine whether the carbohydrate is classified as starch (rice, potatoes, pasta, etc.), fiber, or simple sugars (candy, fruit, soda, etc.). Simple sugars are rapidly digested. Think of them as one of those fast-acting rapid-release medications. It gives you energy right away, which is why Halloween is ground zero for hyperactive kids. Then, like a junkie, you crash. Then you have to re-up. Starches are considered storage form of sugars, because it takes longer to digest. The purpose of carbohydrates is to provide the body with fuel and energy. The carbohydrate storage (called “glycogen stores”) is the first thing the body taps into when it needs more energy. After that, the body then starts to use fat stores for energy. Once fat is depleted, the body starts to burn muscle for energy (WE DON’T WANT THIS).
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So keeping the information above in mind, let’s apply those concepts to carbohydrate cycling. Carb cycling is essentially timing and planning out varying amounts of carb intake based on activity level. It is designed to prevent weight loss plateaus and is a common method bodybuilders use to get themselves into competing shape. It is a short-term method of purposely taking your body into and out of glycogen depletion to burn fat.
Theoretically, this method makes a lot of sense. You’re taking your body to the point of glycogen depletion where the body starts to burn fat, but not to the point where the body starts to burn muscle. When you’re carb cycling, fat and protein intake is kept the same and you only manipulate carbohydrate intake. This means that your caloric intake will also vary depending on if you’re eating low or high carbohydrate that day. For example, you might do five low-carbohydrate days that clock in at around 1,500 calories total and the two other days you do high-carbohydrate (they call this a “re-feed” day) that amount to approximately 2,500 calories. It would be smarter to time the re-feed on days where you do strenuous exercise (or a leg day) because you’re actually putting those extra calories to good use.
Like I said, THEORETICALLY, this method makes sense, and it DOES work, when done correctly. PRACTICALLY? I would not recommend this to anyone unless they have a reason to look super shredded (so…bodybuilders). I’m a trainer, my life revolves around fitness and nutrition and I don’t even do this. The calorie and carb counting, the measuring out every morsel of food, the planning re-feed days in advance does not sound fun and it makes eating seem like I’m doing taxes rather than letting me enjoy my food. To schedule your re-feed, you have to know what you’re doing next week and I’m the queen of last minute plans.
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Not only that, but you have to track your food religiously so you have to know the quantity of everything you’re eating. If you’re just someone looking to get into shape, there is absolutely no need for you to resort to this advanced (and I mean advanced) level of metabolic manipulation to lose weight and tone up. If anything, the added stress that goes into the planning and food tracking required in carb cycling will likely end up discouraging and frustrating many people altogether. I would rather you stick to the tried and true method of feeding your body the best fuel (a clean diet) and moving more than attempting a method designed for body builders and completely burning out your mind and body in the process.
Images: dietstartstomorrow, menshumor / Instagram
At this point in the year (aka February) most of us are either 30 days deep into our “New Year/New Me” diet, or we’re 29 days deep into our “Same Me/Same Shit” cheat spiral. No shade either way. Everyone’s journey is different. This year, for the first time in my entire life (unless you count getting the flu a diet), I actually stuck to the meal plan that I chose on 1/1/18, and I am now here to annoyingly brag tell you all about it. It’s called the Ketogenic diet, or Keto diet, which may ring a bell from Rachel’s season of The Bachelorette when Blake the aspiring drummer wouldn’t STFU about it.
I decided to give this diet a try after getting insanely jealous watching a friend lose 50 pounds on it. He’s a guy, so he’s blessed with the ability to lose weight in his sleep; but I figured if I lost even the smallest portion of that weight, I’d finally be the the gorgeous model version of myself that I always imagine myself to be when zoning out to Ariana Grande and picturing myself as one of her backup dancers—I mean, what?
(Actual footage of me as a backup dancer.)
Wtf Is The Ketogenic Diet?
The Keto diet is a super low carb, low sugar diet. The basic point is for you to eat so few carbs (ideally 20-25gs per day) that your body starts running off ketones, rather than the glucose or insulin your body produces when you’re eating tons of carbs. When glucose is your primary source of energy, your body doesn’t need fat to function and the fat ends up being stored in your body etc…etc… your thighs touch now.
(Note: My thighs touched before the Keto diet. They touched during the Keto diet. And they will touch long after I
give up finish the Keto diet. My thighs will always touch. They are v close friends who like each other a lot, and who am I to pull them apart?)
(Note #2: I know that first paragraph sounded like Cady Heron explaining the science behind Kalteen bars to Regina George, but I promise what I said is backed with actual science.)
Ketones are produced from a breakdown of fats in the liver. Once you’re running off ketones, your body becomes a fat burning machine, which is great, because this diet requires eating a fuckton of fats. Ideally, you’re going to be getting 60-75% of your calories from fat, 15-30% from protein, and 5% from carbs. If you’re going to get into Keto, you’re gonna have to be okay with the fact that you’re now going to be one of those people who talks about their “macros” now. I was about a week into my Keto journey the first time I heard myself say, “Ugh, my macros are all over the place today,” and had to run over to a mirror and make sure I was, in fact, still myself.
So Wtf Can You Eat?
A lot of stuff, actually! For me, I’ve always had a very hard time sticking to diets and meal plans, and an even worse time counting calories. Keto was the easiest plan I’ve ever had to stick to, because once you learn all the different types of foods you can eat, it’s pretty easy to throw some meals together. Just make sure you’re DTC (down to cook) because a lot of the shit you find while eating out is packed with secret carbs that will totally kill your Keto vibe. Here’s a list of foods that will become your life on keto:
MCT Oil: If Coconut oil is Khloé and Olive Oil is Kourtney, MCT Oil is the Kim of the Keto-friendly oil family. MCT oil is a medium chain fatty acid that can have a positive effect on fat burning and weight reduction. It helps curb your appetite, burn fat as fuel, and generally helps you lose weight. MCT oil helps increase ketone production, and you can literally put it in everything.
Avocados: Already obsessed with avocados? Good, because you’re going to eat a whoooole fuckload of them on Keto. Yep, turns out that whole “healthy fats” thing is real, and avocados are totally full of them. So yeah, eat as much guac as you’d like, just ditch the chips. You can literally just eat guac by the spoonful on this diet, not that I have ever done that.
Dry Riced Vegetables: If you’re a carbs addict like I am, the hardest part of keto will be missing your dearly beloved grains. That’s where dry riced vegetables come in. They’re vegetables…turned into rice. Groundbreaking. Keto & Co has great dry cauliflower and broccoli rice for like, eight bucks. One pack makes a whole pound of rice so you can trick your brain into thinking you’re eating carbs. As an added bonus, I read on Twitter once that cauliflower is the new avocados, which were the new kale, so this rice is also v trendy.
Burrito Bowls: Guess what—Chipotle can still be a thing in your life on Keto. Astounding, I know. Anytime I need to eat out, I just hop over to my local burrito purveyor and get a burrito bowl with no beans or rice. Then I get mixed greens, fajita veggies, whatever meat I’m feeling like that day, salsa, sour cream, and sooooo much guac they’re probably tempted to charge me extra-extra.
Pork Rinds: A lot of Keto for me was tricking my body into thinking I’m eating the foods I used to be obsessed with, like chips. On Keto, you can eat pork rinds, which is just like, pork skin turned into a chip. If you’re not already into them, give yourself 1-2 chipless days and you will be. Trust me.
Shakes: Like in most diets, shakes are your friend. Just throw a bunch of Keto-friendly ingredients in a blender and voilà, you are healthy, and everyone who sees you walking down the street with that green drink concoction knows it. If you’re too lazy to even think of ingredients for a shake (hi) Ketolent also has powdered shakes in chocolate and vanilla that are wayyyy tastier than any fitness-related shake has any business being.
A Fuckton Of Eggs: Yeah I mean, you’re going to be eating a lot of eggs, in all varieties. The limit does not exist on how many eggs you can eat. Go nuts.
Alcohol: Vodka, tequila, rum, gin, whiskey, scotch, brandy, and cognac are all drinkable on Keto. I know, right? And if you’re thinking, “Uh, I can’t just drink liquor all the time I’m already blacking out enough as it is,” don’t worry. You can actually still drink beer and wine on Keto, just be sure to keep an eye on the carbs. The only thing your really have to avoid are fancy, flavored cocktails and sweet wines. Other than that, go nuts.*
*Please drink and Keto responsibly.
Is Butter A Carb?
No, actually. Eat as much butter as your little heart desires. Drown in butter if you want to. On Keto, the world is your buttery, buttery oyster. Congrats.
I honestly do not know how anyone who is vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, or morally opposed to cooking would do this diet. There’s just, like, a lot of meat and cheese going on here, and while I’m sure there are ways to substitute things in and out, that sounds like an enormous pain in the ass. As soon as a diet gets more complicated than following a basic meal plan, it’s a no from me. I also like cooking and meal planning (brag), so I found getting my Keto meals prepped to be very calming. That might not be the case for
sane other people. The biggest issue I ran into is that I just don’t love Stevia, which is the go-to Keto sweetener. I made a bunch of sweet Keto treats that I ended up not eating because Stevia tastes like medicine to me. Eventually, I gave up on trying to make Stevia happen and just switched to coconut sugar, which isn’t ideal for Keto but hey, neither was I at the beginning.
The number one thing you’re going to want to be successful on this diet is either MyFitnessPal or some kind of meal tracker so you can make sure your macros are in order. I also read The Complete Ketogenic Diet for Beginners: Your Essential Guide to Living the Keto Lifestyle, which is all info you can find online (and in this article tbh), but buying a book made it feel more offish. The book also has a lot of really good recipes that don’t take long or require cooking knowledge beyond a few binge-watches of Top Chef.
If the lack of snacks is already scaring you, Keto Delivered is a Keto-friendly snack delivery service that will send you all sorts of shit you never thought you’d have again. Personally, they sent me a Keto cookie mix that made me feel like I was having real cookies again, and some low-carb maple syrup which I used to make Keto pancakes. The boxes also contain fun recipes you never would have thought of (I repeat, Keto pancakes).
But Does It Work Tho?
I am happy to announce that as of this day, I am 5 pounds lighter, which was my goal. I also have genuinely felt a lot more energy, and been fuller for longer since saying goodbye to bread and re-focusing my life around my love of cheese. The fact that you can still drink on Keto made this diet a whole lot easier than the ones I’ve done in the past that limit your drinks to a laughable two per week (Do you even know my life??).
Full disclosure, I was not 100% keto 100% of the time. There were a few ramen trips in there, and my mom sent me a Valentine’s basket with some chocolates in it and it would have been like, rude not to eat them so I did.
On the bright side, a few cheat days did not totally wreck my progress here and I’m still basically 80% Keto over a month in. Considering my previous diets have lasted about three hours, the fact that I made it to February on this one should speak volumes.
Images: Brooke Lark / Unsplash; Giphy (10)
It’s February, which means you’ve probably recently given up on your first 2018 diet attempt. Sometimes, no matter how many Sweetgreen calories you count, it feels like nothing will make your holiday belly go away. And a recent study is here with the explanation why—specifically, an explanation other than your 3am pizza binges. According to this study, restricting your calorie/fat/carb intake specifically (aka the cornerstones of every diet ever invented) is way less effective than previously thought. Instead, weight loss is as simple as swapping out “evil” foods (sugar, anything “refined” or “processed”) for their healthier counterparts. And the best part? If you follow that system, calories and portion size are much less important. Since this defies everything I thought I knew about how to lose weight, I decided to investigate how credible these claims really are. Here’s what I found out.
For what it’s worth, this study was fucking expensive ($8 million, to be exact). Over the course of a year, over 600 participants followed either a healthy low-carb or a healthy low-fat diet. Dietitians set these diets by advising participants on which foods to eat and which to avoid, as dietitians do. For example, the low-fat diet group was told to avoid “bad” low-fat foods (like soda, baked goods, or white rice, things that technically are low in fat but are also low in any real nutritional value). “Good” foods included brown rice, barley, steel-cut oats, lentils, and other foods that are devoid of happiness. The low-carb group was advised to eat foods like olive oil, salmon, avocado, and nut butters. (So like, if you combined the two diets you could form a decent meal.)
Notably, they gave no numeric limits on calories, carbs, or fat for any test group. They also didn’t assign any kind of exercise requirements, beyond recommending they meet federal guidelines for physical activity. (The guidelines suggest a minimum of 2 hours and 30 minutes of “moderate-intensity” exercise per week, BTW. And no, running your mouth doesn’t count as exercise. Then again, they also recommend daily “bone-strengthening” exercises for adolescents, so they lost a little credibility for me there.)
As with every study ever conducted, results were not 100% consistent. On average, low-carb participants lost around 13 pounds, while low-fat participants lost a little under 12. On average, they also found smaller waist sizes, lower body fat, and better blood sugar and blood pressure levels across the board. Participants who lost the most weight (50-60 pounds) also announced changes like eating less in front of the TV. (This seems both like a negative change and unnecessarily braggy to me, but whatever.) Finally, researchers checked to see whether genotypes or insulin resistance affected participants’ results—they didn’t.
What This Means
Basically, these findings means we may have two major theories wrong when it comes to how to lose weight. First of all, the national obsession with calorie counting should maybe chill out, so tell that to your friend who won’t STFU about MyFitnessPal. It also means counting grams of carbs or fat isn’t essential to weight loss either, and that sound you heard in the distance might be the crumbling worldviews of keto dieters everywhere. The downside of these results is that you basically have no excuse not to diet, since you can no longer claim “being bad at math” as a legitimate reason to not watch what you’re eating.
Second, these findings combat the notion of “genotype-specific diets.” Earlier findings had suggested that individual metabolisms reacted differently to certain food groups, like carbs or fat. And in response, people were told to customize their diets to their metabolic properties. But this study tested for all genetic variants—and found no significant variation in results. One researcher even lamented this, saying “it would have been sweet” if a clinical test revealed how you should diet. (Follow up research was not done into what fraternity that researcher was in.) But no—according to this study, eating nutritious whole foods until satiated was the only consistent key to weight loss. In other words, you’re not going to gain weight from eating an unlimited number of vegetables, but you can’t just eat a million donuts because “my body wants donuts and I’m practicing intuitive eating.”
Of course, there are many reasons to take these findings with a grain of salt. While many participants lost weight, others gained it. And since the study is so recent, we don’t know whether participants who did lose weight will keep it off. So, you shouldn’t go full Whole 30 and dive into family-size portions just yet. But if these studies continue to be proven correct? You may finally be able to say goodbye to Googling nutrition info 800 times a day. If nothing else, your data plan will thank you.
Dieting is a tricky area for betches, since it requires hard work and patience, two decidedly awful things. On the other hand, FaceTuning yourself 20 pounds thinner every time you post an Instagram is equally difficult. So in the interest of maintaining a #nofilter bod, maybe take a step away from the juice cleanses and fad diets. You made it through 2017; you can eat fewer things with nutrition labels that read like science fiction.
Images: rawpixel / Pexels; Giphy
From Atkins to intermittent fasting to low-carb to high-fat to juice cleanses, betches have tried every diet on the market. I mean, yeah we could just eat clean, watch our portions, and exercise regularly, but like, what’s the fun in that?
Any betch you pass in the Equinox steam room or the granola aisle of Whole Foods has tried the Paleo diet at least once. I mean, it seems to work for Nina Agdal and a ton of hardcore CrossFit bros, so why not?
If you’re not familiar with the Paleo diet, it basically restricts all dairy, grains, soy, and anything else human beings didn’t consume in ancient times. The idea is to eat like our ancestors and basically go to extremes to avoid the modern-day Western diet of French fries and churros.
If you’re a die-hard Paleo fan, you might want to sit down for this news, and put down the zoodles. According to new research published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, you’re doing Paleo all wrong.
It all started when some researchers found 780,000-year-old remains of edible fruits and seeds in the Northern Jordan Valley, which revealed a lot about what our ancestors actually ate, and it wasn’t medium rare steak or spicy tuna tartar. Most people who follow the Paleo diet today focus mostly on meat and fish, thinking the lean protein is what makes you skinny. However, apparently our ancestors actually ate mostly vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit, which means meat and fish were more like the side dishes they barely touched. Looks like you can chill on all the protein for now. Should we go Vegan?