Why Low-Carb and Low-Fat Are Deceptive Solutions
Generally speaking, the food you eat fuels the metabolic processes that keep you going. There are three primary sources of macronutrients* your body can utilize at different times and under differing circumstances. These include proteins, fats and carbohydrates but not necessarily in that order. Your body is a phenomenal machine that constantly fine-tunes the metabolic process to make certain it has the energy needed to function as efficiently as possible. If a source of carbohydrates is available, it will burn those first followed by fats and then proteins.
So, why are carbohydrates the body's preferred source for fuel? Well it may have something to do with the fact that your brain needs carbs to maintain mental alertness and to help you concentrate. In fact, brain cells burn twice as much energy as other cells. In addition to supplying the brain with fuel, carbohydrates are the easiest to convert to usable energy and any unused carbs can easily be stored as fat. That way, when fuel is in short supply, the body can convert it back to a carbohydrate-like substance. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs like those found in a soda enter the bloodstream quickly while complex carbohydrates found in vegetables are more slowly processed.
Fats provide an interesting source of metabolic fuel. Your body can store virtually all the fat you consume and can hold onto reserves indefinitely, so there is no reason for your body to burn fat first. This helps explain why short cycles of vigorous exercise are not effective for losing weight, and why a 45-minute walk will burn more stored fat than running a 40-yard dash. Additionally, exercising early in the day when carbohydrate reserves are low can often produce better results for managing weight. If you are trying to get your body to use stored fat, it is vital that you avoid blood sugar spikes. Since different enzymes are needed for each fuel source, it is important to limit your consumption of simple carbs and maintain a balanced exercise regimen.
When there is no carbohydrate source to use as fuel, the body will convert amino acids found in proteins to produce glucose (a form of carbohydrate). This ensures the brain will have an adequate supply of energy. Thus, many coaches and sports trainers who once felt an athlete would gain the most benefit from eating a high protein meal before an event have changed their way of thinking. In fact, participants in marathon-like sports now understand the need to feed their body simple carbohydrates at specific intervals before, during and after an event. Consuming too little carbohydrates will deplete glycogen stores causing the body to utilize amino acids from muscles and organs, which can lead to muscle loss and a reduction in immune function.
Eating the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins is essential for good health. Since most adults in America consume about half of their calories as carbohydrates, few people are carbohydrate deficient. Unfortunately, many individuals make poor choices in selecting the carbohydrate and fat-containing foods they eat. Chosing the right nutrient density of the foods consumed is more critical for maintaining wellness than avoiding any of the three primary sources of metabolic fuel. To learn more about eating real food and restoring your good health, contact the Metabolic Research Center for a free consultation.
*Fiber, water and cholesterol are also important macronutrients that are necessary for the body to function properly; but water and fiber have no calories and all tissues can synthesize sufficient amounts of cholesterol.
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