Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Carb or Not to Carb, That is the Question

Wednesday "Salad Day" Stats:
55 minute run
1212 calories; 141g carbs; 38g fat; 94g protein
12 glasses water
No alcohol

Recently, Greta and I have been in a bit of a discussion about carbs.  I always find this topic fascinating because a couple of years ago, once my thyroid was supposedly balanced, my doctor suggested that I try eating a low-glycemic diet.  She gave me some books to read and off I went.  The whole concept was a bit foreign to me because, as a marathon runner, I was used to eating lots of simple carbohydrates.

So, I tried her low glycemic way and lo and behold, for the first time in years, I was able to lose weight.  It was a big adjustment for me at first, mostly because my legs felt like dead weight.  Once my body adjusted a bit, I was fine and I did manage to run a marathon in 2008, although I did fuel with simple, high carb items immediately after my really long runs.

Low glycemic eating now is easy to me and sometimes I can't even remember what it's like to slam down a white bagel.  Anytime I stray a little I immediately regret it.  It's like I can actually feel the extra insulin pumping through my body.  I just had a discussion with a Weight Watcher member the other day and told them  the current point system would never work for me because it seems to punish protein and reward simple carbs.  As I watch the WW around me at work I see that most of their snacks are simple carbs.

In our discussion Greta told me that she eats around 30% of her diet from carbs, just not any from grains.  So I looked to see my percentages as I do eat some grains.  Mine run around 40-45% which I find hilarious because all this time I have felt like I eat really "low" carb.  Plus I think that must mean that my carb levels must have been around 60-70% before.  Amazing.  Of course carbs that high cause you to retain water which is one of the reasons why it's not so harmful eating a bagel prior to a marathon.  But, for example, even on a day like yesterday my carbs were 44% of my diet - and most of them came from a yogurt and a banana.  It really takes some work to get them lower.

I admire Greta's determination to figure out what is working for her.  In fact yesterday she shared a link to her food blog, if anyone is interested in seeing how she eats.  But I've got to say, I love grains too much to give them up completely!  I remember once trying the first 2 weeks of South Beach and I cracked after 7 days and ate a HUGE bowl of pasta - lol!  Eating low glycemic means I eat whole grain foods, more protein than the average person and good fats.  That works for me and my lifestyle.

How about you?  Where to you figure in?


  1. I'm a fast oxidizer which means I do much better with more protein. If I am eating the way I am supposed to eat, I should be doing 40% protein, 30 Carbs, 30 Fat. However sometimes the protein has a different effect on me and if I suffer from that issue, I need to back off the protein and up the carbs. My current carb intake seems high because of all the juicing I do.... but that excludes fibre so I'm kind of losing out there.
    If I eat too many processed or "white" carbs, it really sends me into a spike and I get very very munchy. I process carbs really fast.
    Ron and I can have the same meal (let's say a sandwich), I'll eat WW he eats white, within 60 minutes I am hungry again, he is satisfied for hours. If I eat a steak with salad, I'm 100% fine for hours and hours...

    So basically I think I eat like you do, more whole foods, good fats and more protein than most.

  2. I eat whole grains only now...and not a ton of them (Kashi Golean Crunch everyday notwithstanding!). My diet is heavier on the protein/veggie/fruit side - but I may just have that bagel before I run my first 5K, lol!

  3. I'm South Beach/low carbs, but one of my two carbs a day IS half a bagel. One can only deprive oneself so much. LOL Other than that, and sometimes (but not every day) 12 Low Fat Wheat starch in my life. Well, I guess the 2 Hershey's 45-50 calorie Nuggets count, but barely. hehehe

  4. The whole carb thing really can make you crazy. I'm a carb-o-holic too so this is one area I struggle. I instinctively want to grab something carby for a snack.
    I do better when I have more protein in my diet and protein in my snacks is almost a requirement! It just keeps me full longer!
    I can't remember where I read/heard this but when our bodies metabolize carbs we burn what we need and store the rest but protein is immediately used and if there is too much it is then passed out of our system. sweet!(not in a gross way! lol!)
    Good post and very thought provoking.


  5. My pre-insulin days were low-glycemic - and probably I should still be doing low carb, but a just take enough insulin to cover the carbs.

    Hey, do you mind if I add you to my blog roll? I always like to ask first!

  6. I eat pretty much like Greta and for many of the same reasons. Now and then, I "cheat" and eat something grain-based, but not to much.

    Hey, check out my post today. It is a tour of my garden and urban wildlife sanctuaury!

  7. I am a recovering sugar addict. All my other grains are whole. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables right now. I need to figure out how to get more protein since I don't eat much meat.

  8. Hi Helen! :) Keep in mind that I also LOVE grains...they just do not love me. It dawned on me recently that the reason my weight has been somewhat stuck for a couple months is that grains have been slowing creeping back in to my lineup. I realized that the foods I can and will eat once I get to my goal are...sniff sniff...different than the ones I can eat in order to GET to my goal. I really only have about 10-12 weeks left to get to goal, tho...if I stick to, I am keeping it in perspective that way.

    I made my kids gorgeous blueberry muffins for breakfast using Pamela's bake mix (no gluten)....they looked and smelled great...but, I just told myself that...for now...those are NOT my food.

    I will absolutely add some whole grains back in once I get to my goal weight....likely in the form of brown rice, quinoa, wild rice.

    If I ate a half of a bagel right now....I would then want more...and find myself raiding the cupboard. Grains..and espeically wheat..whole or otherwise....just set loose a crazy binge-trigger for me. I learn as I go...but I can definitely track all my bouts of bad eating over the last few months to a wheat-related "nibble" that snowballed from there. :(

    I want this book that just came out: Good Calories Bad Calories

    I guess it talks in great detail about these subjects of protein/carb/fat.

    And...btw....I only eat that 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat when I am "on plan".....I keep finding myself straying off plan, though....hence my renewal of my commitment.

    This is day 3 of being totally TRUE to plan...and so far so good. The scale and the body fat % definitely respond well to it. Phew.

  9. I'm definitely addicted to carbs no question. I've been trying to eat the percentages that Sparkpeople recommends but I think it might be too high *for me*

    I may go see a nutritionist but in the meantime, I'm going to experiment with the diet per your suggestion. Thanks Helen. You are the bomb!

  10. My knowledge of the glycemic index is mostly in connection with my husband who has diabetes. We've read alot about benefits for diabetics of following a low-glycemic plan. But we find that my husband can tolerate a lot of foods, most importantly potatoes, that would not be part of low glycemic eating. For my own purposes, I have looked over the plan from time to time, but just could not imagine giving up what I would have to give up.

  11. On average I eat one piece of bread a day.
    Or, If I have yogurt...I will have one piece of bread or crackers later.
    There have been days when I haven't touched a grain.
    I eat veggies, fruits, dairy and lean protien.
    grains of any kind are extremely rare, they only make me hungrier.
    I do better with a c up of coffee with sugar than I do with a slice of white bread.
    It's that bad.

  12. I do better on a no-grain diet. That doesn't mean I don't eat them - I do, but very rarely. I eat lots of veggies, some fruits, and more than normal protein and fats. It works best for me.