It's easy to say a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. It is true that your body requires a certain number of calories and it doesn't care where those calories comes from, it will use what it needs and store the rest away for a rainy day. However, this is a dangerous way of thinking and can only lead to voluminous hips and thighs.
The trick is to get your required calorie need, but from foods that are sure to encourage your body to burn away those fat reserves rather than packing away pounds of energy in the form of flabby fat. We are going to consider two aspects of dieting: quantity, how much you should eat, and quality, what you should eat.
Carbohydrates and blood sugar Carbohydrates, both simple and complex, provide the body with the majority of its most important energy source, glucose. Glucose is a blood sugar that flows through the blood stream and is, hence, available to every cell.
Ultra high or ultra low levels of glucose can be harmful to the body. Your body has safety mechanisms that closely monitors and compensate for incorrect glucose levels (blood sugar levels). In the event that blood sugar rises beyond a safe level. The pancreas secretes a substance known as insulin. Insulin encourages the process of transfer of glucose into cells so that they can oxidize the glucose to produce energy for the body.
Low blood sugar levels can mean a dangerous lack of energy. Again, the body comes to the rescue. Adrenal glands contain a fight or flight hormone known as adrenaline. When a temporary boost in energy is required, the glands secrete this substance into the blood stream. Adrenaline provides a massive energy spike to the system. This spike boosts the metabolic rate, energy levels, awareness, and other functions so the body can react to emergency situations.
The key to controlling your metabolism with diet lies in keeping the glucose levels at a safe, proper level where the body can just churn along safely and smoothly.
Control blood sugar with quality carbohydrates You can regulate your blood sugar by consuming only the highest quality carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in fruits, grains, and vegetables. There are two kinds of carbohydrates: simple and complex. The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates lies in the difficulty the metabolism has in breaking them down.
Simple carbohydrates, sugars, can be broken down quickly, even released through the stomach lining directly into the blood stream at the rate of up to 30 calories per minute. This can flood the system with excess sugar, spike the metabolism, and encourage fat storage. Simple carbohydrates are known by their sweetness in taste. They are found in foods such as donuts, cakes, candies, white breads, and ice cream. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are broken down by energy exacting, metabolic processes. Sugars are extracted and released into the blood stream at the rate of about 2 calories per minute. Complex carbs are found in foods such as whole grains, wheat bread, plantains, yams, potatoes, and spinach.
You can equalize your blood sugar levels and boost your metabolism by consuming complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates. Your metabolism has to work much harder to break complex carbs down to get at the sugars your body needs for energy. By sticking to complex carbohydrates, you are forcing your metabolism to work hard to get at the vital sugars that must be available to every cell in your body. This encourages a higher metabolic rate for a longer time period. Hence, your diet-induced thermogenesis becomes more of a favorable factor.
High quality proteins Protein offers another vital part of your nutritional foundation. However, protein is often overstated in its importance. Indeed, many diets encourage huge boosts in protein, often eliminating carbohydrates altogether. THIS IS DANGEROUS.
Protein keeps company with an unhealthy friend: fat. Although fat is essential to your body -- fat is necessary for brain activity and the solubility of some vitamins -- it is so easy to get enough of it that it almost becomes a non-issue. Protein and fat go together. Many meats are high in fat: hamburger, steak, lamb, etc. It, hence, becomes difficult to get the protein without getting unhealthy levels of fat. Protein is, of course, necessary to the body. It contains 9 essential amino acids. These acids are the building blocks for growth and muscular development. But, when it comes to protein, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Your body requires 50 to 60 grams of protein a day to get the necessary amino acids. Considering that a quarter-pound piece of meat contains 20 grams and a glass of milk contains 8, it becomes easy to get your daily protein without even thinking about it. Any protein consumed above what your body needs is converted into energy -- a job better handled by carbohydrates. Further, if your body already has enough energy, protein is converted into fat. Tell that to your hips and thighs, see how they feel.
When it comes to protein, by no means eliminate it from your diet. But certainly don't base your diet around it. You can reduce the fat that so often accompanies protein by sticking to lower fat alternatives like chicken or, even better, fish. This is not to say an occasional steak or hamburger is a sin. But make it the exception, not the norm. Remember, moderation in all things.
A good rule of thumb, when it comes to protein, is to divide your meal into a pie chart. 15 to 20% of your meal should be a lower fat protein source. The rest of your plate should be dedicated to high quality, complex carbohydrates -- fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Craig, Nybo
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