Hacking the Carbs and Fats Rule

If you follow a whole foods diet and avoid processed food you are unlikely to be significantly overweight. It’s a pretty simple catch-all guideline that yields good results. However, if you want to ‘dial in’ your diet a little more to shed the last few pounds of fat you should time your macro-nutrients to when you train (see previous post). This can be summarised as:

  • • eat fat and or protein before training
  • • eat protein and carbs after training

Even on days you don’t train you can have good fat loss results by adapting the above rules to fit the time of day as follows:

  • • eat fat and or protein during the morning and middle of the day
  • • eat protein and carbs during the evening

You can enhance fat loss results further if you eat small meals or snacks during the morning and daytime while you are active, then enjoy your main meal in the evening when you are (hopefully) relaxing.

The only drawback of this approach is that carbs and fat taste great together! Many favourite indulgences like chips, pastry, pizza or confectionery consist of roughly equal amounts of fats and carbs. Often these are the foods that seem to trigger some kind of inner-Labrador tendency to eat until immobile.

Our seemingly hard-wired taste for these foods was probably an evolutionary adaptation to help us store fat during times of plenty in order to survive times when food was in short supply. Carbs and fat together can promote fat storage. The calorie load of this combination is usually pretty high as fats contain roughly twice as many calories per gram as carbs or protein. Also, high carb loads raise insulin, a storage hormone which will allow all those calories to be more easily stored.

The Hacks

1) Use herbs, spices & vinegars

When preparing your ‘mainly carb and protein’ meals including a small amount of fat is fine. Fat enhances flavour but also try using herbs, spices, vinegars, lemons and lime.

2) Eat veggies instead of grains

Vegetables generally contain less carbohydrate and more micro nutrients than grains when compared on a per gram basis. Some vegetables (e.g. squash and some root vegetables) have lower carbohydrate per gram than other vegetables.

Here is a comparison of some common foods showing carbohydrate content per 100g, cooked (the evil white bread is of course baked, we’re not talking raw dough):

Source: nutritiondata.self.com

Some Grains:

  • white bread 49.5g
  • rice 28.6g

Some Veggies:

  • White Potato 21.5g
  • Sweet Potato 17.7g
  • Butternut Squash 10.5g
  • Swede 8.7g
  • Cauliflower 6.3g
  • Courgette 3.9g

If you want to eat a lower carb meal with out feeling like there is a lot of empty space on your plate, you can use these lower carb vegetables as alternatives in some traditional combinations. Here are some ideas:

SWAP couscous or rice for cauliflower

cauliflower couscous The ‘couscous’ in this picture is actually cauliflower. You can even buy it in supermarkets ready to go, so no need to switch on the food processor.

SWAP mashed potato FOR cauliflower mash

e.g. garlic cauliflower mash

SWAP chips (deep fried white potato) FOR potato root vegetables wedges (oven baked)

e.g. roasted root vegetables

3) Use coconut flour.

Coconut flour has about 2/3 the carbs per gram of wheat flour and most recipes only require a small amount. It is also high in fibre which makes it quite satiating. Wheat flour can’t be directly substituted in recipes for coconut flour as they react very differently when cooked. However there are many alternative coconut flour recipes available for common favourite foods.

SWAP wheat flour FOR coconut flour.

e.g. coconut flour pancakes