My last few posts have been alllll about carbohydrates. Why? Because they are such a controversial topic when it comes to fat loss. Their hormonal impact is HUGE. (If you’re more of an audio/video person, check out this training I did on carb strategies for fat loss)
There are so many carbohydrate trends and many of them are far more extreme than needed (high carb, low carb, no carb, etc). If we make smart carb choices – and this goes far beyond the TYPE of carb – it can significantly accelerate our fat loss progress.
If we make not-so-smart carb choices, it can prevent fat loss entirely (and make us have extreme cravings, fatigue and hunger). If you want to reach your fat loss goals and maintain them, you’ve GOT to make smart carb choices. Understanding carbs and fat loss can be one of the keys that helps you unlock your true health & weight loss potential. If you haven’t already, I wrote an overview post about how carbs impact our hormones and how hormones turn fat burning potential on or off. Check that out here. And now, for what I lovingly call the “Golden Rules of Carbs & Fat Loss”.
- Right time.
Limit all carbs to your evening or post-workout meal
I’ve written extensively about why nighttime is the right time for carbohydrates and did a long podcast on the topic as well. For maximum fat loss you’ll want to eat your carbs with your dinner time meal OR post workout. Sometimes I’ll have them after dinner as dessert – a baked apple or something like that. In short, the reason we want to avoid carbs early in the day is that we are MOST sensitive to the hormone insulin in the morning. Even a slight rise in blood sugar will produce a larger insulin response in the morning because we’ve fasted overnight. The presence of insulin turns off our fat burning machinery so an exaggerated AM response puts us at a major fat-burning disadvantage for the day.
The other reason for avoiding carbs early in the day is that the hormone cortisol is highest in the morning. That’s just part of our normal sleep/wake cycle. Cortisol, a stress hormone, peaks in the morning to help us wake up. We always want to avoid spiking insulin when cortisol is naturally high, because cortisol exaggerates the fat-storing potential of insulin, especially around the abdomen.
So what should eat in the morning for fat-burning? I’m so glad you asked! My most popular podcast episode was actually on how to make breakfast a fat burning meal. Def don’t miss that one! You can check it out here.
- Right carbs. Choose unprocessed carbohydrates
Let’s first talk about the WRONG carbs for fat loss. You want to avoid the carbs that will send your blood sugar through the roof. You want to avoid the highly processed, chemical-laden kinds of of foods you get in boxes and bags. I’m talking chips, cookies, cakes, etc. If it is made in a factory, it is not the right carb for fat loss. It doesn’t mean you can never enjoy an Oreo, it just means that for optimal fat loss, you’ll want to choose healthier carbs MOST of the time. The more processed carbs are generally higher in sugar and starch and will have a more significant impact on blood sugar and insulin than whole food carbohydrates. Remember, the more you spike your insulin, the longer you stay out of fat-burning mode and the more likely you are to experience chronic hunger and carbohydrate cravings.
The carbs you want to emphasize are going to be those that are as close to their natural state as possible. Ideally, we’re talking about fruit (especially berries, apples or citrus fruit) and starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables are things like potato, sweet potato and squash.
- Right amount. Start by limiting your serving size to 1/2 cup and adjust up or down from there
That means 1/2 cup of sweet potato or 1/2 cup of berries – one carb limited to roughly 1/2 cup. If you’re cruising along and burning lots of fat, you can add a little more and monitor your results. On the flip side, if you aren’t getting the results you want, you can try scaling back to 1/4 cup and see how that goes. For me personally, I try to stay around 1/4 cup with my dinner time meal or post-workout (depending on the length and intensity of my workout) and that’s where I get the best results.
- Right company. Pair carbohydrates with protein or fat
For optimal fat loss, never eat your carbs alone. Always pair your carbs with either fat or protein (or both). Why is this important? Because eating your carbs with either fat or protein will slow down the digestive process as fat and protein are more cumbersome to digest than carbohydrates. By slowing down the digestive process you slow the release of sugar into the blood stream. What does that do? It requires less of an insulin response. This is one of the important ways we can enjoy carbs and still stay in fat burning mode!
I go into a lot more detail on carbs & fat loss on the Primal Potential podcast! You can check out some of those episodes here:
Carb Timing: The right time and the wrong time for carb consumption.
Overcoming Sugar Cravings
Carb Spillover – How carbs make you fat and how to avoid it
I totally know that this is a complex topic and much of the recent strategies for fat loss are soooooo different from what you’ve heard your whole life. That’s why I put together a comprehensive e-course on carbohydrate strategies specifically for optimal fat loss. We talk about overcoming cravings, defeating hunger, increasing energy, improving sleep and much more. We talk about hormone balancing and stress responses and debunk a lot of low-carb and no-carb myths. We get into the nuances about fruit, gluten, oats, wheat, beans and so much more! Best of all, we talk about how you can actually IMPROVE your carbohydrate tolerance and your insulin sensitivity so you can eat more while staying in fat burning mode!
Here’s a video I put together to help explain what the carb course will teach you: