I needed more energy for my marathon training, but I was worried that an increased carb consumption would cause me to gain weight. However, I did my research, analyzed my diet, and managed to increase my energy without gaining a pound. I did this by becoming extremely picky about the quality of carbs that I was consuming, both simple and complex.
These are carbohydrates that provide a quick rush of energy. A good source of a simple carb would be a piece of fruit. Fruit contains sugar, but also other vitamins and minerals, plus water and fiber. All of these additional nutrients assist in metabolizing the fructose (sugar) in fruit without causing damage to our body.
A bad source of a simple carb would be an additive, such as what we find in pop or processed/refined foods. These include ingredients like corn syrup, fructose glucose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose.
I have fruit on occassion, but it is not my primary source of energy. The simple carbs that I avoid are white table sugar (sucrose, also an immune suppressant), dairy products (lactose), and refined white grains like bread or rice (maltose).
A simple carb is usually converted to glucose in the liver. But when we consume too many simple carbs through additives (because of a diet high in refined and processed foods), our liver becomes overburdened and begins converting this sugar into fat instead of glucose.
This is the type of carb that I focus on for energy. They take longer for our body to break down, so they provide slow-releasing energy throughout the day. They stabilize blood sugar levels and play an important role in weight control.
There are three main sources of complex carbs: starches, grains, and legumes. Those concerned with weight should limit their intake to:
- one serving of starch/day
- one serving of grain/day
- 3 servings of legumes/day
Legumes are a great source of both energy and fiber. They include many varieties of beans (navy, pinto, red, black, etc), peas (such as chickpeas), and seeds (such as peanuts).
The great thing that many people know about celery is that it will burn more calories in digestion than the calories it provides, essentially making it a “free” vegetable, meaning we can eat as much of it as we’d like and it won’t add anything to our daily caloric intake.
There are many other free vegetables too. They include:
- alfalfa sprouts
- bell peppers
- bok choy
- Chinese cabbage
The calories that all these vegetables contain will be offset by the number of calories that our body will burn in digesting them. For weight loss, this is a great list that will help keep us feeling full and satisfied between meals.
WEIGHT LOSS AND DIETING
One of the worst things we can do in an effort to lose weight is to diet. For runners this is particularly detrimental because it often leads to the breakdown of muscle mass.
Muscle tissue is important in increasing our bone density and supporting our joints through long, repetitive runs. Most mainstream diets will also throw off our metabolism and interfere with our blood sugar levels. And worst of all, diets are not sustainable long-term.
As always, focus on balance and moderation. Aim for a lifestyle change instead of a quick fix.