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How To Become GI Jane

GI Jane“Don’t eat carbs!” That’s what we are told. But why the hype?

It’s the carbs you are eating. There are three basic forms of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fiber. When you eat or drink something with carbs, your body breaks down the sugars and starches into a type of sugar called glucose, which is the main source of energy for cells in your body (fiber passes through your body undigested).

How does your body use this fuel for energy?

In the most simplistic terms:

  • When you ingest carbs – the hormone insulin is released and moves glucose from your blood into your cells to use for energy.
  • If your body takes in too much glucose and releases an abundance of insulin, your body can’t use all of the fuel – and it become stored as fat.

But let’s take this one step further. The carbs you are eating make a difference.

Every carb has something called a GI (glycemic index)

A food’s GI affects how quickly your body digests it and how quickly glucose enters your bloodstream. The source of the carbohydrate is especially important – foods that contain more processed carbohydrates have a greater effect on blood sugar levels than whole foods. Foods made with intact whole grains typically have a lower index. Foods high in fiber, especially soluble fiber, lower the GI index. Fiber slows down the digestion of food and therefore, the release of sugars into the bloodstream. Fiber (and fat) lower the GI of a food.

Examples of foods with low, middle and high GI values include the following:

  • Low GI: Green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and bran breakfast cereals
  • Medium GI: Sweet corn, bananas, raw pineapple, raisins, oat breakfast cereals, and multigrain, oat bran or rye bread
  • High: White rice, white bread, potatoes, pretzels, popcorn

Here’s a simple guide on the GI for popular foods: http://www.the-gi-diet.org/lowgifoods/

So what do I do with this information?

It’s important to understand how your body uses the fuel from the food you ingest.

The first source of fuel your body uses is carbs (glucose/sugar), then fat, then protein. So if you are taking in an abundance of processed carbs that your body can’t burn, the extra glucose is converted to fat – so you are never using your stored fat for energy, but only building more.

A food’s ranking on the glycemic index doesn’t necessarily indicate whether it’s a good or bad choice. It’s just an additional guide (it is much more complex than what is presented in this blog). It goes back to what we already know: as a general rule:  whole, unprocessed foods are the superior choice.

Another added bonus – the more active you are and the more muscle you build, the less you need to worry about how foods affect your blood sugar. Exercise uses the glucose stored in your muscles. Your body takes glucose out of the bloodstream to your muscles where it’s packed away for future use. This helps reduce blood-glucose levels quickly. More muscle gives you a larger storage area for glucose.

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Burn Baby, Burn

You might be diligent about going to the gym and spending hours doing cardo on a treadmill or eliptical machine – which is great for your cardiovascular health- but are you left without burn-fat-970x727noticeable results?

In a cardio session, you burn calories, but the calorie burn ends when you finish your cardio session. If you want to maximize your calorie burn, you have to take it up a notch and achieve something called EPOC, or “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption”. It is a “measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity intended to erase the body’s ‘oxygen deficit.'”

What does that mean?

It means, “afterburn” – the continual burn of calories after a very high-intensity workout. It also means your metabolism, highest post exercise, is fired up much longer after you finish a workout session. Your body is working hard to re-coup a normal heart rhythm and resting state. You burn calories by consuming more oxygen. Therefore, the longer it takes you to regulate your oxygen intake, the more calories you are burning. This post-consumption state can burn as much as an additional 150+ calories throughout your day. More calorie burn & a higher metabolism = more results, faster.

So how do you achieve it?

Higher intensity workouts. This means bringing your heart rate to 75% or more of your resting heart rate. The longer you perform high intensity exercise, the larger the EPOC effect. It also means performing a high intensity workout for 30 minutes is much more effective than a steady state on a cardio machine for one hour.

Resistance training (with weights or body weight), especially with high intensity interval training, is one of the best ways to increase EPOC.

Guidelines to reach EPOC:

  • Perform at a high intensity (out of your comfort zone) – at least 75%+ of your resting heart rate
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes
  • Include resistance training in your workout
  • Incorporate interval training

Although high intensity workouts are effective, it is recommended that you limit this type of workout to only a couple of times/week as you need time to rest and recover your body.

Try to push yourself and work past your current limits and there’s a good chance you will start to see results much faster.

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Protein Powders Explained

As I promised in my last blog, (http://173.247.253.167/~heelstolaces/protein-questions-answered) below is a description of the most common types of protein powders on the market. Protein powders have grown in popularity and are no longer just for elite body builders. They are a way to ensure you are getting enough daily protein, serve as a quick meal substitute or provide a post-workout recovery. I like to add mine to smoothies, make a shake after a workout or add a scoop to my oatmeal or pancake batter for a protein filled breakfast. It’s important to remember, protein powders are supplements and are best used to supplement a healthy diet of nutritious whole foods.

The Basics First:

‘Concentrated’ or ‘Isolated’. In order to make the powder, the non-protein parts are removed from the food source. ‘Concentrated’ powders are about  70-85% pure protein (with the remaining 15-30% consisting mostly of carbohydrates and fat). Powders that are ‘isolated’ take the process one step further, and remove even more of the non-protein content resulting in a protein powder that is up to 95% pure.

Complete vs. Incomplete Protein: Amino acids that cannot be produced by the body are known as essential amino acids. Complete proteins contain all 10 essential amino acids, whereas incomplete proteins contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids.

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WHEY PROTEIN

Whey is the most popular protein supplement on the market. It is the by-product in the process of turning milk into cheese and is a complete protein that is quickly absorbed into the body.  Whey has been shown to promote lean muscle growth and fat loss. It can also help repair and rebuild muscle especially when consumed within 60 minutes of a workout. Look for whey protein isolate—not concentrate—as it contains the highest protein concentration and very little fat.

Cautions: Because it is a by-product of milk (aka lactose), people with allergies to lactose may find it hard to digest. Additionally, be wary of the artificial sweeteners and chemicals added to many of the different flavors available. Be sure to read the label.

CASEIN PROTEIN

This protein is also derived from milk, but uses a separation process that isolates the milk protein from the carbs and fat. Because casein digests over a long period of time, it is a good choice for a meal replacement, as it helps you feel fuller longer. It is can also be taken right before bed to prevent muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth while you sleep.

Cautions: As a by-product of milk, casein can also be difficult to digest for those with lactose allergies. Look for “calcium caseinate” on the label to be sure that you are getting the purest form of this protein. And, again check for artificial ingredients, which are often used to improve the taste of casein as it doesn’t mix as easily with liquids. Lastly, expect casein to be more expensive than whey.

SOY PROTEIN

Soybeans are one of the few plant protein sources that are a complete protein. The protein is concentrated or isolated after the soybeans have been hulled and dried into soy flour. Soy can be a good option for vegetarians and those with milk intolerances. Soy has been shown to improve immune function and bone health.

Cautions: In recent years, soy has come under heavy scrutiny because it is often genetically modified to produce greater crop yields at a very low cost. Many foods are already full of soy and, depending on your current diet, it may not be wise to add yet another source of soy. Additionally, some studies have linked soy consumption to health concerns. If you do choose soy, consume it in moderation, and be sure to look for labels that read soy protein isolate, which contains more protein and isoflavones, and less cholesterol and fat as compared to soy protein concentrate.

EGG PROTEIN

Egg protein is just that – protein from eggs. It is a complete protein made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the egg whites. These powders also contain valuable vitamins and minerals found in whole eggs.

Cautions: Egg protein is also one of the most expensive protein supplements available and can be a problem for anyone with egg allergies.

BROWN RICE PROTEIN

Yes, there is small amount of protein in rice! It is extracted from the rice to make the powder. Brown rice protein is hypo-allergic and easily digested, making it an excellent alternative for anyone with a sensitive stomach or allergies to soy or dairy.

Cautions: Brown rice protein is not a complete protein and is best when paired with other plant-based options like hemp or pea powder to ensure that you are getting all the essential amino acids.

PEA PROTEIN

This plant-based protein, derived from the yellow split pea, is highly digestible and has a fluffy texture (no mushy peas here!). Pea protein is high in glutamic acid, which helps convert carbs into energy so they won’t be stored as fat. It is considered a highly satiating protein, which may help promote weight loss. And if those reasons aren’t enough, it often has few additives or artificial ingredients, and is closest to its whole-food source.

Cautions: Isolated pea protein is often labeled as complete because it can contain many of the essential amino acids, but it is still deficient in certain amino acids. So, like rice protein, pair it with other vegan sources of protein, such as brown rice or hemp.

HEMP PROTEIN

Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. A complete plant-based protein, hemp also offers the inflammation-fighting power of omega-6 essential fatty acids and is high in fiber. It is hypoallergenic and excellent choice for those following a vegan diet. Some studies have also suggested hemp protein may be more helpful in weight loss than other protein powders, due to its high fiber content.

Cautions: Since hemp is only harvested in select countries due to its association with cannabis, it is often the most expensive protein powder available.

There are lots of choices out there to fit all different nutritional needs. Don’t be afraid to try different blends and options to see what works best for you. And lastly, be wary of very low cost powders as they often use inexpensive protein blends that are hard to digest and may contain many artificial ingredients.

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