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Complexity Made Simple

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, what better time to talk about how we can enjoy it and avoid the few extra pounds that often find a way onto our hips in January. Just as a car requires gasoline and proper maintenance to fuel it for many years, our bodies need adequate nutrition to perform at their best. The better the care, the more optimally they work Our bones, ligaments, muscles, organs, soft tissues and tendons are no different. They, too, operate flawlessly when given the correct tools.

What, exactly, is adequate? Referring back to the automobile I mentioned above, there are many manufacturers, makes, and models and each has unique specifications that allow it to run efficiently. Well, without sounding like a broken record, and comparing a human to a fine tuned sports car, our provisions are dependent upon many different factors as well, so what may be appropriate for one vehicle or person may not be true for another. Because culture and genetic makeup can vary greatly from one individual to the next, there is not a one size fits all answer. Keeping this in mind, my blog will cover the basic general guidelines of macronutrients that contain the majority of what we eat. It is not taking into account individual dietary restrictions as these will be covered in future posts.

Three main groups comprise the category of macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. For the sake of an extremely long read, I will discuss each one separately so I can go further in depth and hopefully broaden your understanding of precisely what you are consuming. Because I listed it first, this week's topic is that of carbohydrates, commonly abbreviated CHO due to being compounds of Carbon, Hydogen, and Oxygen.

Taking these one step further, there are two types: simple and complex. Simple CHO's are things like baked goodies, candy, fruit juices, jams and jellies, pastries and sugary snacks. While they are perfectly fine on occasion, these should be eliminated from a daily meal or dessert afterwards as much as possible since most possess large quantities of added refined sugar which, in excess, promotes both dental cavities and weight gain. If you've ever heard the term "empty calories," this is to what it refers. Carbohydrates of this genre are digested quickly leaving an empty feeling in the stomach soon after causing most people to eat again an hour or two later when in reality they aren't actually hungry.

Another downside to ingesting a lot of simple carbohydrates is that of the glycemic effects they have on the body. Being metabolized the fastest of all macronutrients causes an immediate spike in glucose levels in the bloodstream and shortly thereafter a massive drop that can lead to dizziness and/or fainting. To avoid a potentially embarrassing episode of this nature, try replacing the item with a more substantial version called complex carbohydrates.

Although, any of you who may be gym goers or workout fanatics, putting something like a chocolate bar, juice box, or piece of fruit in a gym bag is a good idea for heavy cardio or max lift days when caloric burn is high. It can prevent the "bonk" or "hitting the wall" that stops a great exercise session in its tracks.

Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are a great way to jump start metabolism and possibly aid in weight loss. Many of the foods that fall into this section have high fiber content so when eaten give a fuller feeling reducing the desire to overeat and increasing the chance of a successful weight loss program. Examples of these are beans, fruits, oatmeal, rice, skim milk and yogurt, veggies, and whole wheat grain products. For those of you who may be looking to lose weight and think a low carb diet is the way to go, remember that food is your fuel, carbohydrates make up the majority of that, and without them you may find powering through your day is as challenging as an intense workout.

Based on the FDA's 45-55% RDA for CHO's, consuming less than 5-8% of your daily intake as simple carbohydrates is ideal in controlling diabetes, maintaining an acceptable weight, and/or meeting fitness goals. Even though these are the healthier form, like anything else, they can be overdone. Yes there is "too much of a good thing" if you drown your salad with half a bottle of dressing. In closing, carbohydrates can be both your friend and your enemy.

Now that we understand that CHO's are our primary source of energy, the next consideration is that of establishing when they are most useful to us in a workout program. Earlier in this blog, it was stated that carbohydrates are the first to be digested meaning they are, in cases of simple sugars, a quick pick me up when hypoglycemic conditions arise, as well as more complex varieties having the capability of extending periods between meals. With this being said, it is best to eat a light carbohydrate rich breakfast or snack before you head out to the gym or work. A small amount of protein may also be included if heavy lifting or ten hour workdays are on the agenda. You might remember I mentioned in a previous post to wait 60-90 minutes between eating and exercise to allow for full absorption of nutrients. However, life happens and sometimes that just isn't practical so focus more on what is consumed and less on the when.

Remember the choice of what to eat this holiday season is yours. Choosing wisely is important to ensure you can get up, get out, and get moving well into the New Year. Join me next week to find out how, if not incorporated into a meal plan correctly, this macronutrient can be extremely "fat"iguing.

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