The Perfect Size – does not exist

A segment on the channel 7 program Sunday Night once again brought up the debate on Mothers having to lose their baby weight fast once giving birth. This one resonates with me personally at the moment having given birth to my third child only 7 weeks ago.  And as a personal trainer and nutritionist myself I still find this a completely frustrating topic.

There is no doubt immense pressure on mothers to get back to that “perfect” body to fit into society and be accepted.  You just need to read the latest Women’s Weekly article or celebrity social media post to see how quickly so and so got her beach body back for the next role and everyone is praising them.  However, we never talk about the amazing thing many women’s bodies have been given the absolute privilege to do and that is to create a human being.  To the fellow Mum’s out there, when was the last time you looked in the mirror and instead of maybe shaming yourself did you actually look at yourself and say “Far out this body made that miracle”.  I still look at my children, and obviously more recently my third child and can’t get over the fact that my body made her, I provided her food and shelter for 9 months and now I am incredibly lucky to have 3 adorable children (ha not always adorable, can drive insane) in my world.  Sure, as a fitness trainer I also think about how I will get back into the exercise regime for my health and the health of my children as I want them to understand that healthy living is a lifestyle choice and not a chore.

But before I do that I also understand that everyone is different and there is not one perfect body that fits all.  After having my first child I will admit it was a lot easier to get my pre-baby body back.    However, I had 1 child which meant I had time to run our business in between naps and exercise with her in the pram and when hubby got home I would get out for some “me” time and go for that run.  I would be lying too if I didn’t If I didn’t admit to feeling the pressure of getting back into shape being a fitness trainer.  My clients didn’t put this pressure on me but society did.  It made me think my clients would judge me if I didn’t head back to work looking fit and healthy, perhaps head elsewhere if I didn’t look like I had it all together after having a baby.   However, second time around I forgot all of this and it became harder to get back into the regime, hubby worked more, my children never slept and life got a whole lot foggier! Third time around, I expect it will be even harder but when I am ready I will up my regime, set a goal and give my self time to achieve that goal, not an unrealistic time frame and I will not measure it by the number on the scales.  I won’t let anyone this time make me feel I have a time limit on these things.

As new mums and mums of many children, we also need support.  First time mums definitely need this to understand what the hell they got themselves into but mums of many children need this support too! And as Mums we don’t need to be shaming each other and comparing ourselves when it comes to health and fitness, to other mums.  Everyone else leads very different lives too, some many have more support than others which leads to less time for “YOU” which can really impact your road to getting back on track.  I do find it hard to follow some of the mum forums that I do asking “how do I lose this baby weight?” “what diet worked for you” and the lists of names and programs that appear are endless.  Funnily enough when you offer practical sustainable advice it is not as well received as that “QUICK FIX”.

We need to remember that to feel comfortable in our own skin again after having a baby takes time, patience and acceptance.  Your body will always be different to what it once was but with some commitment (whatever that looks like in between sleepless nights, unsettled days and tantrums) YOU WILL GET THERE!!! But you also need to enjoy life, enjoy the little humans you’ve created, ask for help and accept that you will get there it will just take time.

 

 

Wall2Wall Nutrition

Has been 18 months since my last post and realising how time consuming being a stay at home mum can be that runs a health and fitness business and studying, little is left to focus on things that are important, but hopefully this post is the start of change.  Our sub-brand Wall2Wall Nutrition has been launched and I am really excited about spreading the health and fitness message more and helping more individuals to make health and nutrition more of a lifestyle choice than a chore.  Over the following weeks however I would like to share with you information about the many questions I am constantly asked and come across when working with athletes and individuals simply looking to change their eating habits.  Would also like to hear from anyone keen to know more on any topic and happy to share my own experience and back it up with the evidence 🙂

So until my next official post, stay healthy and happy – train smart – train hard and eat well while doing it.

Cheers

Catherine

Wall2Wall Nutrition

Better Me Project #w2wbettermeproject

My first post back in 6 months is not going to be about everything nutrition but on how from now for 6 weeks and beyond we can help motivate/inspire/help eachother to be a ‘better me’

Since the last post in April we have welcomed a beautiful boy into our world, Xavier (almost 6 months). Motherhood gives you a time to reflect on i have found, you don’t seem to sweat the little things as much anymore and really understand what your priorities in life are now.

I am lucky enough to stay home and see my children grow up and watch them as they discover everything new life has to offer. I am able to teach them new things and have become their number 1 role model alongside their dad and grandparents. As health and fitness is a big part of what my husband and i do, this is a big part of who we are that we want to pass on to our children and lead by example, which has its challenges at times.

Being a mum is such a challenging yet rewarding experience and you will hear that many times but there are a lot of adjustments and routines to get used to. But of course when you are a full time mum that works from home and health and fitness is your passion and what makes you feel like you, making YOU a priority can become hard to maintain but of course this applies to all lifestyles, this is just my experience.
But for me to get back to it and convince myself (and to some extent my clients) it can be done, lots of work on my fitness has happened between naps (Michelle and I are great mates) and babysitting but i will admit it has been hard. Like you, my children, my work and other bits and pieces have taken priority over my fitness over the past 6 months. I too have used the excuse i will start again on Monday, tomorrow, next week. With a hard working husband time becomes limited to so you promise yourself the next time he is home you will do it but then family time and adult company is just too inviting. I can rattle off the excuses like the best of you.

I must say one thing through it all my nutrition has been very important and as i believe i am a big role model (especially as a nutritionist) for my children i ensure i have that right (the majority of the time).

So where am i heading with all of this???
It was today as i was going for my second run since my son was born i decided this would be much easier with support! Don’t get me wrong i have a very supportive hubby, especially when it comes to all things fitness because its our world but we can’t run out the door together whenever we want anymore 🙂 And with life comes change and so we are not always available to catch up with that friend and walk around the park when they can, get to the gym for that particular class or we miss Wall2Wall Fitness Boot camp because something has come up yet again. With that we miss the group dynamic, that one friend that keeps you on track. But with social media these days it just seems there is always that someone/s there that can support you. Flicking through daily posts sometimes it can just be a simple sentence/image that sticks in your mind that makes you think differently about something or someone. You see others trying/competing in new things and you wonder could you do that to People/sights dedicated to posting yummy recipes that you want to try too.

And so today as i was running my laps i thought how could i stay motivated and continue to motivate others to achieve their goals in between our boot camp sessions or their own fitness routines when they don’t have anyone to call on. Enters the “Better Me Project”

It is simple, how do you want to become a better you when it comes to health and fitness?? i wont ask you to send me through your weight, your measurements, the time it took you to run 1km or how many push ups you have done in 60 seconds. All I ask you to do, like i have done for so many years, is to motivate, inspire and guide eachother to reach those goals you have set out to when it comes to health and fitness and be a “Better me’ (meaning you haha).

We will start small and aim to stick with this for 6 weeks, beginning Nov 10 (but lets practice from now anyway). We will use the Wall2Wall Fitness page as our forum, where we can be accountable to eachother, simply tell eachother what we want to achieve, post photos of us perhaps doing exercise or the view :), the great food you are preparing (and the recipe), a motivational quote, a post about your session that just may inspire others, feelings of achievement! it can be big or small it just aims to be a “better me”. The more interaction/engaging you are, the better!

If you don’t have a social media account i am happy for you to email me and i will share it for you if you like.

There are no conditions, it is free, don’t put it in the too hard basket because if you are training with us (or don’t have to be) you have already expressed that health/fitness is a priority in your life (even if a small part) and everyone seems to have time for social media these days.
And if you won’t do it for yourself, DO IT FOR ME!!!!

So who is with me??..join us at #W2Wbettermeproject

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Tricks to cutting your calories

I think we all understand the losing weight, maintaining our weight is not always an easy task.  Being in thehealth and fitness industry for a while now and accomplishing my own weight loss after having my first daughter I have learnt a number of tricks of the trade and want to share a few with you that have worked for me and studies have brought it to our attention.  Some may work for you and some may not but anything is worth a try and it is better than turning to shakes, diets and skipping meals.

You will note with some of these tips I have referred you to various resources. Some of these studies have been conducted on small groups and from my teachings an extremely valid source is approximately 400 people or more. So we sometimes have to be sceptical about what we read and take in other factors that may have contributed to these results.  Also, some are observational studies and therefore need further studies.  However, I have lead you to articles of some validity and not wikepedia, so with that in mind I will let you be the judge if these tips may work for you personally.

So have a read of the following and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate in contacting me at catherine@wall2wallfitness.com.au.  If you have a tip you would like to share that has worked for you, whether it be included below or something I haven’t mentioned, please also feel free to send through.

Choose Low GI foods – You may have heard of the glycaemic index (or GI containing foods). These are carbohydrate-foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels over time (approx. 2hrs) Carbohydrate-containing foods are compared with glucose or white bread as a reference food, which is given a GI score of 100. The GI compares foods that have the same amount of carbohydrate, gram for gram. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion have a higher glycaemic index (GI more than 70). These high GI carbohydrates release their glucose into the blood quickly, such as a baked potato, leaving you feel hungry again quite quickly after consuming them. The carbohydrate foods that slowly release glucose into the bloodstream, such as oats are referred ti as having a low glycaemic indexes (GI less than 55). These foods release glucose into the blood stream slower and flatter, lengthening digestion and helping you feel fuller for longer.

You don’t have to start following a complete low GI diet but including some of these foods in your diet or substituting these for others ie. swap white bread for grainy bread. This will help you feeling fuller for longer and stop you reaching for the cookie jar for 3pm cravings.

Some examples of the GI rating of various carbohydrates include:

  • low GI (less than 55) – soy products, beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread, porridge and lentils
  • medium GI (55 to 70) – orange juice, honey, basmati rice and wholemeal bread
  • high GI (greater than 70) – potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice.

 Chew Gum – Studies have found that the act of simply chewing gum can increase energy expenditure while reducing your calorie consumption.  Why? The nerves and muscles that control the jaw are stirred when making the chewing action and they send signals to the brain that make you think you are full.

Eat an apple before lunch (15% less food at lunch) – An apple consumed before a meal has been shown to reduce hunger, therefore reducing calorie intake while increasing fibre intake. Studies have shown that consuming an apple (or similar low GI fruit – see above) at the beginning of a meal provides a feeling of satisfaction and therefore resulting in less interested in over consumption of food.

Mindful eating – This relates to basically keeping a food diary! Studies have shown that those that record their intake are more likely to be successful at reaching their weight loss goals as being mindful about what you eat can result in fewer calories consumed.  Ever think twice about that piece of chocolate cake when you know you physically have to write it down on a piece of paper? This can also apply to those that aim to bulk up, by recording your information you should see the results you are after.

Don’t do food shopping when hungry – According to this study, shopping on an empty stomach can lead to you purchasing high calorie foods as these become more appealing. Also the time of day has an impact on purchasing high calorie foods also. Purchases between 4 and 7 were more likely to result in high calorie foods than between 1 and 4 when you are more likely still be hungry from lunch.

Eat breakfast – Observational studies have demonstrated that those that eat breakfast are likely to eat a healthier diet overall. Skipping this meal leads to you feeling hungry throughout the day leading to poorer food choices.  This may totally contradict what I just said but also may be worth a read for an alternative view.

Portion Sizes – An oldie but a goodie. When eating out we usually receive a huge quantity of food that we just don’t need.  Start observing or teaching yourself about size equivalents – for instance, next time you make your breakfast pull out a measuring cup and see how much you are having in the morning, if too much pull it back.  Gives you an idea in the future of the quantities you are eating.  Use smaller plates, bowls and cups. It tricks your brain into thinking you are eating the same amount as you would on a bigger plate.

Sniff peppermint tea – A study has found that sniffing peppermint tea may suppress eating.  Subjects were found to have eaten fewer calories on the days they were asked to sniff peppermint tea compared to the placebo they were given.    Lots of herbal teas may also do the trick, just drinking some herbal tea rather than reaching for the cookie jar of an afternoon may reduce the calories you may have otherwise eaten.

Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack – Ensuring you include a source of lean/low-fat protein to each meal/snack will assist in keeping you feel full for longer.  Adding a low-fat yogurt, handful of nuts, peanut butter to some grain bread, eggs, beans, or lean meats are great ways to incorporate these foods. It is also recommended that you eat small, frequent meals/d snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels stable and to avoid overeating.

Modify food/choose alternatives to reduce calories – Use oil instead of butter, caster sugar instead of brown sugar. Have 1 sugar instead of 2 or none in your coffee or tea, when heading to the movies take your own food – for instance pop your own healthier popcorn, choose the mini muffin instead of the huge one, check labels for reduced sugar, salt and fat alternatives.  The modifications and alternatives are endless. This link gives you a great idea how you can modify recipes

Cut the fat – Fat and alcohol for that matter have 9 calories per gram whereas carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per grams. So an easy explanation as to why we should reduce our fat and alcohol content.

Eat before you head out – Ensuring you eat a meal or snack before heading out to a party is a great idea to make sure you don’t overeat or perhaps even snack on food you really don’t want. Heading to a stand up finger food party? Always good to eat a proper meal beforehand, you are less likely to indulge in high calorie food because they are so moreish or you are likely not to feel like it at all. Always good to have  a glass of water or soda water in the hand too so you don’t feel like you always have to have food in your hand.

Focus on who you are with and not the food – Focus on the people you are catching up with and you are more likely to eat a lot slower and not as much.

Brush your teeth after your dinner meal – A good habit to get into to stop you for snacking throughout the meal. Not only does it benefit your teeth from the days meals but who really wants to eat something after they have brushed their teeth, just doesn’t taste as good does it?

No snacks after X time? – It is worth establishing a time that you will stop eating of an evening to curb the late-night munchies or simple mindless snacking while engrossed in your favourite tv show – we have all done it! Have a cup of tea, a couple of squares of dark chocolate f you want something sweet after dinner and then do the above – brush your teeth.

Choose Liquid Calories Wisely – Watch for sweetened drinks as these are latent with sugar and help you accumulate calories.  When thirsty opt for water, sparkling/soda water and add some citrus for flavour if you like, low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly also. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine/beer on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.

Indulge occasionally – A recent study has demonstrated that those people that indulge or have a cheat meal on weekends are more likely to reach their weight loss goals as long term habits are more likely to have an impact that short term ones.  Planning your indulgence can also help, it can be seen as some type of ‘reward’ and keep you on track throughout the week.

Leave time before seconds – Give your body to digest what you have eaten before heading up for seconds. Give yourself approximately 20 minutes and even grab a drink of water before you head up and grab some more, and most of the time you will find you are not really hungry anymore and if you haven’t already you can start packing the leftovers away for lunch the next day.

Create leftovers before eating – This will reduce the amount you have or eliminate the habit to go back for seconds.

Be aware of condiments and dressings – When making dinner or out for a meal, ask for dressing on the sides, that way you don’t receive a meal that is swimming in dressing. Choose low fat varieties when making choices.  And always check the labels as per previous

Learn to say NO – Simply learn to say no to things that you know will compromise your hard work. It is not an easy thing to do at first, but once you start doing it and start considering the effort it took to get up at 6am this morning and run those Anderson St hills, it starts to get much easier.

 Again for further information or questions contact me at catherine@wall2wallfitness.com.au

Eating before and after exercise

A common question we both receive with regard to nutrition is what types of food should be consumed before and after exercise.

Whether you are completing a casual training session like boot camp or training for a competition it is important to have an understanding of the benefits and timing of pre and post exercise meals.

Food consumed before exercise is only useful once it has been digested and absorbed. This means you need to time your food intake so that the fuel becomes available during the exercise period. The time required for digestion depends on the type and quantity of food consumed. Generally, foods higher in fat, protein and fibre tend to take longer to digest than other foods, and may increase the risk of stomach discomfort during exercise. Large quantities of foods take longer to digest than smaller quantities. Generally, food is better tolerated during lower intensity activities, or sports where the body is supported (e.g. cycling) than sports such as running where the gut is jostled about during exercise.

A general guide is to have a meal about 3-4 hours before exercise or a lighter snack about 1-2 hours before exercise. You need to experiment to find the timing, amount and make up that best suits your individual needs.

Use the following as a general guide:
• Large meals. Eat these at least three to four hours before exercising.
• Small meals. Eat these two to three hours before exercising.
• Small snacks. Eat these an hour before exercising.

But remember if you eat too much before you exercise it could leave you feeling sluggish and eating too little might not give you the energy required.

Pre-event/Pre-Training:
Food eaten before exercise should contain carbohydrates. It should also be low in fat and moderate in fibre to make digestion easier and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.

Keep in mind the following will be more suitable for when preparing for a competition or long bouts of exercise.

The following foods are suitable to eat 2-3 hours before exercise:
• crumpets with jam or honey + small quantity flavoured milk
• baked potato + cottage cheese filling + glass of milk
• baked beans on toast
• breakfast cereal with milk
• bread roll with cheese/meat filling + banana
• fruit salad with fruit-flavoured yoghurt
• pasta or rice with a sauce based on low-fat ingredients (e.g. tomato, vegetables, lean meat)

The following snacks are suitable to eat 1-2 hours before exercise and suitable before a casual training session like boot camp:
• liquid meal supplement
• milk shake or fruit smoothie
• sports bars (check labels for carbohydrate and protein content)
• breakfast cereal with milk
• cereal bars
• fruit-flavoured yoghurt
• fruit

It is recommended that you avoid dairy products (including butter on bread) unless you have had previous practice at consuming and then training with them in your system.

Do I have to eat before a workout? Will it help me burn more fat if I don’t eat beforehand?
May sound silly but it is a common question I get and the answer is yes you should eat before a workout. Doesn’t have to be a big meal as suggested above but some sugar to get the body energised and out of its fasting state (from a night’s sleep) so you can have an effective workout.

Studies have shown that with or without a meal a certain amount of fat will be burnt however, those that don’t eat anything beforehand their body in addition to fat stores starts using protein stores and with that your muscle mass, which is not what you are going for when you are waking up at 6am to work on toning your body.

I know most of you will simply roll out of bed 15 minutes before a training session but if you try and eat something before you head to training to simply raise your blood sugar levels you will find you really have more energy and endurance to work harder, burn more calories, and improve your muscle tone in the long run. It is something simple that contains carbohydrates and protein and can be as easy as half/full banana, a glass of juice, peanut butter sandwich, muesli bar, a piece of toast with honey or sports drink or (anything under the 1-2hr list above) and you are on your way. If a coffee works for you, give it a try but remember if your exercise involves running, this may not sit well.

Not able to eat in the morning before a workout? My suggestion is simply give it a go, try different foods and you may just find something that sits well with you and gives you more energy throughout your workout. If it just isn’t working for you, that’s ok too, this just means the post exercise meal will be extremely important to ensure your body recovers appropriately.

Post exercise – why should we eat a meal?
Immediately after a workout session/competition, you are encouraged to consume a carbohydrate rich snack that provides 1-1.2g of carbohydrates per kg body weight within your first hour of completing the exercise. The aim of a recovery meal is to restore liver and muscle glycogen concentration and replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. It is important to replenish stores lost to ensure that muscle-damage repair and reconditioning is facilitated. Neglecting to do so can compromise future performance – ever missed a session because you are way too sore??

Some people will finish an event with a good appetite, so most foods are appealing to eat. On the other hand, a fatigued athlete may only feel like eating something that is compact and easy to chew.

Some examples (but not limited to)
• 700-800ml sports drink
• 2 sports gels
• 300ml carbohydrate loader drink
• 2 slices toast/bread with jam or honey or banana topping
• 2 cereal bars
• 1 cup thick vegetable soup + large bread roll
• 115g (1 large or 2 small) cake style muffins, fruit buns or scones
• 300g (large) baked potato with salsa filling
• 100g pancakes (2 stack) + 30g syrup
• Yoghurt and fruit
• Low fat milk
• Peanut butter sandwich

In the lead up to an event
As per our information sheet “Carbs are not the enemy” you will have read about carbohydrate loading and its benefits for endurance events.

As per the Australian Institute of Sport recommendations anyone that is exercising continuously at a moderate to high intensity for 90 minutes or longer is likely to benefit from carbohydrate loading.

Typically, sports such as cycling, marathon running, longer distance triathlon, cross-country skiing and endurance swimming benefit from carbohydrate loading. Shorter-term exercise is unlikely to benefit as the body’s usual carbohydrate stores are adequate.

An athlete participating in a high carbohydrate diet in the lead up to an event might look something like this.

What if I am too nervous to eat?
You will perform better when you are well-fuelled and well hydrated, and the pre-event meal may play an important role in achieving these goals. Athletes need to experiment to find a routine that works, and foods that are safe and familiar. Liquid meal supplements provide an alternative for anyone who has difficulty tolerating solid foods pre-exercise. You may also find that foods such as cereal bars and sports bars can be eaten if you nibble them slowly over the hours leading up to the event.

Don’t forget about hydration – this is just as important!
Pre Event/Training:
Hydration is essential. For an upcoming event, in the days leading to the event you should be aiming to consume at least 1.5-2litres of water a day.

Avoid drinking alcohol the night before an event/training session as alcohol is a diuretic and will dehydrate you and will also prevent you from sleeping well.

You must ensure you begin the event in fluid balance. This requires drinking regularly throughout the day leading up to the event. Have a drink with all meals and snacks. Immediately, before the event commences, consume 200-600 ml of fluid.

During the event/Training:
Studies have shown that regular ingestion of fluids is essential for sporting performance. Hypo-hydration (total body water below normal) impairs the body’s ability to regulate heat resulting in increased body temperature and an elevated heart rate. Perceived exertion is increased causing the athlete to feel more fatigued than usual at a given work rate. Mental function is reduced which can have negative implications for motor control, decision making and concentration. Gastric emptying is slowed, resulting in stomach discomfort. All these effects lead to impairment in exercise performance.

We recommend taking small sips of water throughout training or if in competition at drink stations provided. As a general rule of thumb you should be consuming about 200-300mls of water for every 20mins of exercise. Most athletes can tolerate this but tolerance will vary according to the exercise intensity.

Post evening/Training:
Replace any residual fluid deficit after exercise. You will need to drink 125-150% of any fluid deficit in the 4-6 hours after exercise to account for ongoing sweat and urinary losses. For example if you have lost 1kg of water, need to drink 1500ml of water to replace the loss

When fluid losses are high and/or rapid rehydration is required, sodium replacement may be required. Sports drinks, oral rehydration solutions and salty foods can all contribute to sodium replacement.

Studies have shown that sports drinks are effective after any moderate -high intensity exercise lasting more than 1 hour with the addition of sodium/electorlytes in these drinks reduces further urine loss. These are not appropriate to be sipping throughout boot camp sessions, water is sufficient.
Flavoured drinks, such as sports drinks and low concentration cordial, may encourage more fluid consumption than plain water because of their taste and sodium content.

Surprisingly to some studies have shown that chocolate milk may be as good or better than sports drinks at helping athletes recover from strenuous exercise. Milk is 90% water so it helps you keep hydrated, provides 10 essential nutrients for growth and development, including protein for healthy muscles and calcium for building strong bones.

Protein Shakes/Supplements – should I be consuming them? Does increasing my protein intake assist with my weight loss goal?
In general we consume enough protein by following a varied healthy diet on a daily basis. To give you an idea of the protein we should consume per day please see table here.

At times if a person isn’t able to get the nutrient they require from the diet, after speaking with a nutritionist/dietician a supplement may be required, but not without consultation.

Would I recommend protein shakes? Not when they are so expensive and you can make your own beneficial product at home with cow’s milk and some fresh fruit and vegetables or nuts and seeds. You are much better to have a fruit smoothie or invest in some sustagen if you are keen on adding ‘protein shakes’ to your diet.

Yes protein should assist you to reach your weight loss goal because protein can reduce your appetite and those that need assistance reducing dietary intake, this may be beneficial for. Again, I would chat to a health professional before doing so.

Supplements – effectiveness and safety.
Rather than me re-inventing the wheel check out the following link that runs through the supplements that the AIS classify as effective and safe (and not so much) based on extensive research. Another frequent question I am asked – Click here for more information.

References
1. Mayo Clinic – Eating and Exercise (5 tips to maxamise your workout)
2. Australian Institute of Sport – Eating before exercise
3. Australian Institute of Sport – Eating post exercise
4. Dairy Australia – Dairy and exercise recovery
5. Australian Institute of Sport – Hydration
6. Australian Institute of Sport – Protein
7. Australian Institute of Sport – AIS Supplement Group Classification System

Carbs are not the ENEMY!!!

Over the years I think the media has beaten up carbohydrates leaving us all ‘carbophobics’! They have portrayed carbohydrates as the main culprit of our obesity epidemic never backing up their hype with scientific fact and demonstrating whether they really are the bad guy!

Well my aim today is to prove to you that carbohydrates aren’t as bad as they have been wrapped up to be and they are definitely not the enemy, in fact we need them to provide us with energy on a daily basis.

 

Why are carbohydrates important?

They are crucial for the body to be absorbing a healthy and well-balanced diet. Carbohydrates provide the body the main source of fuel it requires for many vital organs to function such as the brain, central nervous system and kidneys1.  For this fuel source to move through the body to the cells the digestive system must break down these carbohydrate foods into simple sugars (mainly glucose) and these sugars are then carried to each cell via the blood stream. When inside a cell the glucose will be ‘burned’ alongside oxygen to produce energy.  Any excess glucose is stored within the muscle tissue and liver and will supplement blood sugar levels if they drop between meals or during physical activity2.

Our diet should consist of approximately 45-60% of carbohydrates (protein, fats and discretionary foods otherwise known as ‘sometimes food’ make up the remainder) but the key is to choosing the ‘right’ carbohydrates to form our diet.

 What types of carbohydrates are there?

Simple Carbohydrates – (the ones to have less of – they do play there role in the appropriate environment)

These are refined sugars that have little nutritional value. They are digested by the body more quickly leaving you feeling less satisfied. These are great ‘pick me ups’ or when a quick surge of energy is required so great source before exercise.

It is recommended that a small amount of these foods are consumed. Examples of simple carbohydrates are white bread, crackers, cakes, muffins, sugar, white rice, lollies, soft drinks, biscuits, honey, fruit juice.

Complex Carbohydrates – (the good carbs)

These sugars are more complex and rich with fibre, vitamins and minerals and take longer to digest making you feel fuller for longer. They also play a significant role in producing long term energy.

Examples of these are bananas, oats, beans and lentils, wholegrain breads, whole wheat pasta, barley, brown rice, polenta, rye bread3.

You may hear the use of words such as low GI and high GI foods when referring to the above types of carbs. We will go into this in further detail in next week’s info sheet.

 

Carbohydrates and its link with weight gain

An unfair tag has been put on carbohydrates over the years with carbohydrates being linked to weight gain when in fact weight gain is a result of consuming more calories than energy exerted which could be a result of any other energy sources such as protein, fat and alcohol.

An interesting survey in the UK found that one in ten women constantly felt bad consuming carbs, one quarter tried to avoid them during the week so they could eat more over the weekend and that they are twice as likely than men to feel guilty about eating carbohydrates even though they are less likely to be overweight.  And no shock that it found that most people were unaware of how many they should be consuming each day, again this comes back to my argument that we need to be better educated about the right foods than simply being told what to do4.

 

It really comes down to the choices you make when it comes to food. The unfortunate thing about carbohydrates is some can be just too good that they are easy to over-eat, especially those highly processed, like white flour and pasta. So again it comes down to your choices and ensuring you make the right ones. As previously outlined, carbs help you concentrate, they are fabulous brain food, you just need to control your portion sizes and make good quality carbohydrate choices.

If we refer back to the Australian Guide to healthy eating – to be healthy our diet should at least consist of 6 serves of grains, 5 serves of vegetables (6 for men), 2 serves of fruit, 2 ½ serves of lean meat (3 for men) and 2 1/2 serves of yoghurt etc. – based on a male and female 19-50 years.  See here for alternate age groups   Looking at these food groups a lot are linked with the carbohydrate family and now if the science didn’t prove that this was something to take note of to live long healthy lives then I am sure it wouldn’t be endorsed by all of us health professionals now would it5? J

The low down on Low Carbohydrate diets

Very low carbohydrate diets result in the dieter eating lower calories per day and reliant on protein and fat to get them throughout the day with less than 100g of carbohydates contributing to the daily intake. This dieter is unlikely to be meeting their daily nutritional needs containing less fruit and vegetables, less fibre and more saturated fat foods.

As a result the dieter may lose weight because of the restriction in calories and energy (usually this loss is due to loss in water) but in turn the body starts to use the glycogen the body has stored in the liver and muscles to replace what it isn’t getting from carbohydrates in the diet. When these stores have been exhausted the body starts eating away at the fat but not in a good way. This leads to the body developing ketones (as a result of not enough carbs in the body to produce the sugar it needs) which make the body acidic which may lead to metabolic changes within the body.  As a result you may start to feel nauseas, dizzy, lethargic, constipated, and dehydrated with a loss of appetite.1

The long term effects are continuing to be researched but these may include weight gain because when you resume a normal diet you will rebuild some muscle tone, regain water and therefore weight appears rapidly, bowel problems due to the pressure the body has been put under, dieting problems, kidney problems and osteoporosis due to the excretion of calcium from the bones.1

 Best time to eat carbohydrates?

Let’s be honest here your body doesn’t know what time it is!It’s not when you eat but what you eat that counts. Eat more calories than you burn and you’ll get fatter. But late snacking can push your calorie intake over the edge. It’s best to have regular mealtimes so you can keep track and having 10-12 hours without food supports hunger so you start the day with a healthy breakfast. Eating just before you go to bed can hamper sleep patterns in that it messes with your insulin. I’d suggest you don’t eat for two to three hours before bed.

 Athletes and carbohydrate needs.

Carbohydrate availability will determine how well an athlete performs and why sport nutrition guidelines highly recommend intake pre, during and post exercise. The amount an athlete consumes will depend on the stage of competition, an individual’s body mass (BM) and perhaps their individual situation. The following table summarises the recommendations upon which this review is based.6

We will discuss this further in eating before and after exercise blog but to give you an indication of the recommended guidelines are – see below.

Carbohydrate Needs.

Situation

Recommended Carbohydrate Daily Intake

Sedentary – low-intensity training

 

3-5 g/kg BM

Daily refuelling needs for training <60-90 minutes p/day or low intensity exercise

5-7g/ kg BM

Daily refuelling for training > 90-120 minutes p/day

7-10 g/kg BM

Daily refuelling for an extreme exercise program 6-8 hours p/day

10-12+ g/kg BM

Carbohydrate loading for endurance/ultra- endurance events

7-10 g/kg BM

Pre event meal (1-4 hours pre competition)

1-4 g/kg BM

 

Carbohydrate intake during training and competition events greater than 1 hour

1 g/min or 30-60g/hr

Rapid recovery after training or multi-day competition, especially when less than 8h until next session

1-1.5 g/kg BM for every hour in the early stages of recovery after exercise, contributing to a total intake of 7-10 g/kg BM over 24 hours

 Athletes and Carbohydrate loading

Is defined as the changes to training and nutrition that will increase muscle glycogen stores prior to an endurance event.  

An athlete will load up on carbohydrates (7-12g/kg body weight) while tapering exercise over 1-4 days prior to an endurance event to ensure the muscle glycogen is being stored appropriately.

This type of diet will only benefit those engaging in 90 minutes or longer high intensity exercise such as marathon runners, cycling, triathlon (long distance) etc.7

For an example of a high carbohydrate diet or more information – click here

What about carbohydrates for those with an intolerance?

Something that can be very difficult for the athlete with coeliac disease or equivalent as most of the products on the market have gluten or some type of allergy friendly ingredient. A great summary here by the Australian Institute of Sport for athletes with nutritional issues.7

Funnily enough an analysis in the Amercian Journal of Medical Association has hit the nail on the head.  It has found that it doesn’t matter what diet you are following in fact it is more about being able to follow a healthy eating plan long term and that is what the Wall2Wall Fitness Nutrition Overhaul program is all about!

 Tips for eating carbohydrates wisely:

  • Breakfast cereals should contain oats, barley or bran
  • Breads should be grain or soy based
  • Consume a wide variety of fruit and vegetables
  • Enjoy a wide variety of complex carbohydrates and limit the simple ones
  • Portion sizes are the key
  • Don’t eat high calorie foods just before heading to bed, make sure you have about 2-3 hours between meal and bed times.

Food labelling – lets make them a little easier to read

Food labelling can be one of the most confusing parts of following a nutritious diet.  So many people out there telling you to eat this or don’t eat that you just don’t know where to begin. 

The following aims to explain and give you tips on how to choose the right foods when following a healthy diet.  I have tried to cram pages and pages of information into just a couple of pages for your easy reading.

 What information appears on food packaging? To understand food labelling you need to understand what you are looking at when you pick up a food product.  The above diagram outlines the specific areas you may or may not notice that are mandatory for manufacturers to follow when creating packaging.

Ingredients List:  Ingredients are listed from biggest to smallest amount.  If a food only makes up 5% of the ingredients it is not required to be listed.  On some ingredients list you may see a percentage in brackets next to the ingredient eg. Orange (15%) which is informing you what percentage of your orange cake is orange.  If it says orange flavoured then you may not find real oranges in the ingredients list.

If packaging specifies a picture of an orange or reference then that food must be declared on the packaging as an ingredient.

Nutrition Information Panel: Identifies the quantity of nutrients a food contains per serve.  When comparing nutrients (such as carbohydrates, sugar, fat, salt (sodium)) in different products it is recommended you use the 100g/100ml column. This is because per serve sizes may vary between manufacturers.

Since labelling laws were introduced in 2003, the majority of products must have a nutrition information panel however you will find exceptions for products such as – very small packages (herbs, salt, tea and coffee), single ingredient foods (fruit, vegetables, water, vinegar), food sold at fundraising events, food sold unpackaged, food made and packaged at the point of sale (Better Health Channel, food labels1).

Percentage labelling: Some products may list the percentage daily intake on their packaging.  For instance salt (sodium) is 5% of your daily intake.   This information refers to how much an average adult male should eat in one day and will need to be reduced for women or children.

Nutrition claims: Manufacturers are not able to make claims that their food is low in fat, high in fibre, low in salt unless they meet particular criteria. 

As a guide here are a few simple label reading tips for you to follow when choosing healthy food and drink options. Look for the following: Saturated Fat = 3g of fat or less per 100g / Total Fat = 10g or less per 100g

 *Total Fat for milk, yoghurt, ice-cream = less than 2g per 100g

* Total Fat for cheese = less than 15g per 100g

 Sodium (Salt) = 120mg of or less per 100g (is best) / = 400g or less are good options

 Sugar = 15g or less

Fibre = 3g or more per serve

 Click here for a great summary on how to understand food labels with regard to total fat, fibre, sugar, sodium (salt) and also gives you a brief overview of alternate names for the above categories.

 Please note: even if a product says they are low in salt it could still be high in fat so make sure you read everything on the nutrition information panel.

 HIGHLY RECOMMEND TO PRINT THE ABOVE AND HAVE AT HOME UNTIL YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.

Need some extra assistance with food labels?  There is a fantastic app called Foodswitch.  This app easily interprets nutrition information panel for you by  using a traffic light colour coded system to tell you whether a food contains high/medium/low total fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, all by simply scanning the barcode on a packaged food.  If you are gluten intolerant there is also a mode for this so you can tell whether a food has gluten.

 Watch out for misleading claims – here are some you may come across:

  • The term ‘light’ or ‘lite’ doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is low in fat or energy. The term ‘light’ may refer to the texture, colour or taste of the product. The characteristic that makes the food ‘light’ must be stated on the label.
  • The claims ‘no cholesterol’, ‘low cholesterol’ or ‘cholesterol free’ on foods derived from plants, like margarine and oil, are meaningless because all plant foods contain virtually no cholesterol. However, some can be high in fat and can contribute to weight gain if used too generously.
  • If an item claims to be 93 per cent fat free, it actually contains 7 per cent fat, but it looks so much better the other way.
  • ‘Baked not fried’ sounds healthier, but it may still have just as much fat – check the nutrition information panel to be sure.
  • ‘Fresh’ actually means the product hasn’t been preserved by freezing, canning, high-temperature or chemical treatment. However, it may have been refrigerated and spent time in processing and transport. (Better Health Channel, Food Labels1)

 Allergy statement: Foods containing crustaceans, tree nuts, fish, eggs, soybeans, milk, peanuts, sesame seeds and their products along with gluten and sulphites (in an ingredient or compound ingredient) must be declared on the label whether big or small amounts and must appear in the ingredients list or in a separate advisory statement.

You may also find a warning from manufacturers if they know their product may inadvertently have these ingredients because of harvesting, storage or processing equipment. For instance ‘may include traces of nuts’.

Separate advisory statements are required to alert consumers of the possible health risk of the ingredient and will appear as the following.

  • Aspartame = ‘contains phenylalanine’
  • Added caffeine in cola drinks = ‘contains caffeine’
  • Guarana = ‘contains caffeine’
  • Quinine = ‘contains quinine’
  • Unpasturised egg products = ‘unpasturised’

 Food Additives: All additives must have a use, approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and used in the smallest of quantities. Additives are used to improve flavour, quality or appearance of a food.

You will find additives in the ingredients list according to class followed by chemical name/number.

For example – emulsifier (lecithin), flavour enhancer (621)

Country of origin: All packaged food, some unpackaged, must declare where the food comes from.  For instance ‘product of Australia’ means that the majority of the ingredients is from here and the majority of processing should be here too.

‘Made in Australia’ can only be stated if the food has been considerably changed or processed here and 50% of the cost of production was incurred here.

Food-recall information: Packaging must include manufacturers/suppliers name and business address, lot and batch number (or date coding) in the case of food recalls.

Date Mark: These are to inform us of the products shelf life.  All food with a life of less than 2 years must be marked. 

Use by date = foods MUST be eaten or thrown away by this date because after this time they may be unsafe to be eaten as the nutrients may become unstable or a build-up of bacteria may follow.

Best before date = foods are still safe to eat past this date but ensure they are not damaged, deteriorated or perished.  This title indicates that this product may have lost its quality and as long as stored correctly these products will keep their colour, taste texture and flavour.

Name and Description of food: All food products must be given a name that is either prescribed by the food standards code or describes the nature of the food.  These names must be exact and no mislead the consumer.

Storage requirements:  Follow any storage instructions to ensure your food is safely kept.  Terms such as ‘keep refrigerated’, ‘Store in a cool, dark place’ may appear on packaging.  Manufacturers must also provide preparation details on packaging if specific preparation must be followed to ensure the product remains safe.

Here are some really simple food shopping tips provided by the Eat for Health website.  Some of these were mentioned in my back to basics information sheet last week.

Hopefully you feel that the above information clarifies some of the questions you have.

If I suggest you take anything from this information sheet it is the section on the Nutrition Information Panel and I highly recommend you print the link off until you have an understanding of what you are looking for.

If I have left anything out, you would like to know more information or clarification, please email me at catherine@wall2wallfitness.com.au and I would be happy to assist.

 References for more information:

  1. http://www.healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Food_labels_explained 
  2. http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumers/food-labels/label-facts/how-to-use-a-food-label/