Carbohydrate Load

Whenever I present to a group about Metabolic Efficiency and show them my Preparatory or Metabolic Efficiency Periodization Plate, it stirs a bit of discussion and "concern". This plate simplifies the process of eating and focuses on including lean protein, healthy fat, fruits and vegetables in the daily nutrition plan. There are no whole grains included in this stage of the metabolic efficiency plan.

Let me explain this in a bit more detail. As a whole, some athletes still do not know how to periodize their nutrition to account for their different energy expenditures. For example, fewer calories will be expended during an off-season than during competition season, thus the need for changing nutrition. This is of utmost importance because overfeeding carbohydrates at inappropriate times of the year can lead to a decreased efficiency of using fat for energy. This is explained in much more detail in my book, Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat" but I wanted to use this blog to clear some of the concerns that accompany my metabolic efficiency periodization plate (sans whole grains).

I am not against whole grains. In fact, they are a very integral part of any athlete's nutrition plan. However, as mentioned before, the carbohydrate load of an athlete's diet is often too high to support their training, body weight and body composition goals.

The reason whole grains are not included during my metabolic efficiency initial steps is to simply control blood sugar better by reducing total carbohydrate load. This is not supportive of a low carbohydrate diet. The goal is to bring the carbohydrate load down to normal levels, increase lean protein and healthy fats in an effort to control blood sugar more efficiently.

So, when athletes see no whole grains as part of my metabolic efficiency plan in the early stages, they are concerned and worried that they will lose their body's carbohydrate stores and will not be able to think, work well or exercise. Nothing is farther from the truth! In fact, let me set the record straight by providing a simple example of this.

The new Food Guide Pyramid suggests adults should eat 5-8 ounces of grains per day. Here is how it usually looks for athletes:

2 servings at breakfast (oatmeal, toast, cereal, bagels, etc.)
3 servings at lunch (sandwich/bread, chips, crackers)
1 serving for a snack (energy bar, crackers, etc.)
2 servings at dinner (potatoes, pasta, etc.)

One serving of grain has 80 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate.

Total grain servings: 8
Total calories from grains: 640
Total carbohydrate grams from grains: 120

Now, let's take a look at taking the grains out and replacing them with fruits and vegetables.

The new Food Guide Pyramid recommends adults eat 1.5-2 cups of fruit per day and 2.5-3 cups of vegetables per day. Here's a typical day:

2 servings of fruit at breakfast (grapefruit, smoothie, bananas, etc.)
2 servings of vegetables at lunch (salad, side veggies, carrots, etc.)
1 serving of fruit for a snack (apple, pear, peach, etc.)
2 servings of vegetables at dinner (broccoli, asparagus, salad, etc.)

One serving of fruit has 60 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate.
One serving of vegetable has 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate.

Total fruit servings: 3
Total calories from fruit: 180
Total carbohydrate grams from fruit: 45

Total vegetable servings: 4
Total calories from vegetables: 100
Total carbohydrate grams from vegetables: 20

Grand totals:

Calories from the grains example: 640
Carbohydrate grams from the grain example: 120

Calories from the fruits/vegetables example: 280
Carbohydrate grams from the fruits/vegetables example: 65

Net reduction in calories by switching to fruits/vegetables and not including whole grains: 360
Net reduction in carbohydrate grams by switching to fruits/vegetables and not including whole grains: 55

As you can see, by replacing grains with fruits and vegetables, not only do you ensure a good amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but you also reduce carbohydrate load which will act to control blood sugar better, thus controlling the insulin response and thus teaching your body to burn more fat.

Oh, and for those who are looking at the number of carbohydrate grams thinking it is far too low...remember, you still get carbohydrates from protein sources such as dairy products, nuts and beans.

I hope that small quantitative comparison helped you understand my macronutrient shift better and why the use of my Periodization Plates is both simple to use and justified from a health perspective.

Coach Bob