WHAT IS CARBOHYDRATE TOLERANCE?
Before we talk about carbohydrate tolerance, let’s take a minute to review another thing called insulin sensitivity. This refers to how responsive a particular tissue is to the hormone insulin. A tissue with high insulin sensitivity will have a strong reaction to the hormone, while a tissue with low sensitivity will have a weak reaction.
It’s important to keep insulin levels low if you want to lose body fat. We not only want to have a lot of insulin, but we also want it to be very sensitive in muscles while remaining insensitive in fat cells.
Insulin works better in muscles than in fat cells, which store fat.
Just to be clear, insulin sensitivity is important, but it has been the sole focus for too long. The carbohydrate tolerance parameter is the key factor that determines how insulin is affected.
It is possibly even more important that carb tolerance can indirectly affect insulin sensitivity and hormonal control.
MAXIMIZING LIPOLYSIS BUT ALSO FOR MAINTAINING A HIGH METABOLIC RATE. Insulin sensitivity is key for not only breaking down fat, but also for keeping a high metabolism.
There are two main goals of a diet: THE MAINTENANCE OF MUSCLE MASS and OPTIMAL FAT LOSS. We can optimize carbohydrate tolerance to maximize insulin sensitivity, which helps to preserve muscle and burn more fat.
SO WHAT IS IT?
CARBOHYDRATE TOLERANCE IS SIMILAR TO INSULIN
Sensitivity in many ways specifically pertains to the way in which our body deals with carbohydrates alone. Our muscles act like sponges when it comes to carbs. The more carbs we eat, the more our muscles absorb and store them. We want fat loss to be “dry” so that it can absorb as many carbs as possible when the time comes.
As long as the sponge has a little dryness to it, it’ll be able to absorb the water (a.k.a. carbs) without affecting the rest of the body. One of the most important things we can do to keep our bodies in a fat-burning state is to maintain a consistent blood sugar level. This can be accomplished by eating small, frequent meals throughout the day and by choosing foods that don’t cause big spikes in our blood sugar.
After the muscle has taken in a lot of carbohydrates, it’s full and reaches what is known as the saturation point. The amount of carbohydrates we can consume before needing to take insulin becomes important once we have reached the point of saturation.
here’s a quick tip – if you think of fat loss as a battle, then insulin sensitivity can be considered the reserves, while carbohydrate tolerance is the front line. Only by involving all of the troops can we win the battle.
THE KEY BENEFIT
Having a high carb tolerance means that you can keep your insulin levels low, which is important for fat loss.
Insulin has a double impact on fat storage; it not only stops any fat loss that is occurring, but also directly induces fat storage. Obviously, if we are trying to lose weight, then having as little of this hormone as possible is a good thing. We’re achieving optimal carb tolerance by doing X, Y, and Z.
ADDED BONUS: THE BUFFER ZONE
ANOTHER BENEFIT OF MAINTAINING A HIGH CARBOHYDRATE TOLERANCE IS
The liver acts as a buffer zone for times when we overindulge in carbohydrates. This prevents the carbohydrates from being stored as fat, and instead allows them to be used by the muscles, which helps to keep insulin levels low.
One might, if in the middle of a carb binge, think of it as a free pass to eat whatever they want without consequences. Although the diet won’t be perfect, it won’t be ruined which is good news from a physiological and psychological perspective.
THE SIMPLE SELF-EXPERIMENT TO DETERMINE HOW YOU SHOULD EAT
I have created a easy way to measure how much carbohydrates your body can handle. I suggest this to my clients. Your gut feeling about how you should be eating is not very accurate, so it is better to get information from reliable sources. The only way to get the data you need is to do a controlled self-experiment.
In this experiment, you will consume various meals with different proportions of carbohydrates and fat, while remaining in controlled conditions. You will measure your mood, hunger, and energy level after each meal to see which meals make you feel the best.
HERE’S A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR RUNNING THE EXPERIMENT.
You’ll need to decide what time of day you’ll be eating your test meals so that you can plan your other meals around them. What time of day do you want to eat your test meals?
You should only pick one meal out of the three you eat everyday to run your experiment on. You will want to standardize the time at which your test meals take place so that you can control as many variables as possible in your experiment. You might schedule your tests for 8 am every day, 1 pm, or 6 pm.
I recommend choosing breakfast over all of the other options because it allows you to control for another set of variables: what happened earlier in the day. Usually, breakfast is eaten under the same conditions every day, more so than lunch or dinner.
STEP 2: DETERMINE THE MACRONUTRIENT AMOUNTS FOR EACH VARIATION
In this experiment, you will test three diets: a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet; a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet; and a moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-fat diet.
You might want to try other, more specific diets after that, such as a ketogenic, paleo, vegan, or protein-sparing modified fast. BUT START WITH THE FIRST THREE. These can be sustained indefinitely , and you don’t have to completely avoid any particular food. The results of these three variations will help you decide if you want to specialize further.
Each diet should be tested at least three times to get an accurate result. This means that your experiment will take at least three days for each diet.
We think that you have three meals a day, do light workouts a few days a week, are generally healthy, and want to eat to stay at your current weight. HERE ARE SOME GUIDELINES FOR WHAT THE TEST MEALS SHOULD LOOK LIKE — FOR A PERSON WHO WEIGHS 180 POUNDS, AND FOR A PERSON WHO WEIGHS AROUND 130 POUNDS:
- 180 POUNDS: 50 GRAMS OF PROTEIN, 35 GRAMS OF FAT, 90 GRAMS OF CARBS
- 130 POUNDS: 35 GRAMS OF PROTEIN, 25 GRAMS OF FAT, 75 GRAMS OF CARBS
- 180 POUNDS: 50 GRAMS OF PROTEIN, 10 GRAMS OF FAT, 150 GRAMS OF CARBS
- 130 POUNDS: 35 GRAMS OF PROTEIN, 5 GRAMS OF FAT, 125 GRAMS OF CARBS
- 180 POUNDS: 50 GRAMS OF PROTEIN, 60 GRAMS OF FAT, 30 GRAMS OF CARBS
- 130 POUNDS: 35 GRAMS OF PROTEIN, 45 GRAMS OF FAT, 25 GRAMS OF CARBS
These meals are all moderately high in protein, with a total of about .8 grams of protein per day per pound of body weight. The amount of protein will remain the same, the experiment is only focusing on carbs and fat.
The amount of food you need to eat each day depends on your weight. You don’t need to be too precise about the size of the meals, as long as they have approximately the same ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrates as the examples given.
STEP 3: PLAN YOUR MEALS
After you have determined the nutritional value of your meals, it is time to plan what specific food you will eat each day. You will need at least three meals of each type.
I recommend planning all of your test meals before you start the experiment.
HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLES OF EACH TYPE OF MEAL:
MODERATE-FAT, MODERATE-CARBOHYDRATE MEALS
For your first meal, you have the option of three tacos. These tacos can be made with either beef or pork, and they come with cheese, cabbage, and beans. NO RICE OR SOUR CREAM.
This meal consists of a club sandwich with wheat bread, chicken, bacon, tomato, and light mayo. SIDE SALAD AND CUP OF FRUIT.
This meal consists of a pulled pork sandwich with two slices of wheat bread, 5 ounces of pork, 4 ounces of mac and cheese, 4 ounces of broccoli, and an apple.
HIGH-FAT, LOW-CARBOHYDRATE MEALS
The first meal of the day includes a 6-ounce salmon fillet, 8 ounces of stir-fried vegetables, and 4 ounces of blueberries.
For your second meal, cook up some scrambled eggs with ground beef, tomatoes, and avocado. Serve this with a side of fresh strawberries and carrot sticks that you can dip in either peanut or almond butter.
Meal 3: 6 oz. of meatloaf with ketchup, side salad with oil or ranch, half an avocado, handful of mixed nuts, one baby orange.
LOW-FAT, HIGH-CARBOHYDRATE MEALS
MEAL 1: Chicken burrito with rice, cabbage, and beans – no cheese, sour cream, or avocado. CAN OF SUGARED SODA OR 4 OZ OF FRUIT.
TOPPED WITH ½ an AVOCADO Three eggs scrambled with turkey, lettuce, and tomatoes, topped with half an avocado. SMALL BOWL OF CEREAL. A GLASS OF JUICE.
This meal consists of 8 ounces of pasta, 5 ounces of chicken or shrimp, tomato sauce, 6 ounces of mixed vegetables, and a small piece of fat-free chocolate.
This text is discussing how many calories are in each meal, and is sized for someone who weights around 150 to 160 pounds, and is moderately active. Each meal is around 500 to 700 calories. SCALE UP OR DOWN AS NEEDED.
STEP 4: RUN YOUR EXPERIMENT
You will need a system to track your results before you start your experiment. Create a spreadsheet where each row will be used to record data from one test meal. HERE’S WHAT EACH COLUMN MEANS:
DATE AND TIME: WHEN YOU ATE THE MEAL.
FOOD: WHAT YOU ATE. BE AS PRECISE AS POSSIBLE. “MEATLOAF” IS NOT VERY PRECISE. This meatloaf recipe, which calls for 6 ounces of meat and 2 tablespoons of ketchup, is much better than other recipes, even if the measurements are only estimates.
CALORIES: THE NUMBER OF CALORIES IN THE MEAL. Choose a calorie-counting app to use, or if you need to estimate calories, remember that there are 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate, and 9 calories per gram of fat.
The amount of protein, carbs, and fat in a meal is measured in grams, not calories.
The energy level refers to the amount of energy you have in the two hours or so after the meal. A “1” on this scale would mean that you are feeling sleepy. A “3” would be considered a fairly average energy level. A score of “5” would show the highest level of energy you could experience without taking stimulants. This would be more like feeling “motivated to go for a walk or hit the gym” instead of feeling like you “just had two energy drinks and now you’re bouncing off the walls.”
How Your Energy Levels fluctuate throughout the day is determined by how stable your energy level remains for the six hours or so following the meal, or until your next meal, whichever comes first. If you feel hyperactive one hour after the meal and sleepy two hours after that, that would be a high energy level but low energy stability. A “5” indicated that there were no noticeable changes in energy levels, a “1” would mean that there was a pronounced spike and crash in energy levels (or a crash followed by a recovery), and a “3” would mean that there were noticeable but not overly uncomfortable changes in energy levels.
SATIETY: HOW LONG YOU GO WITHOUT FEELING HUNGRY AGAIN. If you rate your hunger on a scale from one to five, with one being very hungry and five being not at all hungry, a one would mean you feel hungry again within one or two hours, a three would mean you feel hungry again within about four hours, and a five would mean you don’t feel hungry for six hours or more. If you’re still hungry after a meal, it probably wasn’t big enough.
You will likely feel calm and happy for the next six hours after eating. A one indicates that you are feeling mildly depressed, a three means that you are feeling good but not great, and a five means you are feeling amazing, almost bordering on hypomanic.
Make sure to fill out the spreadsheet after every meal. You may find it helpful to set multiple alarms on your phone throughout the day, scheduled to go off a short time after when you typically eat your meals.
As mentioned before, you will need to eat at least three meals for each diet you are testing. This means you will need to eat a total of at least nine meals. The experiment will need to be run for at least nine days before the results can be analyzed.
STEP 5: ANALYZE YOUR RESULTS
At the end of the experiment, you will have recorded at least nine meals, each on a different day, at around the same time of day.
The last four columns list the energy level, energy stability, satiety, and mood of the person. The best diet for you is the one that you consistently rate as 4’s and 5’s in terms of taste, healthfulness, ease of preparation, and cost.
WHAT IF I CAN’T EAT MY MEAL AT THE USUAL TIME OR UNDER THE USUAL CONDITIONS?
What if you used breakfast as your test meal and you usually eat breakfast at home around 8 a.m.? But one day you have early morning meetings and you need to either eat breakfast an hour and a half earlier, and also wake up an hour and a half earlier, or else eat something in the car as you drive to work. WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
The best solution here is to simply take that day off. You can skip a test meal on any given day if you get too busy or something disrupts your experiment. It is better to wait a day to do the experiment than to do something that would make the results incorrect.