Low-carb, high protein, what's it all about? ...and will fat really make me fat?

It's a bit of a minefield when it comes to nutrition, so here's a simple overview that'll hopefully get you started. 

Firstly, why do we need fats, proteins and carbohydrates....?

Fats are important for several reasons, three of which are: energy, absorption of vitamins and protection for vital organs. 

Proteins are known for their ability to aid recovery and repair within the body, they also play a valuable role with hormones and enzymes systems, even assisting with DNA creation. Protein can also be used as energy, but this is not it's primary function due to it's other important jobs.

Carbohydrates are valuable for immediate and stored energy, some carbohydrates also provide fibre which helps our digestive system. 

So, why more protein?

Firstly, protein is vital for our daily bodily functions. Secondly, when we digest protein, it takes longer for the body to break it down, which means we stay fuller for longer, and therefore don't feel the need to over-eat. It also burns more calories in the digestive processes.

Breakfast is often the meal most people struggle to include protein with, but it is vital that we do. If you eat an omelette for breakfast, you may stay full until 12.30pm, whereas if you eat a bowl of cereal you maybe hungry by 10:30am. You've also got more of the necessary building blocks for developing muscle and repairing the body, leading to more calories are being burnt (if consumed alongside a good exercise programme).

Next...carbohydrates. The important distinction is to realise that carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods including, sugar, sweet potatoes, rice, fruit, fruit juice, oats, spinach, broccoli and cereal. However, there is a vastly different nutritional profile and effect on the body between a bowl of spinach and bowl of sugar. 

Sugary carbohydrates produce a high level of energy very rapidly. Quickly raising our blood sugar levels and sending our energy levels straight up and then crashing back down. The end result is a craving for more food and a low level of energy, with the excess energy from your previous meal often being stored as fat. 

Continued levels of high sugar carbohydrates can result in the bodies ability to deal with these types of food being compromised and excess fat being stored. Long-term this can lead to diabetes.  

Other longterm effects may include: Premature ageing, cancer, altered vision, cataracts and retinopathy, alzheimer’s, vascular disease, erectile dysfunction, kidney disease, joint pain and arthritis.

If you want to make a change, start reading your food labels. Foods with less than 5g per 100g of sugar are considered to be 'low-sugar' and are therefore healthier.  

Be aware of unexpected foods: frozen fruit, juices, squashes, purees, bread, dressings and sauces.

In the 1950's it was thought that fat was the main factor behind weigh gain. Since the introduction of 'low-fat' foods in the 1950's the average female dress size has increased from a 12 to a 16! Possibly because many diet products substitute fat for sugars and sweeteners.  

Fats play a vital role in our diet and it's important that we maintain a good level of healthy fat so our bodies can fully function. Fats also help keep us fuller for longer; offering a good source of energy and not causing rapid blood sugar rises.

Ideally our diet should always be balanced between, lean proteins (chicken, fish, beef, eggs, dairy), carbohydrates (low GI and fibrous vegetables) and healthy fats (fish, nuts, eggs etc). 

Finally, when it comes to breakfast, try not to be constrained to the expected bowl of 'Cheerios' or 'Special K'. Set yourself up for the day with a high-protein breakfast.