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Carbs

It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.”

― Maya Angelou

Women are inherently beautiful. Yes, they are, irrespective of their size, shape, colour and anything else. But do most of us inherently feel beautiful about ourselves?

They say that a woman’s ovary represents creativity. For creativity to be nurtured, what is needed is huge doses of love, compassion and patience. If what you offer instead, is anger at the self, hatred of the body and an unwillingness to love yourself, is when you see disorders like PCOD/ PCOS manifesting itself in various complex ways on your body.

Scientifically speaking, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome/ disorder (PCOS/ PCOD) have small cysts on their ovaries that most of the time (not mandatory) leads to hormonal imbalance, unwanted body hair, obesity, insulin-resistance, infertility, irregular periods, absence of periods, diabetes, hair thinning, acne, oily skin amongst few others.

PCOS involves the delicate balance of various female hormones and multiple organs of the body, namely ovaries, adrenal glands, pancreas and pituitary gland. Hence, the way to approach it & deal with it should also be very holistic and comprehensive.

Usually contraceptives/ diuretics/ anti-androgen/ anti-diabetic drugs are routinely prescribed to bring balance and treat PCOS/ PCOD. Available scientific evidence suggests that lifestyle modification (LSM) interventions reduce fasting blood glucose and insulin levels in women with PCOS with effects that are similar to drugs. Moreover, it is only fair to give lifestyle a chance before resorting to popping pills with their obvious side-effects. Lifestyle changes, including food, exercise, and sleep, improves the metabolic and reproductive abnormalities of PCOS women. Therefore, it undoubtedly, represents the first-line management for all women with PCOS.

The two main nutritional, exercise & lifestyle objectives for PCOS are to a) lower body fat levels (improve body composition) and b) enhance insulin-sensitivity. And the way to achieve them are-

1. NUTRITION – Eating local, seasonal and fresh homemade meals that are wholesome will ensure that all the required nutrients reach your ovaries and your glands so that they are nourished and well looked after.

Eating wholesome food – Now the prime nutritional strategy for insulin resistance & PCOS is to eat foods that are low in GI. Eating foods that have a low GI keeps blood sugar levels steady and helps your body metabolise fat more efficiently. Generally, the less processed a carbohydrate, the more likely it is to have a low-GI score. So choose to eat rotis, theplas, dosa, rice, paratha etc.

But what is really interesting is that your glycemic response to a food depends on the other foods you eat with it.

Adding fat to your carb-rich food, lowers the overall GI of the meal. Fat slows stomach emptying, delaying the process of converting food to blood sugar. Hence, more the fat, the slower the sugars (‘carbohydrates’) are digested, and lower is the glycemic index. So spread a generous amount of white butter on your roti/parathas, do not dump the coconut chutney when eating idli/ dosa, and do lace your hot, fluffy rice with a spoonful of ghee.

Now if this meal will include proteins too, the GI impact of the carbohydrate foods will be further minimized. This is because by combining foods in a single meal the overall impact is to slow down the rate at which your body releases sugar from any single ingredient. So add a bowl of curd with your butter paratha, some sambhar with your idli chutney, and some dal or egg curry to your rice ghee. And there you have a wholesome meal that is not only low in GI, but also rich in fibre-rich grains, vitamins & micro-mineral rich pulses, and essential fats. The kind of meal your ovaries are going to thank you for!

But haven’t we all grown up eating dal bhaat ghee/ paratha curd? The reason we have invited these host of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like PCOS/ Diabetes etc. is because we have either looked down at our own homemade meals; or tried to eat them in isolation; like eating roti without ghee, having dal but no rice etc. This shift from our traditional & wholesome way of eating to more Westernized diets is called “Nutrition Transition” and is said to be largely responsible for the urban lifestyle disorders in developing countries like ours, today.

2. EXERCISE – Amongst all the exercises, incorporating strength training into your workout regimen is crucial to improve insulin sensitivity and to better control insulin swings. Structured and progressive strength training improves how the body uses insulin and allows glucose to get around the body better. Weight training at least twice a week is hence essential, to bring hormonal vibrancy.

Numerous studies have demonstrated conclusively that strength training also burns fat much more effectively than any other exercise does. Aerobic activity (like cardio, walk, swim etc.) burns fat while you’re exercising, but anaerobic activity (like strength training) burns fat in the minutes, hours and days following exercise, as your body recovers from your workout. Studies reveal that strength exercise burns more calories (or fat) for as long as 24 to 48 hours post workout! Better fat loss means better hormonal balance, better hormonal balance means regular & painless periods, lesser break outs, reduced hair fall and enhanced fertility.

3. SLEEP- Not getting enough sleep impairs metabolism and disrupts hormone levels. With ongoing sleep loss, insulin sensitivity of body reduces. At the same time, your body secretes more cortisol (stress hormone), which makes it harder for insulin to do its work effectively. The net effect: Excess glucose stays in the bloodstream, that not only leads to weight gain but also throws all your hormones off balance.

Make sure you have regulated wake up and bed timings. A deep, restorative sleep is priceless for your hormones as it brings a sense of harmony in them.

And lastly, take it one step at a time, with love, compassion and patience. As women, we tend to be least kind to our own selves. Applaud yourself for every small effort you make in the right direction and gradually, you will see yourself transforming. And do remember that: “You are a woman, phenomenally!”

Keep yourself happy by keeping yourself healthy. Let well-known Mumbai dietitian and fitness expert Munmun Ganeriwal design a nutrition, exercise and lifestyle transformation program that elevates your overall sense of well-being. Contact us now for an in-depth consultation.

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When it comes to any discussion on diets for weight loss, carbohydrates (or “carbs”) seem to be everyone’s punching bag, an easy scapegoat for everything that resulted in weight gain. It is quite common to see, hear and read about people proudly swearing by a “low carb” or “no carb” diet as they embark on their weight loss journey.

However, the problem with this approach is that people are often making ‘sacrifices’ with their food that they don’t have to or should not. The real culprit behind weight gain is often not the carbs themselves but a combination of factors such as an imbalanced diet, improper eating habits, lack of exercise and undesirable lifestyle choices. So, let’s dispel some of the common myths about carbs, highlight their importance and make a case for their inclusion in a wholesome diet.

Four good reasons to include carbs in your diet-

1. Fuel for the brain: Carbs provide the glucose that is the fuel for the brain. Without this essential supply of fuel, one will experience what is often referred to as ‘brain fog’ which is characterised by a lack of mental alertness, lethargy and low-energy. For us to be productive at work, the sense of being ‘tuned-in’ mentally and energy running through us are important, and we know the source of that, don’t we?

2. Get better sleep: Advocates of “carbs deprivation” recommend avoiding carbs completely at night. What is often not understood is that without feeding carbs to the body for dinner, one’s sleep is likely to be impacted. This is because carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain; tryptophan gets converted to melatonin – a hormone that induces sleep- in the brain. Lesser the amount of tryptophan available to the brain, lesser is the melatonin produced, and consequently, lesser is the quantity of sleep one will get. As we have emphasised from time to time, sound and restful sleep is necessary to lose weight and also prevent NCDs (non-communicable diseases) or lifestyle ailments like diabetes

3. Essential for fat loss: There is an old maxim that is repeated often in the world of diet, nutrition and weightloss: “Fats burn in the flame of the carbohydrates”. What it implies is that fats are ‘burnt’ and utilised for energy in the presence of carbohydrates. So, if you are looking to lose fat and weight, you do need carbs to help you accomplish that goal!

4. Source of valuable fiber: The non-digestible component of carbohydrate food (plant fibers) like that found in whole grains, rice, banana, wheat, etc – known as prebiotics– stimulate the growth and induce changes to the composition of gut microbial populations. The gut microbiome (probiotics) play a very important role in the overall health of a person—which is why there are benefits of traditional Indian pickles – whether it be in contributing to weight loss or fighting against diseases like cancer or diabetes.

Do’s and Don’ts with consuming carbs

Now that the importance and benefits of carbohydrates in your diet are clarified, let’s note some tips on the type of carbs to take in and the ones to avoid.

1. Do include millets in your diet: Complement your intake of regular sources such as rice and wheat with millets such as jowar, bajra, ragi. These millets are nutritionally superior due to higher levels of protein with a more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber and minerals like zinc, phosphorus, calcium, iron. As importantly, production and consumption of millets can contribute substantially in the fight against targeted hunger and mitigate the effect of climate change in long run. So, not only will you be benefiting yourself by complementing your diet with millets but also benefiting the cause of environmental sustainability! In fact, a proposal has been submitted by the Indian Government to the United Nations to declare 2018 as the International Year of Millets, to create global awareness about the benefits of millets.

2. Don’t consume carbs from refined and processed food items: Avoid packaged food like muffins, breads, biscuits and cakes that are loaded with trans fat, preservatives, emulsifiers, added colours etc. Feel free to enjoy our home-made meals like roti, thepla, bhakri; our traditional Indian breakfast items such as dosa, poha, idli; not only are they good sources of carbs, but also provide fibre, vitamins, amino acids, minerals and other nutrients.

So, the key takeaway that we’d like you to leave with is: when it comes to weight loss, think less of “low carbs” and “no carbs” and be discerning about the good carbs and the right ones!

Read related articles on nutrition

Proteins for vegetarians in Indian diets

Cholesterol and Indian diet: Time to stop worrying

Confused by the misinformation about potential health problems with traditional Indian foods? Get in touch with award-winning Mumbai dietitian and nutritionist, Munmun Ganeriwal, a strong advocate of the holistic, wellness benefits of fresh, local, and traditional Indian foods.

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It does not matter as much how hard you train, as it matters how well you “refuel” your body post-workout session. In order to get the desired results from your training- be it the sculpted, toned body you are looking for or getting fitter & stronger is your goal- what you eat following exercise is crucial and can have a major impact on your results.

Why is “Recovery Nutrition” important?

Post a workout, your body is in a catabolic state (process of breakdown) because of many biochemical, metabolic & hormonal changes that has taken place during the exercise. It has depleted its muscle glycogen reserves (body’s stored fuel), the catabolic hormone cortisol has been on a surge & then there are the free radicals (chemically unstable molecules) that have been generated during the exercise. The good news is that this presents an “anabolic window of opportunity” Anabolism refers to the process of building up. By consuming proper nutrients post-workout, you will be able to arrest further muscle breakdown, initiate the re-synthesis of fuel reserves, initiate the rebuilding of damaged tissue, bring down cortisol levels, accelerate removal of metabolic by products (lactic acid, CO2). Hence, having a post-workout fuelling strategy in place is extremely important for improvements in both body composition (fat loss) and exercise performance, faster recovery, preventing fatigue and resisting injury.

What is “Recovery Nutrition”?

Insulin sensitivity is heightened immediately after exercise, which means that ideally you should consume your post-workout meal as soon as you finish your workout. The quicker you feed your body, the better nutrient delivery to the muscles and more nutrient & glucose uptake by them to utilize for repair. Another physiological effect of exercise is the immediate increase in the blood flow to the muscles. Hence, the delivery of protein, carbs, vitamins, minerals, water etc. is also enhanced, resulting in greater muscle protein synthesis.

But since we live in a ‘real’ world v/s an ‘ideal’ one, it may be possible that at times, you are unable to consume your post-workout meal immediately after cooling down at the gym (for e.g. some day you may be rushed for office) Then know that, all is not lost. The “anabolic window of opportunity” lasts for at least a couple of hours following exercise so if not right after workout, do make sure you take in the nutrients as soon as you can!

The “Recovery Nutrition” comprises of the four R’s backed by exercise physiologists all over the world, which are-

1. Rehydrate It is crucial to make up for the loss of fluids and electrolytes as your body is in a dehydrated state post-workout. Among other health benefits, staying properly hydrated will help your body be better able to deliver the nutrients that your cells and muscles need in order to repair themselves.

The bottom line: Ensure you have water post exercise and also later through the day. The best way to check if you are having enough water is to look for your urine colour- should be crystal clear, not cloudy. Caffeine has shown to disrupt post-exercise insulin action, thereby impairing your body’s ability to replenish glycogen stores and utilize protein for muscular repair. Hence, if you do want to indulge in your cup of coffee or tea, wait for a couple of hours after your workout.

2.Replenish One of the primary goals post-exercise is to replenish glycogen reserves (stored carbohydrate in muscle & liver) that gets depleted during training.

Post-workout, you should consume carbohydrates that come from simple, high-glycemic sources so that they can quickly do its job. They will break down quickly in your gut, sending a surge of sugar into your bloodstream and raising your blood glucose which in turn, will spike insulin levels. Since insulin has both anabolic and anti-catabolic functions, it will accelerate protein synthesis, inhibit protein breakdown, and shuttle glycogen into cells. And this is one instance where elevated insulin won’t promote increases in body fat. Because your muscles & liver are literally starved, nutrients will tend to be used for muscle building & repair rather than fat storage.

Other than being high GI, carbs that you consume should be light and easy to digest so that it does not overload the gastro-intestinal system, disrupting the blood flow to the worked-out muscles.

Some research shows that carbohydrate-rich foods containing a combination of glucose and fructose is ideal, here. This is because glucose is converted to muscle glycogen, whereas fructose preferentially replenishes liver glycogen (glucose is of limited utility to the liver, a phenomenon called the “glucose paradox”). Thus, the two types of sugar work in synergy to replenish the glycogen stores of the body.

The bottom line: Include a variety of carbohydrates post-exercise. Few good choices are sugarcane juice, banana, boiled potato, potato sandwich.

3.Recover The other main nutritional objective post-workout is to supply sufficient amino acids (protein) for muscle tissue repair. If protein intake is sub-optimal following training, recovery is hampered and results are compromised. When amino acids are consumed following training, protein synthesis increases, optimizing the development of lean muscle tissue. Increase in lean muscle tissue is important for fat loss, change in body composition and improved exercise performance.

Protein should preferably be in the form of a high-biological value (BV) protein powder, that which is easy to digest and readily available, absorbed & assimilated in the body. A fast-acting protein such as whey works best. Because it is rapidly assimilated, whey reaches your muscles quickly, thereby expediting repair. The BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) in whey protein keeps the insulin sensitive and boosts your immunity, amongst many other things.

The bottom line: Once you have had your carb-rich food, have a whey protein shake mixing whey protein powder in water.

4.Revitalize Make sure to incorporate key vitamins and minerals in your post-workout meal that will help to recover and repair faster. Antioxidants is of prime importance here as it will negate the free radical effect of exercise that interferes with body’s recovery mechanism. Important antioxidants are Vit C, Vit E, Vit A, and minerals Selenium, Zinc, Chromium. Apart from its antioxidant effect, these minerals also have an insulin-like effect thus accelerating the anabolism process post workout.

The bottom line: Take separate vitamin supplements (of A, C, E) along with a supplement of Zinc, Selenium, Chromium with your post work-out meal.

Plan your post-workout meals right and get incredible results from your workout! Stay fit, stay young!

NOTE: This article was written by me for MyBeautyGym.Com & was published on 18th August 2017.

 

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