Chances are you’ve spent the last year eating banana bread while binge watching Bridgerton. Delicious? Yes! Nutritious? Let’s just say the road to a summer beach body is paved with good intentions. Instead of channeling your extra time at home into establishing a healthy diet and exercise lifestyle, chances are the last 12 months in quarantine have resulted in the production and consumption of more baked goods than a Duncan Hines factory.
Now that spring is right around the corner, there’s not much time to get summer svelte, so many people turn to unsustainable weight loss trends as a solution. Most recently, thanks in large part to social media influencers, many people have turned to carb cycling as a quick solution to their quarantine 15.
Thankfully, Jillian Michaels, a certified expert in health and wellness, New York Times bestselling author, and creator of The Fitness App, took time to talk exclusively to The List about the right way to lose weight and get healthy. She revealed that carb cycling, although effective as a training tool for serious athletes, is not the “super weight loss solution” it’s purported to be. And if you’re truly serious about achieving and maintaining your wellness goals, Michaels has got the skinny on exactly what it takes, and how to do it.
Jillian Michaels explains carb cycling
Despite what your armchair research has told you, carb cycling is not simply restricting carbs on some days and carb loading on “cheat days” as it suits your needs. There’s sadly no diet that advocates eating pizza all day for effective weight loss, as long as you restrict your carb intake the rest of the week.
As Michaels explained, “carb cycling was started by serious athletes and bodybuilders as a very strict protocol to drop weight for a specific event (like a bodybuilding competition) by cutting carbs, or carb loading to help with endurance for long-haul exercises like running a marathon, or muscle building.”
While Michaels stresses that for serious athletes, carb cycling “can be a very effective tool,” chances are your walk to the mailbox once a day does not constitute training for the Olympics. Michaels adds, “The belief is that when you cut carbs your body has no choice but to burn more fat.” Sound familiar? It should, as our expert trainer points out, it’s “the pretense behind the Keto diet.”
Not a fan of the highly controversial yet popular diet, she explains, “Even if I was to advocate for Keto, despite the mountain of empirical research evidencing the potential unhealthy side effects of this diet — carb loading does not put your body into ketosis. Therefore, as a weight loss strategy, this notion that cutting cycling is the key to weight loss is simply not true.”
The secret to weight loss is simply creating a calorie deficit
It might not be glamorous or Instagram trendy, but when it comes right down to it, if you want to effectively lose weight, and keep it off, the secret, according to Michaels, is, “calories in calories out.” She explains, “A calorie is a unit of energy. The food we eat all has calories.” Those calories translate into energy for our body to perform our daily tasks. If, as she stresses, we consume more calories than we use in a day, those calories get stored in our fat cells.
It doesn’t matter if those extra calories come from chocolate cake or celery, Michaels reiterates that fat is simply stored energy. To put it simply, “to burn through this extra energy you must create an energy deficit – eat less energy than your body needs in a day so it turns to its fat stores.” She explains, “This is the first rule of thermodynamics. It’s scientific law. Period.”
Carbohydrates are not the enemy of weight loss
If there’s one thing we can learn from our unhealthy history with food, it’s that creating a bogeyman in a particular food source to take the blame for our obesity epidemic, while simultaneously bolstering an industry of processed foods, only fuels the big money business of weight loss.
As Michaels perfectly explains, “While people say that calories aren’t created equal, when it comes to an actual unit of energy — they are. It’s like saying a pound of chicken feathers is different than a pound of cement. A pound is a pound. And a calorie is a calorie.” But like most things there’s a caveat. She adds, “When it comes to your health, the nutrients that accompany those calories are not at all created equal.”
To put it simply, Michaels states, “There is no question that if you eat garbage you will put yourself at a great risk for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease – so ultimately the goal is to achieve optimal health along with your desired weight loss. This is still not accomplished through carb cycling. In fact, carbs are absolutely necessary for optimal health so cutting them out on certain days only cuts good sources of fiber and nutrients.”
Focus on carbohydrate quality instead of carb elimination
In the ’80s, fat was the enemy, and we eliminated all fat from food and replaced it with sugar. That certainly backfired. But even though we know that healthy fats are essential to proper nutrition, that doesn’t mean we’ve actually learned how to moderate. The same goes for carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are the new enemy food, but as Michaels points out, “The key when it comes to health and even to optimizing your metabolism is carb quality.” She explains, “Make sure to avoid processed grains and refined sugars and you’ll be fine.” If you want to be trendy that basically means eating clean. If you’re considering buying something at the grocery store and you can’t identify all the ingredients on a package, it’s probably not a healthy choice. Instead of instant mashed potatoes, for example, buy whole potatoes and bake them yourself. Don’t ever buy into a diet plan that encourages restricting vegetables from your diet because they have carbohydrates in them, and ultimately, learn how to indulge in moderation. Any lifestyle that promotes elimination as a mantra is always doomed to fail.
Healthy weight loss and maintenance is attainable
Leave it to Michaels to sum it up for us succinctly, “Carb cycling is good for specific types of athletic performance and totally unnecessary for weight loss or overall health. If you want to lose weight make sure you are eating less calories in a day than your body is burning. If you want to be healthy, be sure to focus on eating high quality food of all kinds — carbs included.”
Don’t be overwhelmed. There’s no better time to start your journey to health than today, and if you feel like you’re not quite ready to go it alone, Michaels is a great resource, and you don’t have to be a celebrity client to get her expert diet and fitness advice. Just download Jillian Michaels’ The Fitness App, and you’ll be privy to her guidance on not just diet, and nutrition, but you’ll get curated exercise routines for all fitness levels and goals.
Jillian Michaels is offering The List readers an exclusive promotion — sign up today to get a 3-month subscription to Jillian Michaels’ The Fitness App for $19.99 (normally $44.97).
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