Let's start with what starch is. Starches are actually long complex chains of simple sugar, also known as “complex carbohydrates”. Like sugar, starch has the potential to elevate blood sugar levels quickly. Some starches are actually more glycemic than some sugar. High glycemic foods spike your blood sugar level, which in turn releases the hormone insulin in the body. Insulin actually increases the storage of fat in fat cells while also preventing fat cells from releasing fat for energy. In other words, insulin actually turns off the "fat burning switch" and tells the body to store fat. Quick spikes and drops in blood sugar can cause a person to overeat, have low energy, mood swings, and hunger cravings. For most people, the answer to the question "how can I burn more body fat?" is to eat a diet that is lower in carbohydrates. Most Americans consume more then enough carbohydrates on a daily basis. If carbs are not burned as fuel through physical activity over a 24-48 hour period after being consumed, they turn to fat. As a side note, it is highly advised not to attempt to cut out carbohydrates completely. No-carb diets are unhealthy, and unsustainable. Your body needs certain amounts of all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) each day for different functions. Cut one out and you will crave it like no other. Interestingly, many people who have committed to a lower-carbohydrate diet have actually reported increased levels of energy. In general, focusing mainly on lean meats, a variety of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, while only having a little starch and sugar daily is a good way to structure your diet. Try to eliminate processed foods and foods made from refined grain. Avoid most baked goods or goods made with flour.
Foods that are highest in starch:
Some of the highest on the Glycemic Index (GI) include grains (wheat, rice, barley, oats), potatoes, corn, and beans. Also high up on the GI are bread, pasta, cereal, toast, muffins, bagels, oatmeal, granola, pretzels, crackers, biscuits, cookies, cakes, pie crust, and anything else made with flour.
The best starchy foods are whole beans or lentils. When choosing grains, select those which are whole and intact when cooked, such as brown rice, barley, amaranth, and quinoa. Get the rest of your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and if you eat dairy, than milk, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt. Foods that are high in fiber can create a feeling of satiety, or fullness, which can help reduce hunger cravings in between meals. If giving up bread, rice, cereal, and pasta altogether is not an option, than the best choices are low-carb breads or wraps which have less starch and more fiber, choose brown rice over white rice, eat high protein high fiber cereal such as Kashi, and try quinoa pasta such as Ancient Harvest.
Making the change:
I recommend trying one of these two methods in order to start scaling back your carbohydrate and starch intake. This first one is my personal preference.
- Monday through Friday, try little to no cereal, bread, rice, or pasta. Increase your protein intake in order to maintain and build lean muscle. Protein, like fiber, will also give you a feeling of satiety which will help curb hunger. Saturday and Sunday are your cheat days. That doesn’t mean go overboard, just enjoy whatever it is you like to eat and don’t worry as much about the diet.
- If that method doesn’t suit you or your schedule, try allowing yourself 3-4 cheat meals per week instead. Same rules apply.
Coach Brian Donovan