Wellness Wednesday: What's Up, Carbs?

Our favorite Ayurvedic practitioner, Deacon Carpenter, is taking your nutrition questions and answering them every Wednesday. Today is he talking carbs, read on:

Many of my clients who are runners, cyclists or Tri-athletes always ask me about the carbohydrate-to-protein ratio in their diet. For example, if you are a 130lb woman in your 30’s, what’s the correct ratio to consider when training and when not training for an event. We’ll get into that a little later, but for now, let’s talk good carbs.

The most important thing to remember is your glycogen levels. Glycogen is made and stored in the liver and is the ‘storage form’ of glucose, which, as we all know, comes from carbohydrates and is the fuel we tap into when we are active.

Food’s high in carbohydrates are fruits, sweets, soft drinks, breads, pastas, beans, potatoes, bran, rice, and cereals. The trick, however, is to consume the right amount of carbs to fuel us; too many carbs will cause us to gain adipose tissue (fat) and too few can compromise muscle tissue, so you want to select carbohydrates which are lower on the glycemic index.

Foods like Quinoa (keen-wah) are not only low on the glycemic index, but they are both a complete protein and a carbohydrate. I love quinoa and amaranth (a smaller version of quinoa) but sadly, some of my clients are a little tired of boiling their quinoa. I discovered that you can dry cook quinoa, as you would corn kernels for pop corn. Simply heat up a deep saucepan, drop a tablespoon of quinoa or amaranth into it, and stir until it’s popped. You get more bang for your buck with amaranth, but both are nutty and delicious. They are great for a morning breakfast cereal with ground up flax, pumpkin and chia seeds!

Apples are also low on the glycemic index and also provide athletes with longer lasting energy and are full of fiber, so you get to detox as you carbo load. I actually love pealing my apples and cooking them in water and freshly grated ginger. It’s a great way to fuel for a run, and the process of cooking them helps the body to digest them faster.

Now, getting back to your specific body type, and what you should be eating. When I work with my clients, I give them a comprehensive diet and lifestyle plan to follow, which is designed specifically for them. In the interest of time, I’ll review the three major body types in Ayurveda, and some dietary guidelines.

  1. If you have more of an ectomorphic body frame (long, lean and have a hard time gaining weight) eat every 3 hours, or up to 5 meals per day. Start small, have your biggest meal at lunch, and end small. Take advantage of your digestion when your digestion is functioning most optimally. Eat foods high in protein and get your carbohydrates more from whole wheat pastas, fruits and well cooked beans. By the way, this body type in Ayurveda is called Vata.

  2. If you have more of a mesomorphic frame or Pitta in Ayurveda (medium height, good musculature and intolerant to heat), eat every 3-4 hours or up to 4 meals per day. Much like the Vata body type, start small, have your largest meal at lunch, and try to have a moderate to small dinner in the evening, or about 3 hours before you go to bed. Favor foods which are equally high in carbs and protein, such as well cooked beans, fruit and pastas, but make sure you eat enough. Generally people with this body type have a very strong metabolism, and if aren’t fed properly, can wind up ‘hangry’ (angry because you’re hungry).

  3. If you have more of an endomorphic frame, or Kapha in Ayurveda (solid, perhaps stocky build, strong stamina and well developed muscle), eat every 4-5 hours or up to 3 times per day, again favoring your biggest meal at lunch. Since the Kapha body type tends to have more adipose than Vata and Pitta, it’s ideal to eat more light proteins, such as fish or plant-based protein than heavy meat protein, and to limit your carbohydrate intake, unless you are training for a serious triathlon!

You can learn more about Vata, Pitta and Kapha at www.dailyveda.com

Deacon founded Daily Veda after working in Global Advertising for 16 yrs. He practices yoga, runs and promotes healthy living through natural eating and Ayurvedic medicine. His Veda Bars are AMAZING. Best tasting bar ever and you can pronounce all the ingredients! He’s a wealth of knowledge and fun.