Pistachios have one of the highest dietary fiber counts of any nut. Pistachios are stacked with protein, specifically the amino acid arginine, a pre-curser to nitric oxide, a vasodilator which may mean better blood flow during exercise. Pistachios are loaded with heart-healthy unsaturated fat which has been proven to reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.
Pistachios also have about half the calories of other nuts. Perhaps most importantly to this particular diet, they are extremely low on the glycemix index. Finally, pistachios usually come with the shell on so which discourages you from eating too many and the empty shells serve as a visual reminder of how much you have eaten. To top it all off, you even burn some calories in the process of un-shelling.
The idea that cutting out 500 calories a day for one week will result in the loss of one pound does not work for a serious athlete like a cyclist.
The Pistachio Diet is not so much about how much you consume but about how your body reacts to the types of food you eat. A finely tuned cyclist’s body has a very different ways of processing 500 calories of sugar than 500 calories of protein. If you were to consume 500 calories of table sugar or a simple carbohydrate such as white rice, white potato or white bread, the insulin response is triggered. Any sugar that is not immediately used will be stored as fat.
However, foods like pistachios which are high in fiber, protein and fat trigger almost no insulin response, therefore excess calories are less likely to be converted into fat. In addition, cyclists’ bodies are finely tuned and tend to adjust quickly to adjustments in caloric intake. Reduce calories by 500 and the body slows down its metabolism and burns 550 less calories. A pre-historic safety valve for preventing starvation.
Pistachios, nuts and other protein rich foods are an important part of this plan, but the thing I found lacking in the other diets was a good recommendation for carbohydrates. Cyclists need to eat lots of carbs and, in general, they should not deprive themselves in this department. By choosing the right carbohydrates you can actually consume fewer calories and have more energy—and even lose weight, if that is your goal.
Stick to carbohydrates that are very low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) is a scale used to measure the body’s insulin response to different types of food. In the above example, white bread or sugar would have a very high glycemic value, whereas the glycemic value of a pistachio is almost nonexistent.
Foods that are low on the GI have the added advantage of serving as long-lasting energy sources. We’ve all experienced the post-sugar-rush bonk after eating a bowl of white rice or a gel. You get that quick burst of energy, but very shortly the sugar is used up and the fuel gauge goes to empty. Quick-burning, simple carbohydrates are important for short efforts, but for a longer lasting source of energy, choose foods that are low on the GI.