It’s commonly accepted today that carbohydrates and weight gain are very much correlated but why is it so? Are carbohydrates “bad” for us?
We have always been taught to eat foods such as cereal, pasta, bread and potatoes for energy, but why are many countries trying to deal with an obesity epidemic?
To understand this we need to look at what carbohydrates actually are and how they react in the body.
It’s All About The Macros..
There are 3 main ways that the body obtains its energy and these are carbohydrates, fat and protein, otherwise known as macronutrients and the body needs large amounts of these to function properly.
The energy from these macronutrients is measured in calories and for the average person just to maintain their weight, a female would need to consume around 2,000 calories and a male 2,500, regardless of the type of macro (IE Fat, Protein, or carb) consumed.
Consuming below that amount should, in theory, make for weight loss and consuming anything above that amount would account for weight gain, right?
Sounds pretty good in theory…
Where Are Carbohydrates Found?
There are two major types of carbohydrates and they are slightly different in their chemical makeup. These two types are known as “simple” and “complex.”
Simple carbohydrates can be defined as having one or two sugars in them. Examples of these are:
- Fructose: Found in fruit.
- Galactose: Milk products
- Sucrose: Table sugar
- Maltose: Found in beer and other vegetables
- Lactose: Dairy
Simple carbs account for most of the heavily refined sugars that end up being added to many sweet foods, such as cake, candy and soft drinks. These types of sugars usually do not contain any vitamins, minerals or fiber and basically just add empty calories to your diet.
Complex carbohydrates are referred to as starchy foods and contain 3 or more sugars andinclude:
- Whole grain breads
How Do Carbohydrates Work?
Carbohydrates are usually the first source of energy for the body as they are the easiest and quickest to process and can quickly enter the blood stream in the form of glucose. This raises the blood sugar level and unless you are diabetic, will signal insulin to be produced to allow this glucose to be used as energy.
If this energy is not used, it is stored as glycogen in the liver and skeletal muscle, which can store around 2,000 calories worth for the average person.
Once the storage of glycogen is at its capacity, then the body will store the excess as fat. If you continue to eat an excessive amount of carbs, your body will always prioritize burning the carbs first and not the fat stores as its energy source and over time you will continue to put weight on.
So…. Are Carbs “Bad” Then??
It really depends on the food you are eating and the type of carb. It is generally considered that foods that contain simple carbs are “bad” because they are highly processed and contain very little (if any) real nutritional value. They basically just raise your blood sugar quite quickly and can easily lead you to exceeding your daily calorie intake goal and putting on weight.
The “good” carbs are found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. These are processed much slower and are usually much higher in nutrients and have less additives.
As a general rule, you should try and avoid simple carbs as much as you can.
Think About What You Eat
If you have followed any of my prior posts, you will see that I am an advocate for the Keto diet, which turns the body from a sugar burning machine to a fat burning machine. I can’t say that I will be on this diet for life, but so far I have lost a lot of weight and I am feeling good about it.
If you are of a healthy weight, it’s unlikely that you will need to go to such measures, but if you do find that you are putting weight on, its worth looking at your carb consumption.
Carbohydrates get a pretty bad rap these days and are blamed for weight gain, however, if you can have some control over the quality and quantity of the carbs that you are consuming, there is no reason why you cannot incorporate complex carbohydrates as part of your normal eating habits to make for a more balanced diet.