The poor carbohydrate, it gets such a bad rap! Now, before you roll your eyes, or remind me of all the stories about people losing weight by cutting out carbs, hear me out on the subject…
Can drastically cutting carbohydrates help to lose weight? Sure, just like other diets, cutting out a bigger source of calories than you take in can mean successfully losing weight. But are carbs the reason behind weight gain as so many have implied? Not really, and here is why.
Wait…first I want to digress and take a look at the carbohydrate and why it is so important to our diet. (For more on this, read our ebook on the 7 Myths About Weight Loss and the Top Proven Strategies to Overcome Them.)
The Mighty Carb
Put simply, when we consume carbohydrates our bodies break them down into glucose. Glucose really has one major role and that is to supply energy for our body. It is the body’s primary fuel for most of its cells. It is highly important to the brain, red blood cells, nervous system, and for those pregnant – the fetus and placenta. In fact, virtually the only fuel used by your brain is glucose!
To be quite succinct, without enough carbs to make enough glucose, our energy levels wane, brain function slows, and our nervous system and ability to fight disease gets impaired.
But you’d rather burn more fat than carbs you say!
Well, the fact is that when fat is burned for a source of energy, it needs a small amount of glucose to break it down. So, you need carbs to make glucose to burn fat.
There is a ton of misinformation out there that fat and protein can easily be used as a source of energy – directly, they cannot. The ultimate fuel source is glucose (more specifically glycogen). The process of converting fat and protein to glycogen is a costly process for your body, and degrades muscle in the process. Finally, muscles are made of protein, but built by carbs (and resistance!)
Okay back to carbs being the cause of weight gain…
Let’s be honest, carbs are not the bad ones here. Good sources of carbs provide excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and dietary fiber that our body needs to stay healthy and lower the risk of disease. High nutrient foods with carbs include:
- Whole Grains
Even the bad carbs in small amounts aren’t necessarily the culprits of weight gain, though certainly they need to be limited. You know what they are…candy, sugary desserts, sodas, etc.
Barring a medical problem, weight gain is an accumulation, over time, of eating too much…period. The “wrong foods” make this worse as they are usually higher calorie. Couple that with a sedentary lifestyle — not getting enough exercise/movement — and of course any food can cause issues. So, let’s stop blaming carbs and be sure we are eating a healthy balanced diet and getting an adequate amount of exercise.
All this said, carbohydrates should make up 45 to 65 percent of the total amount of calories you eat each day. These are essential to your diet!