Carbs are okay!
I don’t believe that anyone basing their food judgement purely on taste can say they hate ‘carbs’.
Bread, rice, oats, pasta, potatoes, fruit, cake, biscuits- basically the whole inventory at the bakery- are all sources of carbohydrates. My guess is that most people would eat them all if they were basing their choices purely on what they wanted and what they liked the taste of.
I would say that the majority of my clients who have come to me for nutrition advice have all had the same idea “carbs are bad”. They have cut out all of the bread and rice in their diet, and saying the word ‘pasta’ is almost blasphemy! The reason they have cut out these foods is always because they have heard that they are unhealthy and they make you gain fat, which as a result, carbohydrates have been given a bad reputation. This view is especially common in the health and fitness industry. Diets like ‘Atkins’, the ‘paleo’ diet, and general ‘cutting out carbs’ have associated carbohydrates with weight gain, resulting in the negative stigma of any carbohydrate-based food.
When I have introduced my clients to their new food plan (reintroducing bread, or rice, etc), their first reaction is almost always the same. Instead of disbelief or fear, there is usually a lot of joy, as if they finally have been given permission to eat something that they obviously want, and that I have included this into their food plan because I believe it will help them achieve their goal.
So carbs are okay. Let me explain the role of carbohydrates, and then I will explain why these low-carbohydrate diets have become the go-to for weight loss.
Carbohydrates are your whole body’s go-to source of energy. It uses broken down carbohydrates called “glucose” as its primary source of energy. Glucose fuels your muscles allowing you to walk, run or complete any day-to-day activity. It provides energy to all your body systems allowing you your body to function, but most importantly, glucose fuels your brain. In fact, the brain can only use glucose as an energy source, so without it, you could not function. , Therefore, with an adequate amount of carbohydrates in your diet, you could potentially be alert and energetic all day, fueling your metabolism and motivation to train.
When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down by your digestive system into their basic form “glucose”, The glucose is then released into the bloodstream to be transported to all the body systems it needs to fuel. Any extra glucose that isn’t needed immediately is stored in your muscles and liver. The glucose that is stored is called glycogen. It is only when you OVER eat the amount of carbohydrates that your body can store, that they are converted and stored as fat. The liver can store about 100g of glycogen, and your muscles can store about 400g. So as long as you aren’t exceeding this amount in your body, you are not storing additional fat from the carbohydrates in your diet.
When switching to a low-carb diet, people generally lose a good couple of kilos very quickly. The main reason for this how glycogen is stored. Each gram of glycogen needs 3-4 grams of water for storage.
So during day to day activity when no glucose is available your body will use the glycogen stores. – Each gram of glycogen that is used for energy (and lost) is associated with its 3-4 grams of water storage. So in actual fact, that initial 3kg weight loss could be 500g of glycogen, 2kg of water from glycogen, 500g of water that you sweated out during that extra cardio session, and no grams of fat loss!
If your reason for cutting the carbs is to lose fat, then this isn’t ideal. Especially with the sacrifice of tasty carbohydrate foods, and putting up with the lack of energy, weakness, and headaches you (and possibly your partner) might have had to put up with. It is important to remember that when reintroducing carbohydrates back into your diet, you will also reintroduce water for the glycogen storage. This will result with an initial increase on the scales. But remember, this isn’t fat gain, it’s just water. If its fat loss you’re after, diet is everything, and it’s important that you do it right. I’m not saying that the ‘paleo’ diet, or less carbs in your diet is a bad thing; just that it all comes back down to balance. No one should have to sacrifice foods that they like without good reason!
Jess is a qualified Nutritionist and Personal Trainer at South Pacific Health Clubs St Kilda. She competes at a high level in both CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting and, as a nutritionist; she specializes in realistic lifestyle nutrition as well as balancing nutrition alongside training. For more info contact Jessica on [email protected]