Reducing carb intake is not a new diet concept, in fact it has been an effective means of treating specific illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Lately though ‘no carb diets’ or extremely ‘low carb diets’ have become a popular tool for weight loss. It is not that surprising as people often notice results fairly quickly, but at what cost?
Firstly, not all carbohydrates are the same (did you know most vegetables are packed full of carbohydrates?). There are three kinds of carbohydrates, starch, sugar and fibre. But if you are thinking about cutting carbs out of your diet then there are two types of carbs that need to be considered. There are the complex carbs and there are the simple carbs.
Simple Carbs These are the weight gaining culprit carbohydrates found in highly processed foods and foods containing high amounts of natural or added sugars. Examples of simple carbs include:
- White flour
- Most breads and pastas
- Pastries, cakes and cookies
- Fruit Juices (Yes, even 100% juice!)
Complex Carbs These are the good carbs, the ones that should be making up a large portion of your daily food intake. They include things like:
- Whole wheat flours and breads
- Whole wheat pastas
- Brown rice
- Lentils and beans
- Most vegetables.
Secondly, there is a reason why carbohydrates are advised to make up between 45% – 65% of your daily food intake. Carbohydrates play an important role in energy production that is not only needed to get you out and about exercising, but also to to provide yourself with the fuel needed to build, repair and maintain your body’s cells.
How Does The Body Use Carbohydrates?
When we digest carbohydrates, the body converts them into glucose which is the energy source used to jog along the beach, sprint a thousand meters, hike up a mountain or just to go for a leisurely stroll. The body stores this glucose as glycogen and then uses it in its basic maintenance and building functions. So every time you go for a jog, or pump some iron or even do basic housework, you are using and building muscles that have been built using the fuel provided by carbs.
For those athletes out there who are continuously pushing yourselves to become stronger, faster or bulk up, then you know for each muscle fibre you stress or tear, you will need protein material to replace it, and you will need glycogen to fuel this process. When we consume too many simple carbs we get a massive hit of glycogen and if it isn’t used as fuel it is stored as fat.
What makes low carb diets popular is that when we starve our body of carbohydrates we use these fat stores as the energy needed to rebuild and repair, however these fat stores don’t provide us with the energy needed to get off our butts and get running.
You Want To Lose Weight And Keep It Off?
The simple fact is if you want to lose weight and keep it off then starving yourself just isn’t going to cut it. You might notice that you lose weight initially, but it’s not sustainable and it is likely doing you damage!
The key is to find a healthy balance between diet and exercise.
The problem is many people make this plan, but then reduce their carbohydrate intake right down and wonder why they don’t have the energy or motivation to get up and go for a run or hit the gym.
Most weight that is lost quickly through diet alone, returns with vengeance as soon as the diet is forgotten. However if you are exercising and keeping fit as well as eating a healthy balanced diet, then you are much more likely to sustain your weight loss and maintain a healthy body weight.
So my advice? Stay clear of those simple carbs and embrace those complex carbs. The truth is, not only are they better for you, and provide you with longer lasting energy, they also keep you feeling fuller for longer!