When discussing the topic of weight or fat loss, you will always hear the word ‘carbs’, and it will often be referred to in a negative way. Much of this is down to the low carb craze and short-term success of diets such as the Atkins, Dukan or South Beach.
The aim of this post is not to bash the low carb diets described above as they do actually teach you a few things, but more to clear up the confusion and take a look into the role of carbohydrates, so you have a better understanding of their role within the body and can then make an educated decision for yourselves, rather than follow what’s in fashion at the time.
Let’s start by clearing up that not all carbs are the same. The type and quantity in our diets is what is of most importance. We would all benefit from reducing the amount of sugar in our diets, which I’m sure most people are aware of, but if the bulk of carbohydrates you consume are made up of sugar, then it’s not necessarily carbs that are the problem, it’s more to do with the quality of the source. For example, fibre is beneficial to our health and can be found in many wholegrain versions of carbs, but you wont find much in a piece of candy. So if we understood more about the health benefits of carbohydrates, we could actually use them to help us lose and/or manage weight.
So what are carbs?
Carbohydrates are a source of energy. When eaten, the body converts most carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), which is then used to fuel our brain and muscles. Carbs are one of the three main macronutrients in our food – the others being protein and fat. There are also three types of carbohydrate; sugar, starch and fibre.
Sugar is found naturally in some food such as fruit, juices and milk. In many cases, sugar is added to food such as sweets, chocolate and soft drinks.
Starch is found in food that comes from plants. Foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta fall into this category and can provide a steady release of energy throughout the day.
Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants. Used to maintain healthy bowels and fight diseases, good sources of fibre include vegetables and pulses.
As you can see, there are many health benefits to carbohydrates, but carbs are also the bodies preferred source of energy.
Should I cut Carbs?
We can certainly survive without sugar but it would be very difficult to completely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. In the absence of carbs, the body will use protein and fat for energy, this can be both detrimental to health and your goals, but also a clever way to achieve the results, I feel this is where the confusion lies.
Do we completely cut carbs from our clients’ diets? NO
Have we seen good results from lowering the intake of carbs? YES
So what is the answer?
There isn’t one, because you can achieve great fat loss results with carbs in your diet, just as you can by reducing them. It’s down to the coach to make a decision based on what the client wants to achieve, how much time they have, but most importantly, without any detrimental effect to their health. Low carb diets come with side effects; lack of nutrients, lack of energy, headaches, weakness, dehydration, so if used, we would only suggest it be short term and in the safest way possible. You would be better of limiting the amount of sugary foods and including healthier sources of carbohydrates in your diet, but the reality is people are impatient. The demand for fast results is high and with that comes a drastic approach, that’s why we spend a lot of time educating our clients outside of the gym, so they can make the right decisions.
Do carbs make you fat?
Any food can be fattening if you overeat. When people cut out carbs and lose weight, it’s normally because they’re cutting out the high calorie ingredients often mixed in with them; butter, cream, cheese, sugar and oil. Eating too many calories, whether they are carbs, protein or fat, will contribute to weight gain. To maintain a healthy weight, we advise clients to cut out sugary foods in favour of natural whole foods, whilst keeping a watchful eye on portion size.
Cutting out wheat!
Many people point to bread and wheat based foods as the reason for their weight gain. That would be because wheat is found in a range of foods from pizza to cereals, however there is no evidence that points to wheat as the reason to cause weight gain anymore than other food. The point is, if you consume more than you need, regardless of what it is, you will put on weight, and while we are on the subject, unless you have a diagnosed condition such as a wheat allergy or coeliac disease, there is little evidence to show that cutting out wheat and other grains from your diet would benefit your health.
When is the best time to eat carbs?
Timing and carbohydrates, particularly for weight and/or fat loss is the subject of much debate. There is little evidence to show that a certain time is much better than another, however its always worth trying a few variations until you find something that works for you. Our nutrition plans teach different methods on how to eat whilst following a training plan. As I mentioned before, the key is to educate the client on the options available, but at the end of the day, we want them to be in a position where they can make their own decisions, maintain good health, and continue progressing, long after they leave Onpoint.
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