Carbohydrates are one of the three major nutrients for maintaining your body’s functions. However, eating too many bad carbs can make you fat and may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.
For a long time, most doctors and nutritionists have always recommended a low-fat, low-calorie and relatively high-carbohydrate diet for weight loss.
With this kind of diet plan, your three meals a day can look like this:
- Breakfast: a bowl of oatmeal, a banana or a few slices of apples, an egg
- Lunch: a piece of chicken, two slices of whole wheat bread, a small plate of vegetable salad
- Dinner: a fish filet or a piece of ham, a small plate of boiled vegetables
Looks pretty good, right? You can definitely lose weight by eating this way over time because the calories you consume throughout the day are likely to be lower than the calories you burn.
The only problem is that you are more likely to be hungry all the time.
This is not only because these foods are low in calories, but more importantly, your body will digest the food more quickly.
If your diet does not contain a lot of fat and fiber, to slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the food, there is a high probability that your blood sugar will go up and then go down.
When your blood sugar goes down, you get hungry again.
To lose weight, you must grit your teeth and endure not eating. However, your brain is constantly thinking about snacks and the next meal.
How long do you think you can hold on?
When you can’t stand the temptation of food and hunger, what awaits you may be binge eating.
Well, you may say that you have strong perseverance and self-discipline and you are up to long-term dieting.
However, another thing you may not be aware of is that your metabolism is slowing down. As a result, it’s going to be harder and harder to drop pounds.
Over time, you may fall into a more serious condition like anorexia. Is it really worth it?
For many people who want to rely on diet to reduce weight, the above is their common experience.
So, can you eat carbs when you follow a weight loss diet plan?
In this article, we will discuss whether carbohydrates are really bad for you and whether they actually make you fat.
Does Your Body Need Carbohydrates?
As we all know, the energy required by the human body to maintain normal physiological functions and daily activities mainly comes from food.
Carbohydrates, protein and fat are the three main nutrients that provide energy.
Among them, the key role of carbs includes:
- Powering your heart, brain and other organs.
- Your body converts excess carbohydrates into stored energy in the form of glycogen for emergency needs.
- Dietary fiber (a type of carbohydrate) can promote intestinal and heart health to help control blood sugar.
Therefore, we can see that carbohydrates play a role in several important physiological processes.
However, in the absence of carbs, your body does have other ways to maintain normal functions.
In fact, your body’s most stored energy is not glycogen but triglyceride molecules stored in fat cells.
Most of the time, your brain uses glucose almost exclusively as fuel. However, during prolonged hunger or a low-carbohydrate diet, your brain converts its main fuel source from glucose to ketone bodies. [*]
When you limit your carb intake, the fatty acids in your body break down into ketone bodies to replace glucose in order to provide energy.
Although your brain can use ketones as fuel, one-third of its energy still needs glucose. This glucose can be obtained through the process of gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis is the process of converting non-carbohydrates (lactic acid, pyruvate, glycerol, sugar-producing amino acids, etc.) into glucose. [*]
From this point of view, although carbohydrates are an important nutrient, they are not essential.
Do Carbs Make You Fat?
The truth is that carbohydrates don’t make you gain weight immediately.
However, many high-carb foods are also high in calories.
Foods like sugary drinks, pizza, cakes, ice cream and various desserts only have very few nutrients. In most cases, these are just empty calories.
Unless they are rich in fiber, high-carb foods will be quickly digested and absorbed.
Especially refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, rice, pasta or white bread, can cause blood sugar fluctuations and can lead to hunger or food cravings.
In addition, when blood sugar rises, the pancreas produces insulin to control blood sugar levels.
Insulin is a fat-storage hormone.
Thus, the more insulin in the blood, the more your body converts carbs into fat. Most of this fat is stored in your buttocks, thighs and abdomen.
If you continue to eat a lot of carbohydrates, then the high insulin levels will reduce your body’s ability to burn fat.
Long-term high-sugar and high-carb diets can also lead to insulin resistance.
When you experience insulin resistance, not only are your cells unable to effectively use insulin to obtain nutrients, but your body may also develop metabolic diseases such as prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
1. Sugar burner
People who eat high-carb diets for a long time are like “sugar burners” themselves.
Their bodies are used to burning carbohydrates for energy, and always relying on carbs to maintain energy growth.
Therefore, it is difficult for them to burn the fat stored in their bodies
In other words, the fat in their bodies has almost no chance to be used and burned.
2. Fat Burner
When you eat fewer carbohydrates, your body will slowly become a “fat burner”.
In fact, your body first uses glucose as fuel. When the carbs in your diet cannot provide enough energy, your body begins to burn stored fat. This is when your weight loss starts.
How Many Carbohydrates Should You Eat?
According to your individual circumstances, how many carbs you should eat varies from person to person, depending on things like lifestyle, activity level, eating habits and body makeup.
- If you want to maintain your weight, 100-150 grams of carbs per day is an appropriate amount.
- A daily intake of 50-100 grams of carbs can help you lose weight gradually.
- If you want to lose weight fast, then you need to strictly limit the carbs to less than 50 grams a day.
While considering how many carbohydrates you should eat, it is more important to pay attention to what you eat (the quality of carbs).
There are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs.
Good carbs can increase your satiety and are beneficial for your health. Bad carbs may enhance your appetite. The result is that the more you eat, the fatter you get.
Good carbs include:
- High-fiber foods: lentils, brown rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes, figs, potatoes, pumpkins, avocados
- Low-carb fruits and vegetables: green leafy vegetables, broccoli, bell peppers, berries (including blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries), carambola, citrus
Bad carbs include:
- Refined carbohydrates: white rice, white flour, white bread, cakes, biscuits, ice cream, juice, carbonated drinks
- Processed foods: sausages, canned food, semi-finished foods, ready-to-eat foods, potato chips and other snacks
The nutritional components in diets also have a great influence on body weight.
You should eat more foods rich in healthy fats, protein and dietary fiber. These foods can slow down your digestion and can prevent sharp fluctuations in blood sugar.
Carbohydrates are one of the three major nutrients for maintaining your body’s functions. However, eating them incorrectly can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.
Long-term high-carb eating habits can prevent your body from burning stored fat while excess carbohydrates promote fat accumulation.
Other than exercising regularly, the best way to reduce weight and promote health is by eating more “good” carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. These foods can help reduce appetite and calories.
At the same time, stay away from refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Such foods can cause blood sugar fluctuations and even lead to insulin resistance.
At last, the key to healthy weight loss is a healthy and balanced diet.