Carbs can help you lose weight

Over the last few years I hear a lot of my clients tell me they are going on a “no carb diet”. When asked what they mean a lot of them can’t tell me. When asked why they say because of weight loss. I’m often not surprised because it seems to be a consistent trend that is not going away any time soon. It concerns me because year after year more people seem to go on a no carb diet but yet the obesity rate keeps rising.

Something seems fishy. If a no or low carb diet really worked especially over the long term then why are we still obese. Further more why does it seem all my loved ones have an attitude when they aren’t eating carbs.

Well to answer my own question, I had it take it back to my undergrad training. So here we go.

What are carbs? Carbohydrates are a macronutrient (big nutrient). Meaning it is a nutrient designed to give our bodies energy. Every organ and cell in our body in some mechanism uses carbohydrates to help us operate. Functions such as thinking, blinking, heart beating etc. When the body does not have carbohydrates it uses other macronutrients (proteins and fats…we’ll discuss these in another post) to give it energy. The body will do everything it can to survive using protein and fat as fuel. However it’s preferred source is carbohydrates.

Carbohydrate is the only nutrient that affects your blood sugar levels dramatically. So when we go on a low or no carb diet we get moody because our blood sugar levels are low which directly affect energy. We become HANGRY. I always think of the snickers commercial for this!

women-laughing-alone-with-salad-71.jpg

Now, certain types of carbohydrates have the ability to be immediately stored vs. used for energy. Meaning that if we’re eating the wrong types of carbs then instead of our body using it for energy it will automatically store it for future use adding to our weight.

There are two types of carbohydrates. Simple and Complex. Simple carbs are foods such as cookies, doughnuts, white rice, white pasta, table and brown sugar, juice, etc. Complex carbohydrates are foods such as fruit (with skin and fiber), fiber, whole grain pasta, whole grain rice, etc. Simple carbohydrates do not need to be broken down in your body. So if you are low on energy then eating a cookie will immediately “bring you back to life” but you will be hungry again 10 mins. later. Complex carbohydrates have more vitamins and minerals in them and need your body to break it down for use. So when you eat complex carbs you feel more full and satisfied and your body uses every nutrient vs. storing it.

Now for initial weight loss it’s not a bad idea to lower your overall carbohydrate intake for about a week. I tried a low carbohydrate diet but quickly switched to just eliminating simple sugars. After a while I realized I didn’t crave sugar as much.

So what is considered no or low carb anyway? Well typically we eat about 60-75grams of carbohydrates per meal. An easy way to measure carbohydrates is in 15 grams increments. 1 slice of bread is 15 grams. We need about 50% of our total diet to come from carbohydrates. I know it’s a lot of math. But basically by the standard of a typical low carb diet if we are cutting our carb intake to 45 grams per day or lower (not per meal) we essentially are starving ourselves. We are moody, hangry and still obese!

It’s not worth the risk we put our bodies through to lose weight. There is another way. Eat the right carbohydrates. Good nutrition and weight management means working with your body, not against it. We must consider our diet in totality vs. nutrient by nutrient. There are so many factors that affect our weight that we are doing our bodies a disservice by attacking weight loss with quick fixes that can have negative long lasting affects. A diet that includes complex carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats will start and keep you on your way to a healthy weight.

Let me know what you think. Have you ever been on a low carb diet? If so, what were the results and how did you feel?