5 Reasons Why Carbs Aren't The Enemy

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

Worried about eating Carbohydrates? The Macronutrient has left many people confused when it comes to our health, especially surrounding the topic of weight loss. Carbs have previously been branded as "bad" and in this post we discuss why carbs shouldn't be the enemy.



WHAT ARE CARBS?


Formally known as carbohydrates, carbs are one of the three macronutrients alongside proteins and fats that form the large proportion of our diet. Carbohydrates are split into two main categories, simple and complex carbs. Starch and fibre are examples of complex carbs while sugar is a simple carbohydrate. It is rare that a food will contain a single nutrient. This means that most foods will contain various amounts of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.


The Eatwell Guide (Government's Healthy Eating Advice) recommends that around one third of your diet should be made up of starchy carbohydrates. This includes foods such as rice, bread, potatoes and pasta. Does this sound more than expected? If carbs are "bad" then why should you be eating them?


1 - ENERGY


Carbohydrates are the bodies main source of energy when eating a healthy and balanced diet.


Once digested carbs are broken down into glucose. It's glucose that is used by the body for energy and therefore fuels any activities you do.


Any unused glucose is then converted into glycogen which is stored in the liver or muscles.


If there is more glycogen than can be stored, it is then converted into fat for long-term storage of energy.


While carbohydrates, fats and proteins are all sources of energy. The energy produced varies per macronutrient. Carbohydrate provides about 4 calories per gram. Protein provides 4 calories per gram. Fat provides 9 calories per gram.


Despite fat burning more calories per gram, when broken down it turns into fatty acids in order to be used as energy. During exercise muscles have a limited amount of glycogen stores. Therefore having a low amount of carbohydrates in your diet could result in a lack of energy during exercise. This can create early fatigue and delayed recovery.



2 - CARBS MAKE YOU FAT


Carbohydrates themselves do not make you fat. Any food if eaten too much can cause weight gain. You gain weight by consuming more calories than what your body uses on a regular basis.


As a direct comparison, carbohydrates contain less calories per gram than fat. As previously mentioned, carbohydrates contain only 4 calories per gram compared to 9 calories per gram in fats.


It's the type, quality and quantity of carbohydrates that's the important contributing factor regarding weight gain and increased fat.


The glycaemic index (GI) can be used to see how quickly certain carbohydrates affect your blood sugar levels. Although the GI index is not a reliable method in deciding which foods are healthy, it can help give you a better understanding on making healthier food choices and create a balanced diet.


Replacing fatty or sugary food and drinks with higher fibre starchy alternatives will reduce the calorie intake and reduce the likelihood of weight gain.

3 - DISEASE RISK


Low carb diets have been commonly recommended for health. With regards to weight loss, research suggests that this can be effectively achieved with either macronutrient. Most weight loss occurs through a calorie deficit where your body burns more calories than what is consumed. Therefore you shouldn't need to limit carbs to lose weight.


There is little evidence which suggests that low carb diets are more effective than other types of diets when discussing type 2 diabetes. Possible side effects of a low carb diet can be hypoglycaemia.


Reducing your carbohydrates makes it difficult to intake enough fibre. High fibre is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, bowl cancer and type 2 diabetes.


Replacing carbs with higher intake of protein and fats increase the intake of saturated fat. This increases the risk of heart disease due to the increase in cholesterol.


Significantly limiting your carbohydrate intake over a long duration means it's not a balanced diet. This limits your ability to get the right nutrients your body needs. This can potentially lead to many health problems.



4 - PRESERVING MUSCLE MASS


Having adequate carbohydrates in your diet prevents the body from using protein as an energy source. Protein in the diet is then utilised in maintaining and building muscle mass, repairing body tissues and synthesise hormones and enzymes. In doing so increases muscles mass and muscle mass retention.


5 - SUPPORTS FAT METABOLISM


Carbohydrates have been seen as the enemy, especially around fat loss. To burn fat effectively however, your body must break down a certain amount of carbohydrate. There are less glycogen stores than there are fat stores (adipose tissue) within the body. Therefore consuming inadequate carbohydrates essentially limits the capacity for fat metabolism.


FINAL NOTE


Hopefully you can now start to understand that carbohydrates play an important role within the body. From risk of disease to energy intake it's clear that you shouldn't brand carbs as your food nemesis. As with any macronutrient balance is vital in creating a healthier lifestyle.


Are you worried about what your diet looks like? For further information surrounding popular unhealthy diets then check my Fad Diets post on social media.


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