It is widely known that carbohydrates are seen as detrimental to health and weight management. When you open Instagram, numerous fitness professionals are touting the benefits of a low-carbohydrate eating regimen.
Many studies on the matter have consistently disproved these assertions without any scientific evidence. In fact, the very opposite is true. It is important to ensure that your diet is composed of all three of the main food groups in order to be nutritionally balanced. Approximately half of the total calories consumed each day come from carbohydrates.
What Are Carbohydrates?
In regard to food, ‘carbs’ or carbohydrates constitute one of the three major nutrients along with proteins and fats. Carbohydrates are called “vital nourishment”, which means the body cannot work without them. They are also termed as the ‘energy-yielding nutrients’.
There are three major forms of carbohydrates, such as starches, fiber, and sugars. These are important dietary components that your body changes into sugar in order to provide you with the strength to perform.
Starches are generally referred to as complex carbohydrates. Fruits, whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn are all sources of them.
Simple carbohydrates are sometimes known as sugars. They exist naturally in vegetables, fruits, honey, and milk. Specifically, processed foods, desserts, beverages with sugar, and syrups contain sugar in addition to what is naturally there.
Dietary carbohydrates also contain some amount of fiber. Despite humans being unable to process fiber, certain types of bacteria within the gut are capable of breaking them down.
Fiber is unique in that it does not contribute significantly to caloric intake but is still essential for general well-being. This food doesn’t supply energy instantly, but it does nourish the good bacteria in the gut, which can convert the fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which certain cells can use for energy.
The main purpose of carbohydrates in our diet is to give energy to our bodies. A large majority of carbohydrates are converted or changed into glucose, which the body utilizes as energy. Any extra energy is turned into fat, functioning as a source of stored energy in the future. An overabundance of proteins and lipids will transform into and be held as body fat.
The form of any carbohydrate and how rapidly the body digests it decides if the food consumed is a complex or simple carb.
The ingestion of complex carbohydrates results in fewer changes in blood sugar levels. In addition, these carbohydrates provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed for the body to work properly.
Occasionally, these carbs are referred to as “complete” or “unprocessed” carbs. The opposite is true for refined carbs, which are in a processed form and have had either their natural fiber taken away or altered.
Carbohydrates can be found in a range of food sources, such as vegetables, quinoa, legumes, cereals, barley, and potatoes. Simultaneously, processed carbohydrates are found in white bread, donuts, soda, and other edibles manufactured with white flour.
Consuming foods with a high degree of refinement can cause a rapid rise in blood glucose, which may then rapidly crash and result in feelings of hunger and intense food yearnings. One should try to minimize the amount of added sugars they consume since they are linked to long-term illnesses.
Low Carbohydrate Diet
One should not regard all foods that contain carbohydrates in a negative light since not all of them will have the same health risks as processed simple items.
There is enough proof from research indicating that eating whole grains in comparison to processed grains can help prevent obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Whole grains are an outstanding way to get dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, beneficial fats, and plant enzymes into your diet.
No matter what these diet plans promise, there is not usually any scientific proof that proves that low-carbohydrate diets are better than any other diets when it comes to sustained weight loss.
A study published in The Nutritional Journal found that regardless of the exact balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the diet if physical activity was part of the plan, obese women saw marked reductions in their weight and waistlines.
Conversely, a 2018 study published in the journal Nutrients showed that high-carb diets can lead to decreased body weight, body fat, and better insulin function in people who are overweight.
Researchers at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine carried out a randomized clinical trial that ran for 16 weeks; they looked at folk on a high-carb, plant-derived diet compared to a group of non-intervened participants. The control group was encouraged to keep up with their regular dietary habits.
The individuals in the high-carbohydrate group were not only less overall in body weight but also had lower body fat mass. There was no muscle loss and they got healthier.
It should be noted that there were no limits imposed on the number of calories consumed by either group. The control group kept to their regular diets that featured more fats and proteins. Also, neither group altered their exercise routines.
It is important to recognize that the carbohydrates consumed in the dietary plan mentioned earlier prominently comprised starches and fiber. Any type of transformed sugar is not beneficial for the body.
Eating sugary, deep-fried donuts does not result in weight loss since they contain high levels of carbohydrates. However, losing weight can be achieved through consuming baked potatoes, rice, and pasta.
It is not the amount of carbs consumed that matters most, but rather the KIND of carbs eaten.
How Many Carbs Should You Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?
Folks who are in the bodybuilding industry are aware that carbohydrates and proteins possess a caloric value of 4 per gram and fats have a value of 9 per gram. But not all carbs are 4 calories. Starches contain two calories per gram, while fiber can have a caloric value of somewhere between one and three calories per gram. You might be consuming fewer calories than you realize when on a high-carb diet.
Various organizations suggest distinct daily intakes of carbs. Various components including your age, gender, pre-existing medical circumstances, exercise regimen, and desired weight outcomes influence the correct daily caloric intake for you. It is best to ensure that your total caloric intake contains somewhere between 50-65% of your total calories.
This means that someone on a 2000 calorie daily diet should consume somewhere between 250-350 grams of carbohydrates. Including some extra fiber in your diet is acceptable, as it neither adds body weight nor provides any extra calories.
Consider this; increasing your intake of carbohydrates corresponds to a decrease in fatty, calorie-dense foods and refined proteins.
How a Plant- Based OR Vegan Diet Helps.
A vegan diet consists of an abundance of carbohydrates that are high in fiber and starch. If you opt for a whole-food plant-based diet, your vegan ‘protein’ will come from pulses and lentils, which are already loaded with fibre and starches. Additionally, you will be avoiding any processed grains or oils, which don’t offer the most nourishment.
A plant-based diet can help protect against a range of health issues, such as obesity, heart problems, cancer, and stroke. This device provides all necessary nutrients for the day, including lots of fiber, protein, and calcium.
Low Carbs Are Not Better for Fat Loss
The argument appears to be irrefutable and attractive: Eating more carbohydrates increases insulin production, which then causes putting on fat. Maintaining a low carbohydrate intake can help maintain insulin levels, enabling you to achieve a lean figure without much effort while consuming delicious meals like chicken wings, salmon, eggs, and butter.
Many people who start a low-carb diet observe an early reduction in weight, however, this is mostly from water and stored glycogen. It appears that, in the immediate future, low-carb diets are superior.
But does long-term evidence support low-carb dieting?
Studies have indicated that there is no significant difference between low-carb and other diets over an extended period of time.
Protein: the Hidden Success Factor
Many studies claiming that low-carb diets are better often neglect to balance the amount of protein intake in the respective groups being compared. This implies that the individuals in the low carb group commonly consume a considerably higher amount of protein.
We know that getting plenty of protein has many advantages:
- protein has a higher thermic effect — our bodies have to “rev up” to digest it;
- protein makes people feel fuller, longer; and
- protein helps people retain lean mass.
To put it another way, consuming a lot of protein might be more beneficial than reducing carbohydrate consumption.
Let’s be equitable and consider a research in which protein was tied. For this investigation, individuals who consumed an average carb diet (40% calories from carbs) communicated fundamentally better temperament, and got more fit similarly as the individuals who ate a ketogenic low-carb diet (5% calories from carbs).
The group that ate a moderate amount of carbs seemed to lose slightly more body fat (not enough to be significant) than the group with a low carb diet, with a difference of 5.5 kg to 3.4 kg over the course of 6 weeks.
Both diets improved insulin sensitivity. Despite the positives associated with the ketogenic diet, it also caused an increase in LDL cholesterol and other substances associated with inflammation. Participants who followed the diet reported feeling less energetic.
Thus, in this study:
- moderate carb eaters felt better
- moderate carb eaters lost about the same amount of weight, maybe even a little more
- both types of eaters improved insulin sensitivity
- the low carb dieters ended up with worse blood work and inflammation
It’s curious why low carb diets have so much acclaim, isn’t it?
An extensive survey which studied long-term low carb and low fat eating habits showed that both diet types reduced participants’ weight as well as enhanced their metabolic risk factors.
This evaluation found that regardless of the diet, the amount of weight loss, alterations to waist circumference, and alterations to numerous aspects of metabolic health, including blood pressure, glucose, and insulin, were all around the same.
It would be amazing to gain a better comprehension of what contributes to the success of low carb diets. A recent research inquiry posed the question: Is the success of low carbohydrate diets a result of their limitation of carbohydrates or the greater inclusion of protein?
Over the course of one year, the researchers compared four different conditions:
- normal protein, normal carbohydrate
- normal protein, low carbohydrate
- high protein, low carbohydrate
- high protein, normal carbohydrate.
It was interesting to note that the two groups consuming the highest amount of protein experienced the greatest weight loss.
And the real kicker? No matter how much fat or carbohydrates were adjusted, the effect on body composition was the same.
Most People Do Best with Some Carbs.
- About 70% of you will do really well with PN’s standard hand-size portion guidelines.
- Around 25% of you will do really well increasing or reducing your carb servings by just a little bit. This is what we call eating for your body type.
A Few People Do Best with High Carbs.
Approximately 0.025 of the population consisting of extreme endurance athletes and a few rare cases find themselves doing very well when ingesting a sizeable quantity of carbohydrates. (We’re talking ≥ 70% of their total calories).
A Few People Do Best with Low Carbs.
Ketogenic diets are medically recommended to people with epilepsy, as they may help to reduce their symptoms and infrequently give the person seizures. Early studies suggest that ketogenic diets may be advantageous for certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Individuals who are not physically active and those who have serious issues with their metabolism, such as metabolic syndrome or diabetes, could potentially find relief from a diet that has less carbohydrates when part of a larger program to become more active and have better metabolic health.
A Unique Specimen: The Low-Carb Athlete
Have you been curious about the 2.5% of individuals who have successfully maintained a low-carb diet?
While rare, these ultra-low-carb people do exist. In athlete trials, it is usually the case that most people do better when following a high carbohydrate diet, but there are usually some who do better on a low carb diet.
This study on competitive cyclists offers a perfect example. The researchers arrived at the determination that endurance usually was not impacted by a diet centered around high-fat, low-carbohydrate food, once athletes became accustomed to it, however people responded to it in different ways.
Two of the five people involved experienced fatigue sooner when they ate low-carb, taking 48 and 51 minutes respectively to become exhausted. This individual improved by 84 minutes when on the low carb diet.
The data are clear: Each athlete — each person — is unique when it comes to carbohydrate requirements.
The results of the study showed that, on average, the cyclists did not have a difference in performance depending on their high carb or high fat diet. However, a review article done twenty-one years later highlighted one interesting point of variance.
After seven days of adjusting to the low-carb diet, most riders felt they could go about their business as usual…with one exception: they couldn’t seem to improve their sprint ability while reducing their carbs.
This is especially significant for athletes who excel in their sport. The ability to burst into a sprint can be extremely essential even in the most demanding endurance sports. Especially as you’re nearing that finish line.
Nonetheless, before we get overly enthusiastic about eating loads of carbohydrates, it’s important to keep in mind the fact that most of us are not professional athletes.
Investigations will typically demonstrate that athletes usually carry out better when their carbohydrates intake is higher, however that is not a standard practice. There is always individual variability.
What This Means for You
We can become so obsessed with trendy diets that we overlook looking at existing evidence. But fad diets are mostly bad diets.
We believed for a long time that the ideal way to keep our weight in check was by eating copious amounts of carbohydrates and cutting down on fat. Imagine the traditional Food Pyramid with carbohydrates located at the base and fats at the summit.
Low-fat, high-carb didn’t work for most of us. People experienced a lack of nourishment and starvation; they sought comfort in any form of “fat-free”, sugary snacks; and ended up consuming a large quantity of rice cakes.
At that point, the public opinion pendulum shifted, and people began embracing a low carb, high fat lifestyle. At social events, you could find almond butter, bacon, and heavy cream served.
Regrettably, reducing carbohydrates has not proven to be a successful approach for the majority of people.