When it comes to losing weight, I’m sure we have all heard of quick fixes and fads that promise to help us achieve our goals quickly. The most common idea that we hear circulating is that carbohydrates are the enemy, and that if you are wanting to lose weight, they need to be limited and in some cases removed completely. However this could not be further from the truth! Carbohydrates can be our best friends and there is no reason that this important macronutrient should be avoided, and we are here to tell you why. The reality is that carbohydrates are essential for our health and are our body’s primary source of energy to fuel our muscles, brain and organs.
Carbohydrates, more commonly referred to as carbs, are one of three key main macronutrients that make up our diet along with protein and fat. When carbohydrates are consumed, they are digested and absorbed into the small intestine to supply our blood with glucose. This glucose is then used in our tissues for fuel, or stored in our body as glycogen which can be used later for our muscles or liver. Any leftover glucose is converted to fat which is stored long-term as an energy source to complete our daily tasks such as exercise, house chores or even just breathing. Most people equate carbs to foods such as rice, breads or pasta, however carbs can be found in so many other foods such as dairy products, fruits and vegetables, grains and even sugary foods and sweets.
You may be wondering how many carbohydrates are the right amount to be eating each day. This depends upon a variety of factors such as your height, weight, gender and age, but typically carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of your daily caloric intake. This translates to anywhere between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates a day depending on the individual.
There is a low-carb or keto-diet fad that has been circulating over the past few years which you may have read about in one of our more recent blog posts. These specific diets restrict carbohydrate intake in favour of having a higher protein and fat intake. Though there have been studies that have shown an association between low-carb diets and weight loss, these studies were focussed more so on individuals with existing health issues such as obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, a recent review of over 1000 studies has found that while there has been evidence to support positive changes associated with a low-carb diet, these were short-term lasting for only over a period of 6-11 months and actually had no significant long-term effects.
In other words, low-carb diets were found to be a ‘quick fix’ and instead restricted individuals from achieving lasting results and prevented sustainable eating behaviours and habits.
So why are carbs important? Well, it is proven that complex carbohydrates make it easier to maintain a healthy weight and can even help guard against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems in the future. Evidence shows that eating a balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables and grains can help you control your weight. Their bulk and fibre content assists weight control by helping you feel full and more satisfied on fewer calories. Contrary to what low-carb diets claim, very few studies actually prove that a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates leads to weight gain or obesity. The main purpose of consuming carbohydrates is to provide our body with energy, however they have also been proven to improve moods, assist with brain function and also keep our digestive system healthy and reduce the risk of constipation. Most of all, carbohydrate foods are tasty, comforting and satisfying as food enjoyment is an essential component of eating – it’s not just about eating healthy foods, but also enjoying what you’re eating! The bottom line is, carbohydrates are an essential component of a healthy diet, providing us with so many health benefits and the energy we need to complete our daily tasks! Carbs are not the enemy, in fact they are the source of fuel that allows us to do the things we love, it’s just about consuming the right carbohydrates, eating a balanced diet and most of all enjoying what you’re eating.
In summary, though there has been evidence associated with low-carb diets and weight loss for some individuals, this does not mean that low-carb diets are the blanket solution for everybody. The consumption of carbs itself is not the cause of weight gain and therefore cannot be applied as the universal solution for weight loss due to it’s short-term effectiveness and lack of sustainability. At the end of the day it is a caloric deficit which will drive your weight loss.