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Are Carbs the Real Enemy? Top 5 Myths about Carbs

Have you ever been told to avoid carbs at all costs if you want to lose fat?

Dietary carbohydrates have been demonized for their presumed negative effects on health1. It is easy to find endless articles on why you should avoid carbs, particularly if you want to lose weight.

However, recent studies have shown that moderately high-carbohydrate diets can be beneficial. So, why is it ingrained in our minds to avoid carbs as much as possible? In this article, we find out.

What are Carbs?

Carbs or carbohydrates are one of the four macronutrients that provide calories, or energy that is converted to fuel the body.

There are three main types of carbohydrates in food: 

Starches (complex carbohydrates) Usually found in foods that originate from plants, they consist of many sugar units bonded together.

It includes starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, and pasta. Foods that contain a lot of starch provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day.

Sugar (simple carbohydrates) Simple carbohydrates are naturally found in some foods which include fruit, honey, fruit juices, milk, and vegetables.

Other forms of sugar, such as refined sugar, can be added to food and drink such as sweets, chocolates, biscuits, and soft drinks during processing, or added when cooking at home.

Foods that contain simple carbohydrates usually provide a quick release of energy.

 Fiber Fiber is only found in foods that come from plants. It also helps keep our bowels healthy and some types of fiber may help lower cholesterol.

Good sources of fiber include vegetables with their skins left on, wholegrain, beans, and lentils.

5 Common Misconceptions About Carbs

One of the most common misconceptions regarding weight loss or fat loss is that cutting carbs will lead to success.

Here are 5 Myths about Carbs you might not know about:

1. Carbs make you gain weight

Consuming carbs alone is not a reason for weight gain. Weight gain is caused by an excess of calories consumed by the body. Although certain foods that contain carbs are calorie-dense, weight gain is caused only by eating more than your body needs.

Moreover, carbs are also commonly found in foods that are viewed as unhealthy. As a result, people often find themselves blaming carbs as the reason the food is not worth eating.

In the same way, carbs can actually assist in weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight2. They give our bodies a source of energy and without them, we would not have the fuel for a workout or other daily tasks which contributes to our bodies remaining at a healthy weight.

2. Low carb diets are the best way to lose weight

The key to losing weight is portion control. A very low-carb diet results in weight loss mainly due to calorie restriction and water loss, and not the decrease in carbs themselves. Yet, there is no evidence to support that following a low-carb diet is the most effective weight loss strategy.

Furthermore, this diet is difficult to sustain long-term, and weight gain will likely occur once carbs are introduced back into your diet.

Furthermore, carbs are also the only fuel source for our brain. Severely restricting carbs can have a negative impact on your health as the body will switch to a state of ketosis (when your body burns fat instead of glucose).

While this may sound great, it could also lead to dehydration and a chemical imbalance in your blood, causing your blood to become too acidic.

3. It is possible to live without carbs

The major role of carbs in the diet is for the provision of energy3.

Likewise, it is important to understand that it goes beyond pasta and bread. As mentioned earlier, carbs are macronutrients, which means the body needs large amounts of them. They are also vital in keeping the body operating.

In fact, carbs are naturally present in almost all our foods, even in healthier foods like fruits and vegetables. Experts recommend that about half (40-60%) of the calories we take daily should consist of carbs since it is the body’s fuel of choice.

4. Cut Carbs, Not Protein

Proteins are the building blocks of life. Protein is especially important for an active lifestyle and people who regularly work their muscles, but carbs should not be ignored. Studies have shown that a diet higher in carbs and lower in protein can kick-start the body’s metabolism. Other research has found that protein and carbs work harmoniously to help your body process sugar and can prevent blood sugar spikes after meals.

5. All Carbs are Equal

There are two types of carbs: Simple and Complex. Simply cutting down your carb intake won’t make you lose weight, as blood glucose levels can fall, making the body crave for something sweet (simple carbohydrates).

Consequently, this can lead to an excess calorie intake resulting in weight gain. However, what matters the most is the type of carbohydrate.

Additionally, complex carbs pack in more nutrients than simple carbs. Complex carbs also digest more slowly than simple carbs. Hence, making them more filling, which means that they are a suitable option for weight control.

Understanding Glycemic Responses

As mentioned, carbs are converted into glucose. This conversion directly affects the body’s glycemic response. As a result, a diet containing foods that are high in GI may cause a spike in blood glucose levels. This could lead to fatigue, headaches, and even diabetes.

Furthermore, prolonged elevated blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, can also cause serious harm to the body, including weight gain. High blood sugar levels impair normal cell function and promote inflammation, which increases insulin resistance, furthering this destructive cycle4.

Though cells become resistant to insulin’s effect on blood sugar uptake, they remain responsive to the hormone’s role in fat storage. Therefore, fat storage within the body is increased, specifically in the belly area5.

High GI Food Low GI Alternative
White bread Bread containing lots of whole grains; sourdough and pumpernickel bread.
Processed breakfast cereals Unrefined cereals such as rolled oats or natural muesli or a low GI processed cereal such as those containing psyllium husks.
Plain biscuits or crackers Biscuits made with dried fruit, oats, and whole grains.
Cakes and muffins Make them with fruit, oats, oatbran, rice bran and psyllium husks.

Brand-Miller, J., McMillan-Price, J., Steinbeck, K., & Caterson, I. (2008). Carbohydrates–the good, the bad, and the wholegrain. Asia Pacific Journal of clinical nutrition, 17.

For Stubborn Fats Resistant to Any Dietary Change

Making dietary changes and ensuring that your daily caloric intake does not exceed what is needed is important for weight loss. However, it may not work for those stubborn pockets of fat. Achieving the desired physique has become much more attainable with non-invasive fat removal treatments.

CoolSculpting

This FDA-approved, non-invasive fat removal treatment is effective in targeting and treating stubborn pockets of fat. It uses a fat-freezing technology, also known as Cryolipolysis, that destroys fat cells under sub-zero temperatures.

The fat cells in the targeted area crystallize and are then excreted through the body’s lymphatic system over the course of 3 months. As the destroyed fat cells are gradually eliminated from your body, your fat reduction and resulting body shape will continue to look natural.

SculpSure

SculpSure is an alternative method to CoolSculpting, providing a non-invasive solution for fat loss. It uses laser technology to gently heat and destroy fat cells. This method of body contouring heats fat cells up to between 42°C to 47°C and damages them and they are soon excreted from the body through its natural waste disposal system in 8 to 12 weeks.

SculpSure also penetrates deep into the dermal layers of the skin which stimulates collagen production, making it effective for skin laxity.

Conclusion

Although carb reduction can assist in a quick-fix weight loss plan, it is not sustainable. The lack of carbs not only leaves you tired and hungry in a way that fats and proteins can’t satisfy.

However, once you begin eating carbohydrates again, you put all the weight back on. It is important for us to understand the role of carbs in a diet so that we are able to make more informed decisions on our weight loss plan.