Cut carbs to lose fat
“Carbs are bad.” “Stay away from carbs.” “Carbs make you put on fat.”
These are the kind of thing you normally hear from people.
But is there truth in this? Are carbs really that bad?
In the previous post we discovered that besides providing 4 calories per gram, carbs are what the body prefers to use to convert into energy.
I for one have always believed in a balance so I took this point of view with me when I did my research into carbs. I have always followed the balanced lifestyle of incorporating carbs, proteins and fat.
A little bit of everything, quantities manipulated based on what the body needs depending on my activity level and goal.
In this post let’s take a deeper look into carbs, and I can share some fascinating insights with you. This follows on from the basics of the previous post, so if you haven’t yet, it will be a good idea to read that first here.
There are different types of carbs
First up, it is important to understand that not all carbs are created equal. Carbs can be categorised into 2 types:
1. Simple; and
Simple carbs, usually sugars, are either heavily processed or have little fibre. This makes them very easy for the body to digest (high GI), and they are then released into the bloodstream very quickly.
- White potato;
- White rice;
- Sugar; and
- White bread.
The body recognises this fast release of energy and responds by secreting insulin. One of insulin’s roles is to drive nutrients into the body’s cells.
So if you release a whole lot of energy at once, the body is very quickly able to refill its glucose and glycogen stores (this is where it grabs its energy first), and the rest is stored as fat.
This is the theory behind why eating simple carbs can make your body put on fat. The body doesn’t need that much energy released at once so it happily stores the rest away for when it does.
So does that mean no eating simple carbs and sugars at all? Well there are a couple of times when eating simple carbs are actually beneficial.
A lot of functional eating is actually about timing.
It’s about giving your body what it needs when it needs it.
There are 2 times that I believe eating simple carbs can be helpful;
1. First thing in the morning; and
2. Post workout.
These two times are when your glycogen and glucose stores are usually depleted.
Ever wondered why it is called break fast? While you sleep for however many hours you sleep for, your body is actually hard at work. It is using nutrients to repair and rebuild. This is why sleep is so important.
So when you get up, that’s a long time you’ve gone without food! This is why breakfast is so important. After a long nights work, the body needs more nutrients to keep things running efficiently.
I digress slightly but eating breakfast actually kick-starts your metabolism for the day. It gets the blood flowing, and the energy burning.
The digestive system is one of the most energy intensive systems in the body! Your body is burning energy in order to digest the new food you have eaten.
Ok so back to the topic at hand, straight after waking up and post workout is when your energy stores are depleted. So by eating simple carbs here and filling those stores first, the protein you eat can go into repair and building muscle (if that’s what you are after), and the fats can help hormone levels.
If you don’t workout then you will not need to eat that much simple carbs at all. Some honey in the morning or a fruit will suffice.
This is probably worthy for another post but as I mentioned before, simple carbs cause an insulin spike. Large amounts of insulin is released due to the carbs being digested quickly and released into the bloodstream in bulk.
Prolonged insulin spikes are not good for the body and can lead to diabetes. Something to keep in mind and one that can be discussed in the future.
Complex carbs like starches have much more fibre. Therefore they take a longer time for the digestive system to breakdown (low GI). This results in a slower and sustained release into the bloodstream.
2. Sweet Potato;
4. Brown Rice; and
5. Wholemeal Pasta.
Complex carbs should be the main types of carbs you eat throughout the day as they will provide your body with a slow sustained release of energy whilst they are slowly digested. This will also keep your insulin levels in check.
Another thing to remember, because it is harder to digest these carbs, your digestive system will burn more energy to do so. Therefore your metabolism goes up.
So, should you cut carbs?
So should you cut out carbs completely to lose fat?
Simple answer is no. I believe in a balance. It comes down to what you are trying to achieve; lose fat, build muscle or maintain,
Well, carbs are not mandatory and your body can actually turn some amino acids from protein into glycogen BUT, not all of these are converted, and the leftover can have detrimental effects on your body over the long term.
But at the end of the day carbs are a great way to obtain energy. Keeping them to a level that matches your activities would be the best way to go. Choose complex carbs over simple carbs and only eat simple carbs at breakfast or post-workout.
So if you are trying to lose fat you can keep carbs low or even better, cycle your carbs. I personally believe that no carbs are not sustainable long term and should only be done over short periods if at all. You need some carbs to function and keep your metabolism up.
This post has gotten a bit long, but there’s one more thing to add. There has been some research that carbs from grains are actually detrimental to the body. Some of you may have heard of the paleo or Palaeolithic diet.
Simply put, it is eating what our ancestors would have and instead of getting your carbs from grains they recommend it from fruits and vegetables instead.
I’ve been reading a bit into the paleo lifestyle and it is fascinating. I just had a good chat with a friend over it today and it will definitely be something that I will be trying soon. Will keep you guys up to date and informed!
What are your thoughts and opinions on this? Let me know in the comments thanks.