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  • Jennifer Bradford

Carbs are NOT making you fat

bowl of pasta with basil

Growing up in the 90's I have had my fair share of bad diet advice. First, it was "fat is bad" and low fat diets were everywhere. In the late 90's and 2000's, suddenly, the paradigm shifted and carbs became the enemy. Today, I think we are still in the "anti-carb" era with the ketogenic diet still being pretty popular.

Personally, I don't really follow any particular diet. I'm as omnivorous as the come and I don't actively avoid any of the macronutrients. If anything, I try not to eat gluten as it messes with my gut (I don't have celiac disease, but I do have IBS) and not because of any other reason other than that.

People on ketogenic and other low-carb diets have and do lose weight successfully. So, weight loss on a diet that allows for very minimal carb intake seems to mean that all along it must have been the carbs in the diet contributing to the excess weight, right?


"But people who do keto burn more fat that people who don't do keto"

Well, yeah, fat is a majority of what they're eating so of course they'd burn more fat percentage-wise.

Sorry, I don't mean to hate on keto. Like I said, some people do well on it. But it's not magic. Unless you are going to be able to keep up with the keto diet for the rest of your life, it's not going to work, and you're going to gain back the weight you lost and potentially more.

What's more important is the caloric intake. Keto works initially because of that initial carb cut-out. You're eating less calories overall so you lose weight. That's the magic. And really, that's why any diet works initially. You're just eating less.

Back to carbs...let's get a little nerdy because why not. It can help fuel your understanding of this complex macronutrient (see what I did there). Getting down to the basics, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the human body. Carbs get broken down into glucose through digestion and then used for energy.

There are simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs are sugars made of 1 or 2 sugar units and are absorbed quickly and provide a rapid source of energy. Fruit and honey are good examples of simple carbs. Complex carbs are larger molecules of sugar that take longer to break down. Starch is a complex carb

Fiber deserves its own paragraph. Technically, a complex carb, fiber is not digested or absorbed in the small intestine. There are two types of fiber. Soluble and insoluble. Soluble basically means dissolvable in water so insoluble means that it does not dissolve in water. Soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps keep your colon working well. Fiber can be found in fruits and vegetables especially the leaves and stems and also in the outer coverings of grains, nuts, and seeds. Most people should get 25 to 35 grams per day of fiber (low end for females and higher end for males).

I want you to remember that fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates. Most people need more of these (especially vegetables) in their diets.

About 45-65% of your total daily calories should be coming from carbohydrate assuming you are not following any type of a special diet.

So, guys, carbs don't lead to an increase in fat mass. Foods that are highly palatable (like donuts, cookies, cakes, pizza, cheeseburgers, etc) are easy to overconsume and carry higher caloric value, which can then lead to gaining fat over time.

Remember still that if something is labeled "keto", "low-carb", or "sugar-free" and is just a different version of a "junk food" product (like keto cookies) they're still cookies, still a "junk food", and can actually be higher in calories than the regular product.

Another interesting fact about carbohydrates is that they hold on to water. So, for every 1 gram of carb you consume your body will hold onto 3 grams of water. This is why after a night out of eating and drinking maybe a bit more than usual, you will seem to gain a few pounds overnight. These pounds are not fat, it's water that the carbs you consumed are holding on to. So no need to worry.

Let's get it straight: Carbs are necessary for optimal body function. They provide energy for and fuel especially if you are exercising regularly. They can help you work harder and perform better in the gym leading to better outcomes (more strength, increased muscle building). Looking to get toned? You need to build muscle to have that toned look and carbs can fuel your way to that physique goal.

So in summary, carbs provide energy to fuel stronger and more effective workouts, help with mood/cognition, aid in recovery, control appetite/cravings, help with digestion, and they taste good and can help make dieting more enjoyable :-)

Give them some love, please ;-)

Examples of carbs to add into your diet today:

Vegetables, fruit, rice, pasta, quinoa, legumes, rice cakes/treats, popcorn, wraps, bread, bagels, and oats (whole grain products do provide more nutrition like fiber as opposed to the white processed product FYI)

Hope this was helpful! Please share with anyone who may benefit!

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