As a wellness enthusiast, I feel the need to address this question today.
Why? Well I’ve been encountering a lot of people lately who share this belief: Carbs make you fat.
So lets talk about it: Do Carbs Make You Fat?
Carbohydrates are actually the foods containing a particular ratio of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Foods that fall under the carbohydrate category can be anything from bread and grains, to fruits and vegetables.
But I know when a lot of people talk about their carbs, they are mainly thinking about pizza, pasta, and french fries – hence the bad rep. These are all carbs too – but keep in mind they are also processed foods (which in my opinion makes them a whole different animal of sub-category under “carbs”).
It is important to understand that carbohydrates are essential for a healthy body and brain. Carbohydrates are your body’s main and preferred source of energy. Long story short, your body converts carbohydrates to glucose, and glucose is used by your body for energy.
For this reason you will notice professional athletes typically eat a higher carbohydrate diet, and will also take carbohydrate supplements in the form of gels and powders – because they require more energy for their activity.
On the opposite spectrum, there are people out there living a low activity lifestyle eating a high carbohydrate diet. So what happens when the body has tons of available energy in the form of glucose, but has no where to use it? Well, the body is pretty smart. It thinks hey, I might need this extra energy sometime, so I’m going to store it. That excess fuel is then converted and stored in the body as fat.
So do carbs make you fat?
Carbs give you energy.
But when you routinely get into the habit of not using that energy, your body will store it.
With this (albeit limited) knowledge it is easy to see why some people decide to go low or no carb for weightloss purposes. I do not have a problem with people going low-carb for weightloss purposes, although I do believe all restrictive diets are fundamentally flawed in that they are very difficult to maintain long term.
That being said, many people go low-carb for short periods of time for weight loss, and I understand why. What hurts my heart is when I see people doing it wrong. Without carbs, where will your body get energy from?
Again, your body – it’s smart. It will find fuel somewhere else – “else” being fats and protein. Your body can adapt to use fats as fuel, and if it really has to it will adapt to use protein. When your body is using protein for fuel, it is a last resort, and you are essentially muscle-wasting. This is not a state you want to get into.
So if you do decide to go the low or no carbohydrate route, please up your fats (fats will also not make you fat , but I’ll save that for another post).
I chatted with a woman last week who is on a low-carb diet and admitted that she was feeling especially lethargic. I asked if she had “upped” her fats and she looked at me like I was a space alien. Well it’s no wonder she’s tired, I noted. Her body is having a very difficult time finding a source of energy! Her goal was to build more muscle and look toned – ironically enough she was likely not seeing those results as I suspect her body was in protein using (also known as muscle-wasting) mode.
I know this post was a bit more heavy than my usual, and truly I just want to leave you with one message: weight gain and loss simply comes down to a mathematical equation. If you take in more “energy” (food) than you output, you gain weight. Everybody’s needs are different based on their lifestyle. I encourage you to find out what works best for you!
Please feel free to drop any questions below!