5 Reasons Why Carbs Are Not The Enemy

 

If you want to lose weight or shed fat, you will probably have considered or tried a low carb diet. Low carb diets most definitely work, but they don’t work for everyone! Some people are genetically programmed to need more carbs than others and suffer greatly if carb levels are reduced too aggressively.

On the other hand, other people find that their exercise performance drops along with their reduction in carbs. They might save a few calories eating fewer carbs but then wipe out this benefit by not being able to exercise for as hard or as long as before.

But all means try low carb dieting but don’t worry if it doesn’t work for you. For some people, low carb dieting can be more of a hindrance than a help.

Remember too, that not all carbs are evil, and there is a big difference between eating copious amounts of starchy vegetable and whole grains and sustaining yourself on refined baked goods, breakfast cereal, and processed foods.

Not all carbs are the same! Here are five compelling reasons to think long and hard before eliminating carbs from your diet.

 

1. Carbs give you energy

During low-intensity exercise, such as easy jogging or cycling, fat is your main source of fuel. That being said, fat is burnt in a carbohydrate flame. In other words, no carb or very low carb diets could inhibit fat burning during exercise.

However, if you’re trying to burn fat, lose weight, and build muscle, you probably train at a much higher level of intensity, and that is primarily fuelled by carbs.

Strength training, interval training, plyometrics, circuit training – these high-intensity forms of exercise are very reliant on muscle glycogen, and muscle glycogen comes from dietary carbs. If your carb intake is low, your stores of muscle glycogen will also be low, and that can affect both the intensity and the duration of your workout.

 

2. Carbs help you to sleep and reduce stress

Low carb diets can also lower serotonin levels, which is a crucial neurotransmitter that helps you to relax and sleep. Too little sleep and elevated levels of stress can cause fat gain, inhibit fat loss, and put the brakes on muscle gain. There is a good reason that most people crave carbs when they are stressed; those carbs increase serotonin levels to help mellow you out!

And have you ever noticed how drowsy a big carb meal makes you feel? That’s carbs and serotonin working together again in perfect harmony. Many low carb dieters experience disrupted sleep and increased moodiness. Combined with carb cravings, this means that low carb diets are not always very comfortable.

 

3. Carbs are your primary source of fibre

There are several different types of carbs including starches and sugars, and while cutting carbs can lead to accelerated fat loss, you can end up cutting out something else that your body really needs – namely fibre.

Fibre is an indigestible form of carbohydrate, properly known as non-starch polysaccharide. While it contains no calories, it plays a crucial role in your digestive health and controlling your appetite.

Fibre is bulky and filling so eating it makes you feel fuller, sooner, and for longer. It also helps keep your digestive system flowing in a timely and healthy manner!

Low carb diets are usually low in fibre too. Many people get around this problem by using fibre supplements, but the very fact they need to do this suggests that cutting carbs is not always a good idea as, in reality, carbs and fibre are all part of the same food group.

 

4. Carbs are your main source of micronutrients

Vitamins and minerals, collectively called micronutrients, are essential for your health. Some micronutrients can be found in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, but the majority are in fruits, vegetables, and grains – foods that are also high in carbs.

A low carbohydrate intake could result in malnutrition or, at the very least, a deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals. Too few micronutrients can reduce your energy levels, decrease immune system efficiency, impair your recovery from exercise, and even inhibit fat burning.

Yes, you could take vitamin or mineral supplements to replace missing micronutrients but for me, pills and potions are never as good as “real” food!

 

5. Carbs are critical for recovery from exercise

Hard training takes a lot out of your body. To recover, your body needs a good influx of amino acids. Getting those amino acids into your muscles is easy – IF you eat carbs that is! Eating carbs increases your blood glucose level and that, in turn, increases insulin production. Insulin drives glucose and amino acids into your muscle cells to help you get a speedy recovery from exercise. No carbs mean a slower uptake of amino acids and slower recovery from exercise. This is why almost all post-exercise recovery dietary advice should include carbohydrates AND protein.

 

Does this mean you CAN’T cut carbs? Of course not! In fact, reducing your carb intake can be an effective way to lose weight. But, the more active you are and the harder you train, the more carbs your body can use and needs. Try reducing your carb intake on non-training days but eating reasonable amounts on training days – especially before and after exercise. That way, you can enjoy all the benefits of a low carb diet but without sabotaging your workouts and your recovery.