First there was low fat diets that was claimed to be the best way to lose weight, then it reversed and high fat diets were fashionable, remember Atkins!
In more recent years its been all about not eating carbs, for example the keto diet.
It’s changing again as more people are starting to realise that carbohydrates are not the enemy, in fact they can be our very best friends. It’s becoming cool again to eat bread. (phew)
As more studies emerge about carbohydrates it remains a very debatable subject in the industry as to whether low carb is the best way to shed fat.
I’m not going to go into details about carbs otherwise it will be a very long post, I want to discuss the myths surrounding carbohydrates but here are a few facts about them in a nutshell.
- Carbohydrates are not essential to life – unlike fats and protein we do not have to have them in our diets to live however we do need them for optimal health
- They are the preferred source of fuel for our bodies and more importantly our brain
- Carbohydrates contain fibre – we need fibre for gut health amongst other benefits. To not eat them you are restricting vital vitamins and minerals too.
- Carbohydrates can be complex or simple – simple are your processed or what we would say “un-healthy foods” and the complex carbs are what we should be prioritizing
Let see if we can bust some of those carbohydrate myths.
Low carb diets are best
Largely debatable and can be so confusing. Basically, cutting out a whole macronutrient of any kind will mean you eat less and eating less will usually create a calorie deficit. You will lose weight if you cut carbohydrates out if you are in calorie deficit. If you cut out carbs and are not in a calorie deficit you will not lose fat. Its as simple as that.
Now there is a reason why some people feel good cutting carbs. Carbs hold onto more water than protein or fats so if you cut out carbs its likely after that first week you will have less water retention and this will show on the scales. Its water loss not fat.
On the other hand, it can cause brain fog (remember I said the brain loves carbs), lack of energy and feeling deprived.
Is it the best diet for fat loss? It’s just another method that some people find it easy to stick to and other don’t.
Carbs are fattening
Carbs are only fattening if you over eat them and it takes you into a calorie surplus. Simple carbohydrates such as sweets, chocolate all those delicious foods we love are very easy to over consume. You can over eat anything, not just carbs. You could be on the “cleanest” diet but you are eating in a calorie surplus you will still gain fat; believe me I have been there. It’s not the carbs themselves that are making us gain weight it’s the over consumption.
Now this one makes me sad. I know people who avoid these lovely nutritious foods because of the carb content then they guzzle a bottle of wine at weekend without a second thought. We really need to change this way of thinking. Carrot, fruits and potatoes are all complex carbohydrates and are full of fibre, vitamins, minerals and they are delicious and have a place in a balanced diet.
All carbs are sugar
Yes, they are but the statement is misleading. The different types of carbs go through a different process in the body (there are molecules involved) but in the end yes, they end up as sugar, except for fibre which are not digested. That sugar is then converted in energy which is a good thing.
What you need to know is that the simple/refined carbs are processed very quickly which is why they cause a spike, the complex (wholegrains, veg and whole fruit) and starchy (potatoes) kind go through a different process and are released more slowly. This means you don’t get that energy slump and you will be more satiated from those foods.
Summary and take away from this post – Low carbohydrate diets will suit some because maybe they are not bothered about eating them and they find it easy to cut them out. Adherence and consistency to any diet for fat loss is very important. It wouldn’t suit someone who loves their bread, pasta, fruit and veg. Nor would it suit someone who is aiming for optimal health or someone who has a high-volume training schedule. Its is not superior it’s just another method.