One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to weight loss is cutting out carbohydrates. We’ve all heard it from someone at some point “I lost my weight by not eating carbs” or “I don’t eat carbs after 6pm because it converts to fat”, well, let us finally settle this. A massive reduction in foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes is recognised as being medically unsound.
Carbohydrates are the major fuel of the body, while fats and proteins can be used for energy, carbohydrates are the most efficient. Glucose, the building block of all carbohydrates, is stored as glycogen for use during daily activities and exercise. When carbohydrates are cut out from a person’s diet, glycogen has to be taken from other reserves; initially it is taken from stores in muscle tissue, leaving little protein for muscle repair and growth. Each molecule of this glycogen is also linked to four times its weight in water, so initial weight lost through a low or no carbohydrate diet is muscle tissue and water.
As well as fuel for the body, glucose is the primary energy source for the brain, insufficient carbohydrate intake slows down brain and bodily functions resulting in some very unpleasant side effects such as, light headed-ness, depression, fatigue, low blood sugar, nausea, bad breath and constipation.
Gram for gram carbohydrates are low in calories with only 4 per gram, protein also brings the body 4 calories per gram, while fat contains a whopping 9 calories per gram. So the secret to long term weight control is to make the right carbohydrate choice. Carbohydrates are split into two categories; complex and simple or starches and sugars. Complex carbohydrates slow down the release of the glucose into the blood stream maintaining steady, stable energy levels in the body. Simple carbohydrates send a sudden burst of energy to the body, which in turn requires a sudden burst of insulin to balance, the body then feels it needs another burst of energy, starting a cycle of blood sugar highs and lows.
Sugar and starch are found in both healthy and unhealthy foods so making the right choice is important. Simple carbohydrates are found naturally in fruit, milk and some vegetables but also contain vitamins, minerals and water so have more nutritional value than refined sugars like cakes, sweets and soft drinks which are often high in fat or prepared with fat. Complex carbohydrates are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals so provide sustained energy helping to feel fuller for longer; good sources include oats, wholegrain bread, apricots, oranges, broccoli and kidney beans. Get Carb Smart!