I understand that people want to lose weight and be lean. I also understand that it’s common knowledge that carbs should be avoided for weight loss. Unfortunately, the prevailing opinion about carbohydrates couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ve mentioned this before (many times, hope you aren’t tired of hearing it!), but eating carbs will not make you fat. I know this goes against everything you’ve been conditioned to believe, but hear me out!
Healthy vs. unhealthy carbohydrates.
Not all carbs are the same. Carbs are found in healthy foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains in addition to unhealthy foods like pie, donuts, and deep-fried Mars bars. Most people only consider bread or pasta when they think of carbs, but carbs come in different forms containing various amounts of fiber, starch, and sugar.
- Healthy carbs: fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, rice, potatoes. These foods are full of nutrients and most importantly, fiber. These foods should be eaten in abundance.
- Unhealthy carbs: processed or refined foods like donuts, garlic bread, mac&cheese, ice cream, caramel Frappucinos from Starbucks. Even the vegan versions of these foods are terribly unhealthy. These foods should be avoided as much as possible because they are devoid of fiber and nutrients yet high in calories. These foods don’t offer any benefit at all. Eating them will surely sabotage your weight loss efforts.
So why do I gain weight when I eat carbohydrates?
Pasta, on its own, is a healthy carbohydrate food. But how is pasta typically prepared? Usually, pasta dishes are loaded with fatty cheese, meat, and oil. Even vegan pasta dishes are swimming in oily sauces. Eating a fatty pasta meal like this will no doubt make you gain weight. The culprit is not the pasta itself. The fatty additions to the pasta are to blame!
So it would be correct to avoid a pasta meal like traditional lasagna, let’s say, but avoid it because it’s packed full of fatty meat and cheese, NOT because it contains carbs. If you eat lasagna regularly, you will gain weight because of the fat.
Some following a low carb diet report they gain weight the second they eat carbs. If you examine the types of carbs they eat, however, I guarantee you they’ve indulged in large amounts of unhealthy carbs riddled with fat. When someone trying to maintain a low carb die falls off the wagon, they eat anything and everything in sight.
Imagine that you’ve been depriving yourself of carbs for so long. Your mind and body SCREAM out for them. So when you inevitably cave, you reach for carb-heavy foods, usually those high in fat and calories like pastries or whatever you can get your hands on.
Of course you’ll gain weight in this situation. You gain weight because you ate the wrong kind of carbs and loads of fat. If you were to eat only healthy carbohydrates like fruits and veggies following a low carb diet, you wouldn’t experience weight gain.
But what about ketosis?
Ketosis is what happens when your body doesn’t have sufficient carbs to use as fuel, so your body burns fat instead. This is the premise of the Atkins diet if you’re familiar with it. Avoid carbs at all costs and eat primarily meat, cheese, eggs and other proteins. This way you force your body to burn fat, and thereby lose weight effortlessly in the process. Effortlessly…right.
Have you ever met anyone who’s able to avoid carbs for the long term? If you’re a low carb advocate, have you been able to cut carbs out of your life completely? Of course you haven’t!
You might lose fat and weight by avoiding carbs in the short term, but it is definitely not a long term healthy solution. Not a single person can avoid eating carbs long term. You will always crack and end up eating carbs, and like I mentioned previously, you will probably reach for foods high in fat like pastries or junk food because your body needs large amounts of carbohydrates ASAP. This is because you’ve been depriving your body of what it needs for so long. And again, the poor choice of carbohydrates with excessive fat is the reason people pack on pounds once they come off a low carb diet.
Low carb diets suck.
Low carb diets aren’t easy for a reason: your body and mind need carbs to function! Your body converts the glucose from carbs into energy. Carbs are the main energy source for your mind and body every day. This is scientific fact, not merely my opinion.
Low carb diets don’t work for sustainable weight loss because it is impossible to avoid carbohydrates indefinitely. You may be able to avoid carbs for a few days (or even a few weeks, to your mind’s detriment) but eventually, you will crack. You crack not because you are weak-willed, but because your body NEEDS carbs to survive.
Eat clean carbs instead.
Your body needs carbs for energy so eat them! Instead of suffering trying to accomplish the impossible, eat healthy carbs. Incorporating carbs into your diet will give you the energy you need to lift weights, run, cycle and be as active as you want to be. You’ll never have a weight issue and you’ll be lean.
Your staples should be clean carbs, primarily fruits and veggies but the addition of oats, rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, and the occasional pizza (all cooked without oil or fat). Fill up on these and eat until you are satisfied. If you are aiming to lose weight, minimize your fat intake but continue to eat clean carbs.
I’ll discuss the importance of minimising fat later this week.