Carbs and Weight Loss: today we separate truth from myth. Here’s what you should know.
Today it seems to be almost accepted as universal fact that you can’t really lose weight while you’re eating carbs, right?
The now demonized carb is viewed as the giver of fat, and ruiner of weight loss.
It’s important to remember how quickly the “generally accepted” nature of a food group can change in the eyes of the fitness and healthy community. Remember when we thought all saturated fats were pure evil?
We’ve actually since learned that saturated fats aren’t exactly the horrible entities we thought they were. We originally thought saturated fats were the absolute worst things for your heart. Of course, this does exclude trans fat, which is the processed form of saturated fat, and this does, in fact, increase the risk of heart disease. You should avoid trans fat like the plague. But saturated fats aren’t nearly the devils we made them out to be–take for example avocados, now one of everyone’s favorite “super-foods.”
Is The War on Carbs Justified?
So let’s look at the argument against carbohydrates when it comes to weight loss. First, let’s just get it out of the way that the list of what low carb dieters are doing wrong is pretty long. Carb-haters will have us believe that eating these foods will absolutely kill our blood sugar levels, slaughter our metabolisms, make us become severely overweight, hand deliver diabetes to us, and provide several other diseases.
Is that really the case for everyone?
And for all carbs?
If you cut literally every single carb out of your life, is that really a sustainable lifestyle?
First, let’s make the important distinction of separating refined sugars and bleached starches from the healthy carbohydrates you find in fruit and other natural foods.
Still, a lot of people say the second you just stop eating carbs, the fat is just going to peel away. And you’re going to be able to keep the pounds off, without having to count those annoying calories. Plus, your immune system is going become basically immortal status. Who knows, you might even be able to start seeing through walls and maybe flying.
If you want to try the middle path when it comes to carbs, you can also try: carb cycling.
But we want to know if this war against carbs is actually justified. Are carbs the achilles heel to losing weight? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
Carbs and Weight Loss Myths: Understanding Insulin
A big reason why carbs are so hated is because of their relationship with the hormone, insulin. According to ‘expert’ claims, insulin is the thing that makes you fat. And, because carbs tend to cause a huge increase in insulin, they’re going to make you fat. Insulin makes you fat, and so do carbs. That’s about as far as these arguments go. It seems fairly simple and easy to understand, but there’s one problem – it isn’t correct.
While some of it is true, it’s just not entirely spot on.
First of all, it is insulin’s main job to get glucose out of the blood and store any extra in fat reserves. However, another part of insulin’s job is to get amino acids into our muscles in order for protein synthesis to start, so the dietary fats can start getting out of the body. Then, while all this is going on, your insulin helps preserve your muscles by starting an anti-catabolic effect.
Do you know how much daily protein you need to build muscle without gaining fat?
So yes, it is correct to say that eating carbs will increase your insulin levels.
But there are a few other things that will actually do the same to insulin levels. Certain proteins, like eggs, beef, cheese, and fish are also known to raise insulin levels. This is actually a good thing if you’re trying to build muscle while losing fat.
Protein Pro-Tip: What’s the best snack to have handy for avoiding carb cravings? A clean filtered, amino acid infused whey protein powder. A shake between meals will make it very easy to manage your cravings.
In fact, a lot of people believe that your body automatically creates more insulin the second you put a carb into your mouth, so this is why carbs cause more fat. But this just isn’t true. And we aren’t just saying this isn’t true – we have research to prove it.
Clinical studies and data show that the amount of insulin your body produces when you’re eating food doesn’t actually matter when it comes to fat storage.
What we’re getting at – insulin isn’t really a bad thing. And it certainly isn’t part of the war between your pancreas and the various fat cells you have.
Carbs and Weight Loss: What You Might Be Missing
A lot of these low-carb lovers are going to tell you that you can lose a ton of weight by cutting carbs out of your diet. Actually, a growing number of people believe that the only way to lose fat is by cutting down on carbs.
But the problem with this is that all of these opinions aren’t based on facts. Instead, they need to focus on 2 of the biggest issues people face when it comes to losing weight:
- Eating way too much
- Not moving around nearly as much as they should.
A recent study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania had some interesting findings related to this. They looked at a group of 63 medically-obese adults. Researchers went through and assigned each adult a specific diet. Some were assigned to a low-carb diet, while others were assigned to high protein diets and the rest were assigned to high-fat diets.
Protein Pro-Tip: you’re trying to build or maintain muscle with a high-protein diet, make sure you know how to choose the best protein shake for your body and wallet.
For the low-carbers, there were 20 grams of carbs allowed each day. Over time, the carbs were increased until the target weight was reached. Or, in other words, they have a diet that had 60% of calories come from carbs, with 25% coming from fat and only 15% coming from protein.
Here’s where the interesting stuff starts.
In the beginning, of course, the low-carb group lost the most weight. The first three months, they were in the lead.
However, by the 12-month mark, the difference in weight loss between the groups wasn’t that significant.
We shouldn’t be too surprised that the low-carb team was the first to lose weight. After all, cutting back on carbs is going to cut down on the amount of glycogen our bodies store up in our muscles and liver Plus, it’s going to decrease water retention.
So from here, this is going to cause a sudden drop in weight – but it doesn’t have to do with fat. Let’s make sure that’s clear:
The initial weight loss of cutting carbs is mostly based on glycogen and the water retention.
Harvard University also decided to take a look at this. They looked at 811 overweight adults and assigned each one with one with a different diet. Basically, each time had the following percentages of fat, protein, and carbs.
- First group: 20%, 15%, and 65%.
- Second group: 40%, 15%, and 45%.
- Third group: 40%, 25%, and 35%.
After being on their instructed diet for 6 months, most of the participants averaged about 6 kg of weight lost. After that, they all started to go back for weigh-ins every year. By the 2-year mark, weight loss averaged out to 4 kg. So there wasn’t a huge different between any group – low carb vs. low fat, high protein vs. low carb, low carb vs high carb.
Low Carb Dieting: So What Really Works?
We’ll provide you with one more study that provides the answer – Arizona State University. This university looked at an 8-week diet that was low in fats and proteins, but high in carbs. After the 8 weeks, it discovered that this diet was just as effective as a diet that was low in carbs and fat, but high in protein.
This is getting a little confusing, but all three of these studies prove one thing: carbs are not the enemy.
It also points to something else: as long as your body is in some kind of caloric deficit, you’re going to lose weight.
So that means you can have a lot of carbs – just cut back on protein and fats. If you want to have a diet that’s full of fat, cut down on proteins and carbs. You have to pick a side and fall back with the other two choices. What matters is your total calories taken in, and the amount you burn off. Burning calories and building muscle keep your metabolism high.
Who Can Benefit from High Carb Dieting?
Now, on top of the evidence we just showed you, there’s something else to consider as well. Some people are going to do better on a low-carb diet, while others will do better on a high-carb diet. There are the few lucky individuals who can do both.
But you need to find out which one your body can handle better. Some people can handle high-carb diets really well. They feel full of energy all day, without any middle-of-the-day crashes, and they can lose weight. These people can also regulate their gym time and keep going for longer periods of time.
Other people can’t do this. Do you know where you stand?
Those who don’t do well with high-carb diets find themselves losing weight a lot slower, and feeling hungrier more often. Therefore, they’re going to start over-eating, so they’re going to see their weight go up and down a lot.
Again this still comes down to caloric surplus at the end of the day.
While that may seem like the ideal side to be on, the same can be said for low-carb diets. A lot of people don’t do well with low-carb diets that are higher in fat. Most of the time, these individuals will feel lethargic and have trouble focusing. These low-carb diets can affect their bodies too, as they don’t perform as well in the gym and they may also have trouble dropping pounds.
So as you can see, while some people can’t deal with low-carb diets, others can. But there’s more to it than just personal preference.
A caloric deficit will determine how much weight loss you incur, but the types of calories you consume will have a direct effect on the ones you consume after!
This is why we encourage anyone who is active and using their muscles regularly to make sure and keep a healthy whey protein supplement handy for between meals and after your workout.
Carbs and Weight Loss: Interpreting the Research
Research shows that individual people deal better with high amounts of dietary fats than others. So this means they’re going to respond positively with metabolic changes.
By seeing an increase in resting energy and fat oxidation in order to keep energy levels balanced. Plus, they’re going to see that their appetites are better under control with this.
Research goes on to show that other people, those who respond negatively to dietary fat, are the ones who are going to store it in the body as fat. So this is an explanation as to why each person responds differently to various diets.
For example, a ketogenic diet can be an absolutely catastrophe for some, and for others, it’s the answer they’ve been praying for.
It can also depend on how your insulin sensitivity, as well as your insulin’s response, affects the diet and how effective it is. The research concluded that any weight loss efforts are neither damaged or improved by insulin sensitivity, or resistance. Rather, when we shy away from high carbs, low fat, etc, things just change a bit.
There could be a larger issue that you need to make sure you’re aware of. If you notice your body responding especially poorly to certain carbs, you might want ask your doctor about Gluten Allergy Symptoms.
The Tufts-New England Medical Center wanted to look into this further. They demonstrated that obese women (who were insulin sensitive) lost a lot more weight when they were following a high-carb, low-fat regimen, rather than high-fat, low carb. The results were pretty interesting – the high-carb diet yielded about 13.5% loss in body weight, versus the low-carb, which was only 6.8% loss in body weight.
On the other hand, those that were more insulin resistant had the exact opposite results. Those who went on a low-carb diet that was higher in fat lost more than those that went on a high-carb, low-fat diet. The average was about 13.4% of weight loss on the low-carb diet, while the high-carb dieters only lost about 8.5% of body weight.
What this means for you: Depending on if you’re insulin sensitivity or not, you can tell which diet is more effective for you. And once you discover that, you can find out for yourself if carbs are going to make you gain weight or not.
Here’s how you can tell if you have a good insulin sensitivity and response. Treat yourself to a meal that’s super high in carbs (YAY). And see how you feel afterward.
Do you feel like your muscles are full and satisfied?
How’s your mental alertness?
Do you feel full?
Are you going into a carb coma?
If you feel good afterward, you likely have good insulin sensitivity and response. However, if you feel bloated, or are having trouble concentrating, and feel hungry soon after eating, It’s likely that your insulin resistance and response are poor, which means you should stick to a lower-carb diet. But keep in mind that these are just some easy guidelines – they aren’t rules. If you’ve found a way that helps you lose weight, stick with it!
Whatever works for you is good for you. Just remember to listen to your body and the signals it gives off.
If it doesn’t feel right, odds are, it isn’t right.
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