"Carbs are the devil"

You've heard the sayings. You've probably said them to yourself, a friend, your PT. You're probably a PT whose said this to your clients.

Along with "Don't eat carbs after 6" "Don't eat carbs to lose weight" etc etc, the list goes on.

But what is the truth about this macronutrient?

Well, there is some slight "truths" if that's the right word, behind the latter 2 statements, however, to completely contradict that, none of the above statements are completely "true"

Firstly a macronutrient is a food product, needed in large amounts for specific roles within the body. Let's take a look at the facts and the role of (CHO) within the body:

  • Carbs are the body's preferred source of energy for high intensity exercise. This is exercise performed at roughly around 70% or more MHR

  • Carbs provide roughly around 3.5 to 4.2 calories of energy per gram

  • Carbs are the brain's preferred source of energy

  • Carbs, whilst non-essential (we'll come to this) produce fibre, which is essential for gut health.

An "essential" nutrient is one the body cannot create, therefore we must ingest food products containing this macronutrient. Protein, when broken down, is made up of amino acids. The body makes some of these and some we must get from food products. The body, however, can produce a "version" of carbohydrates in the absence of this macronutrient, deeming it non-essential. The flipside to this is, the production of ketones within the body increases the acidic content of the blood and/or urine, which can lead to complications.

This is at basic level, there is more science behind the above, and studies floating around the world wide web, but let's keep it simple for now!

So, based on the above, let's go back to and break down our original statements to find out just what people mean:

"Carbs are the devil" - Often said by someone who has over consumed carbohydrates, specifically refined or simple carbohydrates and, due to this has probably put weight on or finds it difficult to shift weight. The truth behind this is that carbs CAN make you put on weight, but not carbs alone. Over consumption of any macronutrient will likely lead to weight gain, the reason it is almost seen as "easier" to do with carbs is the choice. It is very, very easy to over consume "simple" or refined carbs as they have a lack of fibre content, fibre also gives us the feeling of being "fuller" for longer, therefore over-eating on carbohydrate foods high in fibre (unrefined) is almost, and i say almost impossible.

Take chinese buffet restaurants for example. You starve yourself all day, telling yourself you're going to have 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 deserts and maybe more. After you've consumed all of the refined carbs in sight, fried rice, sesame toast, spring rolls, etc, you're full! This is normal, you've just ate 6 plates of food. However, an hour later (likely when your table time limit is up) you're hungry again. This is due to the lack of fibre within these products not giving you the feeling of long term satiety.

"Don't eat carbs after 6" - Another myth, not helped by the similar saying from the reality tv show in essex and their slogan "no carbs before marbs" Yes, for the average person who works a 9-5 or similar and gets home and puts their feet up, the body's metabolism and burning of calories will naturally slow down. What it won't do is STOP completely, so the 7pm meal of spaghetti bolognaise, won't be there when you wake up in the morning. The body is a fuel-burning machine and burns calories, firstly to eat this meal, then to digest this meal, then whilst your sleeping and so on.

What doesn't help here, is food choices throughout the WHOLE day and not just after 6pm. If you live a somewhat sedentary or lowly active lifestyle, yet you consume carbohydrates at every meal and snack, there is a chance you never get into a state where your body utilises that carbohydrate as a fuel (carbs thrive of high-intensity activity) unused carbohydrates will store within the body, leading to weight gain.

There's a reason those at the top of their game consume higher proportions of carbohydrates on training days and less on rest days.

"You mustn't eat carbs if you want to lose weight" - It would help if you cut down on carbohydrates to lose weight. But the same can be said on food in general, cutting down on fats, proteins or carbohydrates will effectively lead to weight loss, if done properly. Use a coach, an app, or formulas on credible websites or within books to work out your daily calorie expenditure as accurate as you can possibly get, then split your macronutrient consumption based on your goal (be aware, you may have a different calorie expenditure on every different day, best to use an expert here)

So, to summarise. It isn't necessarily CARBS that are making you gain weight, they may be contributing, however your choice of carbohydrates may be more detrimental than the amount your consuming. Don't discredit both fats and proteins attributing to weight gain or lack of weight loss either. Fats are twice as energy dense as carbohydrates, providing 9cals per gram. Throw in micronutrients, and their many roles, such as unlocking the energy or utilising the energy within macronutrients and it's all too complex to simply blame one food product.

You could simply be overeating in general which is causing weight gain or a lack of weight loss.


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