Are Carbs the Culprit?
So I came across this really great article from JC Deen (Fitness Coach, Writer, and Former Fat Boy) that I wanted to share with you because he does a really great job at clarifying the common misconception that carbs make us fat. It is totally unnecessary and (in my opinion) unsustainable to adopt a Ketogenic or Paleo diet. And it definitely is not the "make or break" for you to achieve your health and fitness goals:
Here starts JC Deen:
"I was listening to a Joe Rogan podcast last night on a drive home and the guest was talking about ketogenic dieting and why carbs are SUPER bad for us. She said they were making us fat, and they should be eliminated altogether, outside of some leafy greens here and there.
But today I want to make a case for you... Sugar (we're talking all forms of carbohydrates here) gets a bad rap most of the time. Sugar tends to receive a lot of the blame when it comes to the macronutrient that makes us fat. So as a result, when we're being more conscious of our intakes, trying to lose body fat, and get into better shape, many of us try to watch our carb intake and keep it as low as possible.
But what if I told you that's mostly a bunch of wasted effort?
When I interview individuals for my personal coaching program, I ask a lot of questions, and one idea that comes up over and over again is a fear of eating too many carbohydrates. And this fear is based on the idea that sugar causes fat storage, even in the midst of a caloric deficit.
Lots of people come to me saying "I've been reducing my sugar intake so I can lose fat, but I'm low on energy, and not making much progress in the gym." After some more probing, I learn that some individuals are mostly focused on getting adequate protein, and lots of "good fats."
There's this idea that if you eat lots of protein and fat, then you're not going to ever be in "fat-storing-mode" and therefore, you'll burn body fat as a result. Some people even justify that because they're eating so-called "good fats," they're free to overeat on them and not gain any fat due to the low insulin levels... but what about all the low-carbers who aren't losing any body fat?
THE TRUTH: You won't see them in the media because they're not a success story.
You only see those who've been eating mostly fat and protein while keeping a caloric deficit who've been successful with fat loss.
So what's the big deal here?
We can't blame single food groups for our fat loss efforts failing. We have to look at the big picture. Macronutrients are used in different ways by the body (remember, we're talking about humans, not rats - more on this in a second).
- Protein -
When protein is ingested it's used by the body to repair tissues, build muscle, and supply the amino acids our body needs daily. There is no major storing mechanism for protein. The only way it can be stored is if it's converted to sugar (glucose), and then stored in the muscle cells. But this is a costly process, and only happens if you're in a steep caloric deficit and/or very low on carbohydrates. Protein doesn't go straight to fat.
- Fat -
When you ingest fat, it's very easily stored in your fat cells because there is no conversion process that needs to happen. Fat is fat, and when it's broken down in the gut, and then goes into the bloodstream, it is stored... as fat on your body.
- Carbs -
Carbohydrates are actually stored in two places: The muscles, and your liver. Stored carbs are what we call glycogen. And when you consume them, they go to those places (muscles and liver) for storage.
Carbs are not directly stored in your fat cells as fat because that would require them to be converted to fat in the body. And like protein being converted to carbs, it's a costly process, and this is known as de novo lipogenesis.
But you know what?
It rarely happens unless you're eating a massive amount of carbohydrates (we're talking well over 500-1000g daily for many days in a row). The body stores those carbohydrates to be later used for energy during your intense workouts.
So how do we get fat?
When people say that carbs make them fat, what they really mean is foods they deem as carbs are fattening. You ever eaten a donut? That's what people tend to label as carb-heavy (or sugary) foods. You know what else those donuts contain?
A TON of fat.
More fat than most people eat in a single home-cooked meal. The same goes for those greasy bar foods -- wings, tater tots, truffle fries, and onion rings. All of them contain a lot of carbs, but even more fat when you look at the percentages. Most restaurants use fat plentifully because it makes food taste very good. And the more palatable these foods are, the easier they're overeaten. And when we consume a high energy intake with a bulk of it as fat, this fat is going to be stored as fat.
So in a simple sense, these carb-heavy foods will make you fat, but not because of the carbs. Those carbs are being stored in your muscles for energy to use tomorrow at the gym. But the fat? It's going directly to your ass and love handles.
Now let's take a very high carb food in unison: Raw table sugar.
Can you imagine yourself eating spoonfuls of sugar (and nothing else) at the bar with friends? No — for two reasons: it'd be a boring meal, and it wouldn't be tasty, like at all. Sugar, by itself, is very sweet and would be hard to overeat on alone. So in short, it's not the sugar that makes us fat -- it's the combination of lots of fat and sugar, which creates an excess of energy. And that excess of energy (from fat) is going to be stored in those fat cells, no matter what you think or believe about carbs being the sole macronutrient making you fat."
I Stand With JC
Many times with clients, I start them out on a diet that is moderate in protein, fairly low in fat, and the highest percentage of their intake is from carbohydrates.
The reason I do this because I place a high priority on performance in the gym, adequate sleep at night (carbs help with this too, especially when consumed later in the day), and optimal thyroid function (they also help keep your metabolism healthy).
So remember this: Carbs are not the enemy. Neither is fat. No macronutrient by itself is going to be the one to blame for low performance or fat gain. But the way you view them might be a hindrance to your goals.
Change your mind, change your body.