Carbs are a hot button topic in health and fitness world. Honestly, what isn’t a hot topic anymore? Everyone seems to have an opinion on carbs and every where you look you see low-carb and/or carb-free diets.
Is Carb Free The Way To Be?
Many women tell me they are ‘carb free’ or ‘cutting carbs’ in order to lose weight. Then, they proceed to fill their diet with peanut butter, salads, and vegetable and fruit smoothies.
Let’s address a few inconsistencies with this mindset before we talk about why carb-free isn’t the best dieting method.
- Vegetables and fruits are carbs. (Why are so many people blissfully unaware of this simple nutritional fact?) By cutting out bread, pasta, and cookies and simply eating more fruits and vegetables, you are actually adopting a higher carb diet. The difference is you have chosen a difference source of carbs. A “healthier” source.
- The average smoothie packs about 50-80 grams of carbs (Just a fun fact for the “low-carb” smoothie drinkers.)
- Supplementing your diet with fat instead of carbs won’t necessarily give you the results you want or assist in changing your body composition.
- Cutting carbs isn’t a sustainable weight loss approach. At some point, you will crash and burn. Your metabolism will slow down and you will start to gain weight again.
- Truly cutting out carbs is going to make you feel like a pile of crap. Your brain and muscles need carbs to function properly.
Are fruits and vegetables better sources of carbs than donuts, cookies, and cakes? Sure! They have more micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) and are less calorie-dense than a donut, meaning you can eat more of them. (I call these “volume foods.“) BUT just because fruits and vegetables are healthy doesn’t make them any less of a carb. (Donuts can also be a fine source of carbs, in moderation. I eat donuts and maintain abs year round.)
Smoothies are also wonderful, in moderation. Women are shocked by the 50-80 grams of carbs. Those add up fast when you are slurping down your “super healthy green drink” by the pint. Peanut butter is also a yummy and healthy food but eating 1/2 container off a spoon in an effort to “cut carbs” is the worst idea ever.
Mainstream Mentality Regarding Carbs
The mainstream mindset is that consuming carbohydrates hinders the ability to burn fat. That, for some reason, your body can only do one or the other. Many women avoid carbohydrates in an attempt to “teach” their body to burn fat as the primary fuel source. The truth is that you can consume carbohydrates and still burn fat. Always keep this statement in mind, “Fat burns in the carbohydrate flame.” Not only do carbohydrates provide energy for working muscles, they also assist in enabling fat metabolism. In short, carbohydrates need to be present in order for fat to be utilized for energy.
If you are athletic, you need carbs. If you are a runner, you need carbs. If you lift weights, you need carbs. If you are living and breathing, you need carbs.
Carbohydrate Happy Place
Macronutrients are very basic nutritional components of any diet and include fat, carbohydrates, and protein. All three macronutrients are necessary in a balanced diet.
The trick is to find your carb-happy place. Some women do really well on a lower carb diet (not low-carb or carb-free. simply lower carb when it comes to macronutrient ratios) and other women can handle 200 grams of carbs quite easily. This is where understanding and tracking macros really comes into play. You can also slowly work your way up to a higher carb diet while maintaining the same weight.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for body and brain function – which is exactly why low-carb diets can be detrimental to overall body function if followed for too long. Carbohydrates do a bit of everything from aiding in digestion to fueling you through an intense workout.
Depending on your goals, you can make simple adjustments to the percentage of carbs, fat, or protein that make up your overall diet. Going carb-free would be an extreme and dangerous measure to take when striving for weight loss. Don’t fall victim to the crazy no-carb or dangerously low-carb diets. Instead, focus on healthy sources of carbs and a balanced diet.