It feels like every day there is a new fad diet, a new lifestyle trend or an exercise regime we should be following. We’re told to keep track of our calories, cut out carbs (as much as we can!) and reduce our fat intake.
Since carbs are commonly accused of all sorts, including weight gain and heart health amongst many other things – Is cutting out carbs bad for you?
Sure, processed junk food is typically high in carbohydrates, and lowering that has got to benefit your body in some way. But are all carbs bad?
Before you start cutting back on carbs or cutting out carbs completely, we take a closer look at whether carbs are really the bad guys.
The dreaded “carb” movement
Previously a throwaway word, “carbohydrate” has now become the dreaded “carb” we must all avoid. New fad diets pop up on the daily, telling us to keep an eye on this dreaded macronutrient.
We’re made to believe that carbs are all bad, and that cutting out carbs is the way forward for a healthy lifestyle. But while carbs sit crying in a corner at being branded the bad guys of food, it’s important to take notice that not all carbs are the same.
Whether we’re yo-yo dieters or simply scouting out the best new way to lose weight, carbs have quickly grown to be the enemy – since many of us believe that all carbs are hyper-processed.
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While any nutritionist will recommend you stay away from processed junk food, sugary snacks, candy and white bread – this is due to the fact they contain empty calories.
Think about it, ladies.
When you’re munching on something processed and sugary, you only really feel full temporarily. Soon after, you’re hungry again! These type of foods are momentary fillers, without giving our bodies the nutrients and vitamins we need.
Are we meant to eat carbs?
If we take a look back at early humans, cooking meat that provided calories, fat and protein was second nature. In recent years, new research has shown that foods rich in carbohydrates – such as root vegetables and legumes – were cooked and eaten by human ancestors too.
Further research has shown that early humans began developing the ability to digest starchy carbs, revealing how humans have evolved to capably digest starches. Now, we must consider how every single cell in our bodies runs on glucose – a carbohydrate sugar.
Cutting back on carbs to lose weight
With so many different diets around, when a similar theme of “cut out carbs” pops up time and time again, it can quickly reaffirm thoughts that carbs are the enemy.
Many of us turn to low-carb diets or keto diets as a way to lose weight, believing that cutting out carbs is the answer to our weight loss prayers. However, it’s knowing one carb from another that’s important here.
So, let’s talk about good carbs.
Foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains – These may be high in carbohydrates (and sometimes calories), however, they are not empty calories. We aren’t eating them for a quick fix, only to feel hungry again 20 minutes later. These type of foods deliver a steady amount of B vitamins, fiber, protein and other important nutrients our bodies need.
Since a keto diet is designed for rapid weight loss in the first few weeks, dieters get caught up in the idea of fast weight loss. However, this type of diet and weight loss simply isn’t sustainable.
Keeping up cutting out carbs in the long term, is, let’s face it, damn difficult.
Why cut carbs?
Scientists once believed that carbs were the cause of increased obesity (more so than protein and fat), due to their ability to raise insulin levels which encourages fat storage.
Also Read: Does calorie counting work?
However, consuming excessive amounts of any calorie-providing nutrient will set you on the path for weight gain and obesity. You may have heard the term before, that there is too much of a good thing.
While high-carb diets haven’t been necessarily proven to be especially fattening, low-carb diets have shown to be effective in weight loss – at least, short term.
So, why should you cut out carbs? As we’ve already mentioned, it’s all about cutting out carbs in the form of refined carbs. These type of carbs include white flour, white rice, sodas, snacks, pasta and added sugars.
But if you do opt for cutting out carbs completely, you may need to be careful.
Cutting out carbs: Losing fiber
When it comes to nutrition, it is very rarely black and white. Many experts will tell you that fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. Now, since fiber is a carbohydrate, if you choose to cut out carbs completely, you’ll be missing out on this important nutrient.
Research has shown the importance of soluble fiber for heart health and managing your weight. This form of fiber is quite thick and somewhat sticky, and can be found in high-carb foods such as fruits, oats and legumes – all of which help to slow digestion.
Why cutting carbs is bad: Missing key nutrients
While some carb-heavy foods may feel like a big no-no, they’re actually a key source of essential vitamins and minerals.
While fad diets will tell you that carbs are the devil, the right carbs and in the right amounts are important for a healthy, varied diet.
Since carbs come in many forms, cutting out carbs of all varieties could mean that you’re depriving your body of these key nutrients. These carbs provide fiber, minerals and vitamins such as B12 and magnesium – which, without, could put your body at risk. Especially if you’re not replacing these nutrients from other sources.
Carbs are brain food
Believe it or not, carbs are actually your brain’s preferred source of energy. On average, the brain consumes around 120 grams of carbohydrates daily.
This is why if you cut out carbs or start cutting back on carbs, you may experience brain fog, mood swings and mental fatigue. While these side effects of cutting out carbs should gradually subside as your body adapts to this change, these initial effects are what make cutting out carbs so difficult to maintain.
Much like the confusion between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbohydrates, many confuse the role of stimulants (such as coffee’s caffeine) with carbs. While a great cup of coffee or energy drink will provide a short term boost of energy, healthy carbs supply your brain with what it needs to function long term.
The quality of the carbs you consume is the determining factor, here – a bit like putting top quality gas in your car!
Cutting out carbs: Exercise fuel
Feeling like you’ve hit a wall when it comes to your exercise? If you’ve been cutting out carbs, you could be feeling the effects during your workouts. Since carbs provide your body with quick energy, this macronutrient is quickly used for fuel and the easiest to release from your body’s stores.
Also Read: 7 Easy Food Swaps To Make This Week To Reduce Your Fat Intake
Of course, both protein and healthy fats from your diet also equate to fuel. However, our bodies use carbohydrates the most efficiently. So, if you’ve been tempted into cutting back on carbs, your workouts may take a hit.
If you’ve recently made a huge diet change and started cutting out carbs, it’s normal for your performance in the gym to plateau – since your body may not have enough fuel to complete your exercises.
Instead of cutting out carbs entirely, opt for healthy carbs such as quinoa, fruit and oats, which are slow releasing and help you feel full.
How to cut back on carbs
If you’re wondering how to cut back on carbs, try not to cut out carbs completely, but instead try to reduce the bad carbs.
Not only are these ‘bad’ carbs harder to process and digest, but they often offer no calorie value or important vitamins and nutrients. This means that these type of foods don’t leave us feeling full for very long, either!
But if you’re set on cutting out carbs, try to reduce the ‘bad’ ones, such as:
- Bread and grains
- Starchy vegetables
Is cutting out carbs bad for you?
If you’re wondering why cutting carbs is bad for you, all it takes is a quick look at the important nutrients and vitamins your body will be deprived of.
While many fad diets will tell you to cut out carbs completely, our bodies require healthy carbs to function properly. Not only are they a great source of fiber and other nutrients, but they also supply our bodies with energy.
For example, cutting out carbs in the form of processed junk food is definitely a great way to feel healthier and reach your fitness goals.
While cutting back on carbs (in form of the bad, starchy ones!) can be effective for weight loss and diabetes control, eating carbs alone won’t necessarily cause weight gain or disease. Try to look at your dietary intake as the bigger picture, looking at the amount of fat, protein, and calorie intake.
Avoiding ‘empty’ calories, in the form of bad, processed carbs, will aid you in your weightloss – however, cutting out carbs entirely, won’t benefit your body. Plus, ladies, if we’re being totally honest, it’s just not sustainable.
Don’t stress about cutting back on carbs
Regular exercise, paired with a healthy diet (including good carbs!) will aid you in your fitness and weight loss goals. We totally understand how tempting it is to cut out carbs completely, but as fad diets have proven, their results are not sustainable long term.
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