The Truth About Why Carbs Make You Fat
What are carbs? Carbs are sugars, starches, and other types of molecules that your body can break down and use as energy. They’re an essential part of any diet, but some carbs have more calories than others. When you eat these high-calorie carbs in large quantities, they can contribute to weight gain—and the more weight you gain, the harder it can be to lose it again.
Here’s how carbs make you fat and while certain carbs are healthier than others, sugar has been linked to an array of health problems like diabetes and heart disease, making it one of the worst things you can put into your body. Here’s how different types of carbs impact your weight loss journey—and what you can do about it.
What Are Carbs?
Also called carbohydrates, carbs are a broad group of organic compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. There are three main types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars, and fiber. They’re found in a wide variety of foods including, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Sugars and starches that are digested quickly cause a spike in blood sugar. Insulin, a hormone secreted by your pancreas, helps glucose from carbohydrates enter your cells. Blood glucose levels then begin to fall, which stimulates your body to release more insulin and store any extra energy in your liver or muscles for later use. This process is known as glycogenesis.
The Glycemic Index, or GI, is a ranking of carbohydrates based on how much they raise blood sugar levels. The higher a food’s GI, the faster it will cause blood sugar to rise. Carbohydrates with a high GI include most white and pasta. Lower-GI carbs include whole grains, beans, and non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens.
How Do Carbohydrates Affect Weight Gain?
Carbohydrates are just long chains of sugar molecules that our bodies break down into glucose. Glucose is a primary energy source for all cells in our body and plays a major role in fueling not only ourselves but also our muscles and our brains. That’s why carbohydrates have become somewhat synonymous with energy.
However, it’s important to note that not all carbs are created equal. Although there are certainly healthy sources of carbohydrates out there, such as fruits and vegetables, there are also other types of carbohydrates that are more detrimental to our health and weight than others. There’s a reason why low-carb diets work so well when it comes to losing weight. As a general rule of thumb, refined and simple carbs are not our friends when it comes to fat loss.
Simple carbs are often loaded with added sugars which give them a high glycemic index rating. High glycemic index foods are those that cause spikes in blood sugar levels after eating them. This can lead to increased insulin levels as well as increased fat storage around your midsection. So when it comes to losing weight, it’s much better to avoid these types of unhealthy carbs in favor of healthier alternatives like fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
Are All Carbohydrates Bad?
It’s important to understand that all carbohydrates are not created equal. Fiber, for example, has little effect on blood sugar and is easily digested by most people. Refined grains like white rice or white bread have a high glycemic index (GI) and lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and energy crashes—the two things you want to avoid when trying to lose weight.
Are All Carbohydrates Bad? Not at all. Consuming complex carbohydrates in moderation is a healthy habit—as long as they come from healthy sources like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. So what you should be avoided when trying to lose weight are refined carbs – in other words, carbs that have been stripped of their nutritional value. These types of processed carbs can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels and energy crashes, which will prevent you from losing weight quickly.
Make a habit of replacing high-GI carbs like white bread, rice, and potatoes with their whole-grain counterparts such as wheat bread, brown rice, and sweet potatoes. You’ll improve your health and weight loss efforts by doing so.
Your body needs glucose to function properly, and you can get it through carbohydrate intake – but if you eat too many sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, you’ll suffer from energy spikes followed by crashing lows.
4 Reasons Why Carbs Make You Fat
Carbohydrates are among one of three macronutrients the other two being protein and fat. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy, but when consumed in excess can contribute to weight gain and a host of health problems. The top four reasons why carbs make you fat are:
1. Some Carbs Have High Glycemic Index
Glycemic index is a scale that measures how quickly carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to rise. Refined grains, such as pasta and white bread, have high glycemic indexes. Carbohydrates with lower glycemic indexes include oatmeal, beans, and certain fruits. In general, whole foods that are rich in fiber tend to have low glycemic indexes because fiber slows digestion and absorption of nutrients.
2. Carbs Cause Insulin Spikes
When we eat carbohydrates, they get broken down into simple sugars in our digestive tract. Simple sugars are easily absorbed by our bodies and cause insulin to be released from our pancreas. Since insulin is a storage hormone, it drives all of those carbs into fat cells to make you gain weight. Insulin spikes also decrease your levels of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain you’re full—and increase your ghrelin levels which appetite.
3. Carbohydrates Are Addictive
Carbs are addictive, when we consume carbohydrates, our bodies release endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. This is what can cause people to feel euphoric after eating sweets and chocolates. Carbohydrates stimulate a feel-good response in your brain similar to other narcotics such as heroin or cocaine which explains why it is so hard for people to stay away from or sweets when trying to lose weight; it also explains why some may develop a narcotic-like dependency on these foods if they continually eat them almost like an addiction.
4. Constant Carbing Can Make Your Body Store Calories as Fat
Ever wonder why people who eat a lot of carbs have trouble losing weight? The answer to that question lies in how our bodies break down and metabolize carbohydrates, which subsequently how fat is stored. It’s easier for our bodies to store fat if we’re constantly bombarding them with carbs, rather than eating them in moderation. They even prefer to store calories as fat when carbs are plentiful in your diet. If you’re serious about maximizing fat loss from your efforts in the gym, be sure to limit high-carb foods as much as possible. Instead, stick with natural sources of protein and healthy fats like eggs for most of your meals throughout the day.
Carbohydrate Alternatives for Weight Loss
Most people think of carbs as bad, but they can be quite beneficial when it comes to weight loss. The truth is, if you’re going to lose weight safely and effectively, you need alternatives for carbohydrates that you eat daily. Some good alternatives include:
- Whole wheat instead of pasta and white bread
- Cauliflower in place of rice
- Spaghetti squash instead of noodles
- Beans and lentils instead of potato chips or fries
- Apples and oranges instead of cupcakes and cookies
Keeping a food journal is key to getting rid of excess weight, and that’s because it keeps you accountable for everything you eat. By writing down everything you consume, including beverages, snacks, and even condiments, you can be more aware of exactly how much or how little carbs are in your diet. Keeping a journal is also important for those times when you might slip up and have an indulgent meal or two.
Choosing Carbs Wisely
If you’re on a diet, it’s essential to choose your carbs wisely. If you’re trying to lose weight, going for high-fiber and whole grains is a great place to start. Whole grains contain more fiber than processed grains; fiber helps keep you feeling full longer, keeping you from reaching for calorie-dense snacks.
It can also help lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. Fiber also keeps your digestive system running smoothly, which means less bloating or abdominal pain, or other gastrointestinal issues. It’s vital to choose whole grains over refined options when you’re shopping for carbs; whole grains retain most of their nutritional value, including a large amount of fiber that won’t show up on food labels since it doesn’t technically have calories.
Refined grains have much of their fiber removed during processing to make them sturdier and less subject to spoilage; once they’re introduced into packaged foods as bulking agents, they’re difficult for our bodies to digest completely, and hence they are stored as fat in the body causing weight gain.
Simple Carbohydrates Vs Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy. Simple carbs (the refined kind) provide a quick burst of energy but require our bodies to break them down quickly. As such, they often make us hungry again shortly after eating and cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate rapidly, making it difficult for some people to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight due to insulin resistance. Examples of simple carbs include white bread, sugary drinks, and candy.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide a more stable source of energy and do not cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate. Instead of spiking our blood sugar like simple carbs, complex carbs are released into our bloodstream slowly, which prevents overeating. Complex carbs also require us to eat more of them because our bodies cannot break them down as quickly as simple carbs.
This means that we consume fewer calories over time, which helps with weight loss. These carbs are known as low-glycemic carbs, and they help keep blood sugar levels more stable. Foods rich in these types of carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
How Do Simple Carbs Make You Gain Weight?
Eating too many carbs — those simple sugars and starches that are present in bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and sweets — can cause weight gain in a few different ways. Your body absorbs carbohydrates quickly and directly converts them into glucose, blood sugar, which is used to fuel your daily activities. When you consume more glucose than your body needs to function normally, it’s stored as fat for later use.
More often than not, you’ll consume more simple carbs than your body needs in a single meal. If you eat a plate of pasta with tomato sauce, for example, and don’t burn off that glucose before your next meal, it will be stored as fat. In contrast, eating slower-digesting carbohydrates like whole grains and beans helps you avoid spikes in blood sugar because they keep you feeling full longer.
How Do Healthy Complex Carbs Make You Lose Weight?
Complex carbs also help you feel fuller for longer. There’s no need to cut all carbs out of your diet; just make sure that you choose complex carbohydrates instead of simple ones so you can stay healthy and lose weight at the same time. These types of carbs include whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and legumes. That bagel you get every morning will do little more than spike your blood sugar while not making you feel full until lunchtime rolls around.
Healthy complex carbs are key if you want to lose weight by changing your diet. They also help with your body’s processes, such as your immune system and digestion. However, it’s important to make sure that you eat healthy complex carbs instead of simple ones to reap their benefits while losing weight and staying healthy.
5 Tips for Good Carbs for Better Health
It’s easy to write off carbs as unhealthy and fattening, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When eaten in moderation, whole grains are excellent sources of fiber and other essential nutrients. Try consuming a variety of whole-grain carbs throughout your day for sustained energy and better health. Here are 5 tips for picking good carbohydrates
1. Choose Whole Grains Instead of Refined Varieties.
Check food labels and look for whole-grain or 100% whole wheat on food packaging, as well as a number indicating how many grams of total fiber is present in each serving. Good sources of carbohydrates include oats, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and quinoa.
2. Watch Out for Added Sugars in Processed Carbs
You probably already know that sugar is a problem when it comes to weight management, but did you know that many processed carbohydrates are laden with added sugars? These refined carbs might taste better than plain white bread, but they aren’t much better for you. To keep your intake of natural sugars in fresh fruit and added sugars found in packaged foods in check, pick whole grains that contain little or no added sugars.
3. Pair Good Carbs with Lean Protein
Good carbohydrates come in many forms—whole grains; fresh fruits; dried fruits; legumes; starchy vegetables such as potatoes—but what they all have in common is their ability to fill us up while offering nutrition and sustained energy throughout our day. Pairing good carbs with lean proteins can help control hunger by keeping blood sugar levels steady and decreasing cravings.
4. Avoid Bad Fats in Favor of Good Ones
Fats get a bad rap, but some types of fat – monounsaturated fats like those found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados – are essential to health. Replacing saturated fats with healthy mono-and polyunsaturated fats in place of trans fat has been shown to reduce heart disease risk. In other words, not all fats are created equal.
5. Enjoy Your Grains More Than Once a Day
Despite research showing that people who increase their daily servings of whole grains significantly lower chronic disease risk. Put simply, consuming at least three servings of whole grains per day has been linked to lower obesity rates; if you don’t think you meet that quota, start looking closely at your carbohydrate choices each day until you find ways to add an extra serving without having to cook separate meals.
There is no doubt that carbs are good for you. But consuming too many carbs over a long period could lead to weight gain, as they can quickly convert into fat in your body. The key is to eat foods that are high in protein and fiber with each meal to minimize blood sugar spikes. Stay away from processed foods such as cereal or fast food and instead stick to wholesome options like fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts, and whole grains.
Therefore, follow the tips discussed above to manage your carb intake and healthily lose weight. Exercise regularly and reduce stress. Eat a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products that keep you full for longer. For immediate results, go for slow-burning carbs like sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.