What's Wrong with Carbs?

Cut Out or Not Cut Out?

Lately ketogenic diets have gained notoriety in the fitness industry and among females in particular because of the negative stigma that surround carbohydrates.  Ketogenic diets minimize carbohydrate intake to one meal early in the day or completely cut them out to substitute fat as the main fuel source for the body.  While there is some rhyme to this reasoning, a strict adherence to a high fat and protein diet as well as a caloric deficit, on top of an exercise or fitness regimen, is required to see lasting results.  Similarly, many females instinctively abandon carbohydrates when they feel they need to lose weight or are preparing for spring break.  However, most people fail to realize that aside from complex carbohydrates like rice and pasta, sugars as well as many vegetables are or contain carbohydrates, potatoes and sweet potatoes in particular.  

Does it Work?

If your immediate goal is to look thinner for a prom photo or a week at the beach, then be sure a ketogenic or low carb diet could work but it is not a long-term solution.  Carbohydrates are the main substrate for our glycogen stores, our typical energy source, and for every gram of glycogen the body stores 3 grams of water.  If carbohydrates are not consumed, then your body starts to rely upon fat and protein oxidation for energy, but be careful because fat oxidation normally does not occur with high intensity exercise because the body tends to use muscular protein instead.  So weightlifting on low glycogen stores can actually hurt you more than help you because you are taking away structural proteins away from your muscles and even though you might look slimmer, that is due to a loss in muscle mass.  Regardless if your goals are aesthetic, weight loss or fat reduction, a return to carbohydrates will naturally bloat you because of the additional water weight from increased glycogen stores and your low storage state may actually hinder athletic performance.

What Should I do?

Whether you are trying to lose weight, lose body fat, gain muscle mass, or maintain weight, around 50% of your caloric intake should come from carbohydrates.  Ideally you want to consume a good blend of simple fruit and sugars, and complex carbohydrates for a well-balanced diet as well as 4 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, and approximately 1g-1.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  Your fitness goals should focus on caloric intake vs. caloric burn and if your plan is to lose weight then a caloric deficit must be achieved but do not make it drastic.  If anything, reduce your daily caloric intake by no more than 100 calories per day and try not to consume less than 1,200-1,400 calories per day; instead increase your activity level and reduce your meal size to stimulate your metabolism.  Spicy foods that contain capsaicin can also stimulate metabolism.  Sometimes I wake up and eat one tablespoon of cayenne and paprika and jog with my dog in the morning to get a quick fat burn in and wake myself up for the day.  

I Just Ate but I’m Still Hungry…

The human body cannot differentiate between hunger and thirst and so if you are ever confused by your ravenous hunger, chug a bottle of water and wait 15 minutes to see if you are still hungry.  If you are, try to eat a handful of spinach, the leaves contain thlyakoids which help slow the metabolism similarly to soluble fibers to stave off your hunger.

Author: John Kim