Are carbs bad for you? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that carbohydrates should make up 45% to 65% of your diet.
So, what’s with all these low carb diets and no carb diets? Which carbs should you eat, and how much do you really need?
In this article, we’ll untangle the common confusion about carbs and their role in a healthy weight loss program.
Are Carbs Bad for You, or Good for You?
It depends on the type of carbs you’re asking about. If you’re asking about the carbs in potato chips, white bread, pasta or sugary desserts, the answer is, yes-those carbs are bad for you.
But if you’re talking about the carbs in apples, steel cut oats, barley or sweet potatoes, the answer is, no.
To understand this difference, we need to understand what carbohydrates are and why your body needs them.
The Truth About Carbohydrates and Your Health
Carbohydrates are a naturally occurring nutrient made up of short chains of carbon molecules.
Once eaten, the acids and enzymes in your stomach break these carbon molecules down. Then, these molecules are absorbed into your bloodstream as glucose (blood sugar).
From there, a hormone called insulin carries the glucose into your cells for use as energy or for storage.
For example, lean muscles depend on glucose for their fuel supply. That “earned hunger” feeling you get after a good workout is your body “asking” you to replenish its depleted glucose supplies.
So, glucose is a fuel produced from carbohydrates the same way gasoline is produced from crude oil. The difference is, while car can’t run without gasoline, your body can still run without glucose.
But there’s a catch…
The Hidden Danger of No Carb Diets
When your body doesn’t get enough glucose to supply its energy needs, it breaks down your muscle tissues as an alternative fuel source.
This is bad for two reasons.
First, lean muscle is essential for sustaining healthy testosterone levels and keeping you lean and energetic.
Second, muscle is active tissue, meaning that muscle burns calories, even while you’re not working out. Without adequate glucose, your body is forced to break down your essential calorie-burning muscle.
This is the hidden danger of low carb and no carb diets. The weight you’re losing is most likely your lean muscle being broken down to make up for the glucose your body is missing.
Diets which seek to solve this problem by “swapping” out carbohydrates for protein might work in the short run. But for most people, the long-term health risks of no carb diets aren’t a very good trade-off.
Bottom line, your body needs a healthy supply of glucose, which is why it needs carbohydrates.
So, How Are Carbs Bad for You if They All End Up as Glucose?
Whether carbs are good or bad for you depends on how efficiently your body breaks them down into glucose.
Your body breaks down bad carbs (aka, simple carbs) much easier than it breaks down good carbs (aka, complex carbs).
This is bad for two reasons.
First, the faster your body breaks down carbs, the more glucose pours into your bloodstream at once. Since your body can’t possibly use all this energy, it stores the excess glucose as fat.
Second, if too much glucose enters your bloodstream, your body has to produce more insulin to transfer the glucose to your cells. If your blood glucose levels remain too high over a long period, your body can build up insulin resistance.
This is obviously bad because it can cause diabetes. But it can also “fool” your body into believing that it’s not getting as much glucose as it really is.
This is a common cause of those uncontrollable sugar cravings. Your body is screaming out for more glucose because insulin resistance is sending a false message.
On the other hand, your body breaks down complex carbs much slower. This means the essential glucose enters your bloodstream at a natural pace. Also, since foods rich in good carbs are typically rich in fibers, it takes longer for your stomach acids and enzymes to break down the foods themselves.
This is the scientific difference between good carbs and bad carbs. Bad carbs overload your body with energy, forcing you to store it as fat and/or to build up insulin resistance.
But, good carbs allow your body to absorb and distribute energy at a natural and healthy pace.
Here’s Why This is Great News
Your body needs glucose in order to maintain a high energy level and stay lean. But how you get that glucose makes a huge difference in your overall health.
On top of this, modern psychologists have identified links between low blood sugar and anxiety or even depression.
So, if you’ve been using a no carb diet to lose weight, you’ve actually been making it harder on yourself. But, if you feel helpless about your lack of results, take a deep breath because it’s not your fault.
Healthy weight loss isn’t just about controlling calories, and it’s certainly not about depriving your body of an entire class of essential nutrients like carbohydrates.
So, Are Carbs Bad for You?
By now, you know the answer to this question. It’s all about the kind of carbs you’re eating. No carb diets attempt to dance around this problem by eliminating carbs altogether.
But, how much carbs should you be eating? That’s a good question. Most people are eating too many as a result of the cravings we talked about in this article. As it turns out “are carbs bad for you…” is the first of many questions still to be answered about your weight loss goals.
Our weight loss experts can help you break this cycle with a personalized and customized weight loss program. Just visit our specialist page to find a weight loss expert in your area.
Our doctor-supervised weight loss program is perfect for people who are tired of being disappointed by shortcut fad diets. Call us now. If you’re looking for something that works, you’ll be glad you found us.