Cutting carbs is a common weight loss technique, and when done correctly it can have beneficial results in your progress. The problem is that many people think that carbs are bad and that they should be removed from the diet entirely. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only are complex carbohydrates healthy and essential to any balanced diet, cutting them out completely could actually hinder your progress towards your fitness goals!
Why we need carbs
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients of the diet, alongside protein and fats. Making them one of the 3 ways in which your body receives energy or calories to survive. However, carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source as they are easily digested and converted into glucose that is then transported and used as energy.
Simple vs complex carbs
Understanding the difference between simple and complex carbs is very important, especially if you are considering cutting down on your carb intake. This is because not all carbs are created equal. Some are very beneficial to your health and others provide little to no nutritional value.
There are three types of carbs:
- Sugars - Sugars include sucrose, fructose and lactose and they are the simplest forms of carbohydrates. This means that they are easily absorbed into the body, causing a spike in blood sugar levels which is often followed by a sudden drop. The problem with this quick injection of energy is that if it is not used, it is easily transported and deposited into your fat cells for potential later use.
- Starch - Starch is a more complex carbohydrate that is formed from a number of sugar units that have been bonded together. For this reason, they take longer to digest and the release of energy into the body is slower and more constant. This means that you have a consistent energy supply over a period of time and are more likely to utilize that energy as it is provided.
- Fibre - Just like starch, fiber is a complex carbohydrate that provides you with slow release energy. It is also essential in supporting a healthy digestive system.
When we consider cutting carbs, we are not talking about all carbs. You need complex carbs to give you the energy to get up each morning and tackle your day, let alone your workouts!
Complex carbs come from foods such as:
- Whole grains (such as brown rice and oats)
- Whole fruits
It is the simple carbs you can do without. These simple carbs, which are often referred to as the bad carbs, come from your sugars, but they also include foods such as:
- Soda/soft drink
- Fruit juices
- Most bread (especially white bread)
- White rice
The bottom line
Though cutting out carbs altogether may result in more rapid weight loss, it is not only not sustainable long term, it can also be detrimental to your health. If you are concerned about your weight and would like to help maintain your current weight or shed a few pounds, then consider reducing or removing the simple carbs from your diet. However, make sure you continue to enjoy plenty of fresh vegetables, beans and nuts as these are not only excellent sources of complex carbs, they also provide a variety of other essential nutrients to our diet.