Carbs get a bad time, especially when we’re trying to lose weight. But many people who say they “don’t eat carbs” or that “carbs are bad” don’t really know what they are!
Blaming one particular type of nutrient is not a healthy or effective strategy for long term success!
The main macronutrients are:
Carbohydrates are our main source of energy and should account for about 40% of our total calorie intake. Vegetables are a carbohydrate and I am yet to meet someone who is overweight from eating too much broccoli! Carbs are an essential and easy way to increase the amount of micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals, in our diets.
Now I fully accept that not all carbs are created equally but before we write off any individual food, we need to look at it in the context of your overall eating habits over time.
Some carbs contain more “good things”… like vegetables, which are packed with the things our bodies need to be healthy. Others have less benefits, such as crisps, which will just give you calories.
This is the idea of “nutrient density” or trying to eat more foods that have a benefit to your health rather than “hollow calories” foods with little nutritional value despite a high caloric content.
Think of your calories for a day and a week like a budget. You can spend them wisely or frivolously. The big-ticket items such as takeaways cost you more calories then the sensible foods which should form the majority of your diet.
The only way to sustainably lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn in a day, it really is that simple. We should aim to not count calories but to make calories count! Carbs are not the enemy. Eating more calories than we need is the only factor which leads to weight gain – not the source those calories come from. Think of it like a seesaw balancing activity and food… if one side is heavier than the other you will either gain or lose weight.
Cutting carbs can lead to short term weight loss but is not a sustainable or healthy solution. In fact, if you cut any source of calories you are likely to lose weight – not because that item was bad, but simply because you are eating less. These strategies often lead to rebounding and a yo-yo diet!
A diet where you lost weight and then gained it back did not work! Focus instead on eating foods you enjoy and reducing overall portion size rather than “the things I can’t have” or feeling guilty because you ate” bad foods” … there are no bad foods!
Try to eat more vegetables and move a little more. It will work in the long run, I promise!
This article is written by Andrew MacMillan, a registered osteopath with qualifications in nutrition for sport and exercise, nutrition for weight management and exercise for fat loss.