Carbs are NOT the Enemy

Through the years, we have seen some crazy shifts in the nutritional field. Things to include…

  • Fats are bad for you

  • Carbs are bad for you

  • Too much protein is bad for your kidneys

All of these things are not true, but the erroneous mindset continues to linger in much of our population. In this week’s blog, I want to attack the notion that “carbs are bad”.  

What are Carbs?

  • Carbs are a macronutrient and their energy value is  4 calories per gram. 

    • Reminder–a calorie is a unit of measurement of energy! We consume calories to provide energy for our body. 

    • If we look at a package of oatmeal, we can use the nutrition label to calculate the amount of calories from carbs:

  • Carbs are used by the body as the primary fuel source. There are multiple energy systems in our body, and they utilize the other macronutrients for energy (fats, proteins) BUT the primary fuel source comes from carbs. 

  • Everyone’s carbohydrate requirement varies. There are various factors, however the sport and/or activities you engage in will dictate carbohydrate intake to a large degree.

  • For more information on macronutrients, check out our blog: 

Don’t Jump to the Thought of Eliminating All Carbs…

Many people have the goal of weight loss, so they automatically assume they should cut carbs and/or decrease their carbs drastically. That should NOT be the case. There are many diets out there (for example, keto and Atkins) that make people believe that carbs inhibit fat loss, trigger the release of insulin, ignite fat storage, and need to be kept to a bare minimum if they want to lose weight. There are also some people who say that they avoid fruits because they contain sugar and carbs. This is something I’ve heard a lot, so I want to share some of my experiences and thoughts.

  • We want to keep carbs in our diet. Why? We need fuel! I’ve done a lot of experiments on myself, so that I can gain insight firsthand. I did a month of an extremely low carb diet (about 90-100g per day). The results were…

    • Restlessness/poor sleep

    • Bloat 

    • Low glycogen storage

    • Constant fatigue 

    • Nagging injuries/poor recovery

    • Strength loss/poor performance in training

    • Irritable/constant bad mood/foggy brain

  • Everyone’s nutritional requirements vary, and carb intake is very different per person. Some people can take in 300+ grams of carbs per day without experiencing weight gain, while other people have much lower intakes in order to maintain weight or lose fat. This is a huge variable! You should not be copying someone else’s nutrition approach, instead you should figure out what works best for YOU based on YOUR goals, YOUR lifestyle, and YOUR body’s response. 

You’re probably thinking– well I want to lose weight, so I shouldn’t “cut carbs”? The answer is– it depends! 

The only way to lose weight is to be in a caloric deficit, and everyone’s caloric deficit range is VERY different because of all of the factors involved (check this blog out for more on energy balance: ). For some people, they may need to adjust their caloric intake by decreasing their carb intake, while others may want to decrease their caloric intake by decreasing their fat intake, but that is something that would require more insight and individualization. Most of the time, people should keep the primary carbs they’re eating from meals and all they have to do is remove the mindless snacking and empty calories from things like sodas. These are low hanging fruit. What does that mean? Below is an example day of meals to explain:

The first thing I notice is that this person follows a similar method to the plate method (blog here: ). They are getting protein in every meal and snack, and they’re probably getting enough protein (assuming the serving size of the meals are reasonable– it’s all dependent on the serving size!). Next, I notice they have a few carb sources in their meals: toast, veggies, potatoes, bread, rice cakes. If they want to lose weight, I can tell them to replace the potato with more veggies (like broccoli) and opt for 1 rice cake versus 2, this will bring their total calories down slightly and in a sustainable way (since it’s not a drastic change) HOWEVER I prefer to take a different approach first, one that is a low-hanging fruit. I would suggest for them to eliminate the mindless and boredom eating first– they probably  don’t need the handful of trail mix and chocolate; many people do this when they’re not even hungry. Before someone restricts their meals by cutting carbs, I want them to realize the calories from mindless/bored snacking is what really is keeping them from reaching their goals. They’ll need to deviate from that habit first. Another area that can be improved is the soda and mayo (written in blue). Instead of a can of soda, aim for sparking water, diet soda, flavored water. Instead of extra mayo, go for just a serving of mayo and keep it in moderation. Essentially, we are cutting calories through carbs/fats, but we are doing it little by little by eliminating the stuff that is keeping the person from progressing…we are NOT trying to eliminate carbs completely or in big chunks. Another thing of note is that these suggested changes are incremental and not drastic, allowing the person to adjust appropriately and increasing the chance of adherence.

Takeaway message: before you-or anyone you know- go crazy and start cutting out all carbs, please remember we need carbs for sustainability and energy.