Not too long ago, fats were considered to be the worst culprit when it came to weight gain. However, with the rise of Keto, Atkins, and other diets that require you to reduce or cut out your carbohydrates intake, carbs have now become the new enemy.
And this sentiment isn't entirely false. Hyper processed, refined, and fortified foods such as candy, sugary cereals, soda, white bread, white pasta, and bagels contain empty calories and are mostly void of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Since these are mostly considered to fall under the macronutrients' carbohydrate category, it seems plausible that people start blaming them for the high numbers on the scales.
But are carbs really that bad?
Carbohydrates – An Essential Macronutrient?
While highly refined and sugary food can be harmful, not all carbs are bad. Registered Dietician Ashley Koff, the founder of The Better Nutrition Program, explains, "Foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, may be high in carbs and calories sometimes, but they are not empty. They deliver fibre, protein, B vitamins and other nutrients."
Here are some reasons you should not cut out carbohydrates from your diet.
It Would Be Difficult To Get Enough Fibre Intake
Fibre is one of the most important nutrients you need to consume while trying to lose weight. Foods that are high in fibre help you feel fuller for more extended periods, reducing the risk of overeating or untimely snacking. Fibre also plays vital roles in digestion, gut health, and cardiovascular health. People who consume a fibre-rich diet tend to have more beneficial bacteria in the microbiome and are at a lower risk of developing heart disease.
However, you may not get enough fibre if you eliminate carbs from your diet. Some of the most significant fibre sources are whole grain, fruits, and vegetables – especially the starchy ones. But these are also high in carbs, and only one or two servings can ruin your low-carb diet. Yet, these are some of the best foods you can consume while trying to get healthier and fitter.
You May Miss Out on Key Nutrients
Many foods that have high-carb content are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Carbs come in various forms and shapes. The healthier or better carbs provide critical nutrients to the body, such as fibre, minerals, vitamins (like magnesium and B12) and antioxidants. These healthy carbohydrates support digestion, metabolism, and immune health and act as building blocks for healthy muscles, cartilage, bones, skin, and even blood.
As a result, completely cutting out carbohydrates puts you at risk of nutrient deficiencies. Unless you put the active effort into replacing those nutrients with non-carb foods and supplements, your internal health will start to suffer, which can hinder your weight loss routine.
Carbs Help You Build Muscles
When it comes to bulking up, protein has been the uncrowned ruler for a long time. However, carbs can be just as important. When you consume carbs, your body converts some of them into glycogen – a carbohydrates storage form that stockpiles in your muscles. When your body needs a quick energy boost or isn't getting enough energy from your cells' glucose, it turns to glycogen for energy.
This storage reservoir is particularly important when you're lifting heavy weights at the gym. Without enough glycogen, your body may fatigue too quickly or start feeling weak. In addition to that, carbs help your muscles repair themselves after strenuous workouts. It is also believed that eating a serving of healthy carbs soon after a workout session can maximize muscle glycogen replenishment and reduce post-exercise muscle damage.
Weight Loss Plateau? Lack of Carbs May The Culprit
It is common for everyone to hit a weight loss plateau at some point – especially if they started their weight-loss journey exceptionally well. However, it is important to understand the cause behind the plateau in order to move past it. The best way to do this is by analyzing your diet. Carbohydrates are the easiest macronutrient to release from storage, making them the easiest fuel your body uses for energy.
Although protein and dietary fats can also be used for energy, your body isn't utilized efficiently as carbohydrates. This is especially true if you've recently switched to a low carb diet. Hence, if you feel that your weight loss has plateaued or that your performance at the gym is stagnating, a lack of carbohydrates may be the reason.
Cutting Out Entire Food Groups Can Lead to Disordered Eating
This isn't just true for carbs but applies to all macronutrients. Cutting out entire food groups has been linked to disordered eating habits. This is particularly true for people who develop an obsession with healthy eating that progresses to the point of disordered eating habits or in regards to orthorexia nervosa. Orthorexia nervosa is defined as an obsession with healthy eating with associated restrictive behaviours.
As stated before, cutting out fat or protein can have similar effects on your dietary health. However, this is a crucial factor that should prevent you from giving up on carbs.
Processed carbs that contain a lot of added and refined sugar are bad for you. While it's okay to indulge in these foods from time to time, making them a regular habit can be harmful to your health and weight goals.
However, healthy carbs such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains aren't just nutritious but are also necessary for a healthy and balanced diet. While low-carb diets such as Keto and Atkins can be good for quick weight loss, they aren't healthy or sustainable for longer periods of time.
Therefore, a better approach is to determine the number of dietary carbs you need on a daily basis and build a healthy diet that includes oats, quinoa, fruits, and starchy vegetables for better weight loss results and overall health in the run.