To Eat or Not To Eat: That is the Carb Question

If you search online for ways to lose weight you are more than likely to come across a low carb diet, one of the tops of which is the Atkins Diet. If you keep searching the topic, you’ll undoubtedly come across an article or blog which tells you that following a low carb diet doesn’t really work. So which is it? While I can’t give you a clear-cut answer to this question, I can give you a “day in the life of a carb eater” for my carbohydrate intake and also offer facts to consider from which you can draw your own conclusion.

A bit about me

I am a personal trainer and I am currently training for a Spartan Race. I train five days per week. Right now, three of those days are strength training to maintain my current strength, two are for body weight strength and muscular endurance, and I also run several miles (between 2-5) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

I eat roughly 320 grams of carbs each day. That number varies slightly, but I try to keep about that number. I have always had a fast metabolism and that paired with the amount of exercise I do means that I don’t gain weight even with the amount of carbs I consume. Rather, I need a large amount of carbs to sustain both my metabolism and exercise. Carbs are the body’s main source of fuel and for any athlete or anyone training regularly it is important to have enough fuel to burn.

The majority of my carbs come from whole grains. Whole wheat cereals, breads, pastas, and rice are just a few of those. I like to mix it up and have variety. I also eat lots of fruit and vegetables like potatoes, which are a solid source of carbs.

Carbohydrates intake – a prototypical daycarbs

Breakfast carbs: 2 cups oatmeal 54 Grams, 1 banana 27Grams

Snack carbs: Whole wheat crackers 22 Grams

Lunch carbs: 2 Sweet potatoes 54 Grams

Snack carbs: Apple 25 Grams

Dinner: 1.5 cup brown rice 67 Grams, 1 cup broccoli 6 Grams

Snack carbs: 2 Chobani 38 Grams, whole wheat tortilla 25 Grams

Not all carbs are equal. The body absorbs some carbs very quickly like those found in foods high in sugar. Whole grain carbs, however, take the body longer to break down and as a result supply a more consistent, long-term source of energy. That’s why I eat lots of whole grains. I need that longer-lasting energy throughout the day, not just short bursts of energy.

While nutrition is different for everyone, there are guidelines that can be followed which help tremendously when you don’t know what to do. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends a diet which is made up of roughly 50-60% carbohydrates. While that may seem like a lot, you need to understand that eating carbs isn’t what packs on the pounds. Eating too much of any nutrient will do that. If you balance your diet out properly and exercise you can see weight loss, maintenance, or gain depending on your goal.

The Pros and Cons of a low carb diet:

Before deciding to go on a low carb diet, you should consider the pros and cons.

The Pros:

– While a low carb diet can leave you feeling hungry, the hunger effects can be diverted if you increase your intake of fats like olive oil, nuts, or butter.
– Dropping to low carbs will reduce the number of calories you consume on a daily basis.
– You will be forced to eat a wider assortment of healthy foods to compensate for your carb cutting.

The Cons:

– Research shows that a carb-rich diet can play a large role in helping people feel happy and low carb diets have the opposite affect.
– Low carb diets can result in the release of excess cortisol which causes increased stress and may result in binge eating.
– A low carb diet can result in constipation and being and feeling bloated in your stomach area.
– You may feel very sluggish and tired as a result of low energy sources feeding your body. Carbs are the body’s primary source of energy, so it will rely on fats and protein if carbs are not present.

To carb or not to carb?

Of course there is a significant amount of research that can be done on the topic, but the information that we can draw from the points above suggests that a no carbs to very low carb diet is not the best approach to weight loss because it is very difficult to sustain over the long term and often results in the weight being gained back when the diet is completed.

When all is said and done, if you are eating healthy foods and maintaining a caloric deficit you will begin to lose weight. With exercise added to that formula you will see even more results. Carbs won’t hold you back and if you intend to exercise they will be a key cog in your training to maintain appropriate energy levels.

Fad diets will always be around and there will also be people who want to lose weight super fast and it will work…but it may not be permanent. Try sticking to a solution that is sustainable and healthy. Put in the effort, and watch as the weight begins to fall.