I think it is time for someone such as myself, who helps people every day to integrate healthy lifestyle changes, to speak up about low-carb diets. Low-carb diets seem like the perfect solution for many people looking for a “quick fix” to the daunting task of losing weight.
At the end of the day, however, all these diets do is help people develop unhealthy relationships with food. A diet that restricts any or all one food group is not a healthy way to go. Specifically to low-carb diets, many of the people who embark on such a restrictive diet tend to gain back the weight they lost and then some.
It is important to note that there are two kinds of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are commonly known as sugars. Foods such as chocolate, cakes and fruit are considered simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates give the body that instant boost of energy and virtually take no time to digest. These are carbohydrates that you have to look out for. Simple carbohydrates provide energy in a very concentrated form, so a small amount can add up to a lot of calories!
Complex carbohydrates or starches as they are commonly known, on the other hand is absorbed by the body at a much slower rate. Foods such as pasta, bread and potatoes are all considered complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates contain a lot of water and fibre, so you would have to consume a lot to cause weight gain.
If you do choose to go on a low-carb diet it should be for a short period of time only. There is research to support that staying on a carb restrictive diet has several negative effects on the body. Some of the negative effects of low-carb diets are hallucinations, mood swings, low energy level, inability to focus, light headedness, constipation, liver and kidney damage. Some studies suggest permanent limited brain function from being on low-carb for an extended period of time.
The World Health Organization actually recommends that 60 per cent of your entire diet come from carbohydrates. So for an individual you should eating five grams of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight for a sedentary person or six to 10 grams for an athlete.
From a training point of view, without adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, the body is unable to build muscle (or “tone-up” for the ladies reading this article). As a natural figure competitor, months before competition you eat lots of yummy good-for-you complex carbohydrates to help build muscle. It is only close to competition time that you limit your complex carbohydrates. So….to answer your questions, YES, carbs can make you fat, but so can too much food from another food group. Everything in moderation that is the key. So don’t look at carbs as the enemy; carbs are a healthy part of everyone’s diet.