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by Tony Gjokaj March 16, 2021 6 min read
With the cyclical patterns of fad diets, we are currently in a phase of zero carb dieting.
While Keto is VERY helpful for some people, it never worked for me because I find it difficult to adhere to a low to no-carb diet.
This is because of a variety of factors (exercise performance, genetics, cultural upbringing, etc)... and also because I love my carbs.
If you're like me and have gone through successful diets with them, you know that it's quite possible to lose body fat with carbs... so long as you are in a calorie deficit.
So in this post, we are going to explore carbohydrates and their purpose, debunking the dogma around carbs, and also show you that carbs are not the enemy for some.
Let's dive in!
To start things off, carbohydrates are known as a "non-essential" macronutrient. When eating macronutrients (fats, carbs, and proteins), our body breaks these down into glucose or blood sugar.
Essentially, this means that you may not necessarily need them because our bodies can maintain blood glucose levels without them.
While we may not need them to sustain life, carbs can provide us easy access to energy replenishment as they break down into glucose a lot quicker. This means that carbohydrates are very effective to replenish energy before, during, and after exercise performance.
In fact, when it comes to fat loss dieting, there is evidence that performance can decline without a sufficient carbohydrate intake.
If you think about it in a dieting sense, lower exercise performance could lead to difficulties retaining lean body mass.
Lean body mass can aid in the fat loss process, so completely eliminating carbohydrates COULD actually be detrimental towards your fat loss goals.
Most of the carbohydrate controversy comes from the hormone Insulin. A lot of people fear insulin, because they believe that insulin causes fat gain.
This is simply not true. In fact, evidence has shown that insulin response doesn't affect the amount of fat you store.
We can prove this further with a study done on obese women, which compared insulin sensitive (who utilized high-carb, low-fat diets) and insulin resistant (who utilized low-carb, high-fat diets) women.
The results were similar in both groups in regards to fat loss.
This means that insulin does not directly play a role in fat gain, but it's very important to understand how you respond to carbohydrates so that you can build a diet that benefits you.
Not all carbs are equal.
In fact, there are various types of carbohydrate types that are defined by how many sugar molecules are bonded together.
These "saccharides" are known as the following:
We can break these saccharide types down into Simple and Complex Carbohydrates, which we will discuss in this section.
Monosaccharides (also known as Simple Sugars) are fast digesting carbs that consist of glucose (blood sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), and galactose (milk sugar).
Glucose is commonly found in sugars like candy and other sweets.
Fructose are sugars that are commonly found in fruit. These sugars will turn into glucose quickly. Some diets will limit fructose out of fear of of them, but according to one study, we would have to get over a hundred grams of fructose to have any negative effects. This is simply not practical, because we would have to eat over 7+ whole fruits to feel any negative effects that fruit gives us.
I’d be really impressed if you ate 7+ whole fruits.
Having just a few fruit servings per day is essential for getting proper nutrients in. For example, an apple can equate to two fruit servings.
Based on recommendations from our previous posts, we only need about 3-5 servings of fruits per day to optimize our micronutrient and fiber intake.
Polysaccharides consist of hundreds and thousands of sugar molecules. These are our starchy carbohydrates, which we commonly call Complex Carbohydrates.
Complex Carbohydrates are slower digesting carbs that are not common to spike blood sugar levels as simple carbohydrates like sugar would.
These foods are typically starches like potatoes and rice. In addition, fiber found in fruits and vegetables also contain some polysaccharides.
When it comes to carbohydrate sources, we typically don’t recommend having large amounts of candy or junk food in our diets.
While calories determine the rate of weight gain or loss, eating thousands of calories of sugars is detrimental to your health.
Moderation is key.
So what we propose is moderation in our diets in the form of breaking down carbohydrates in a more healthier sense.
While Complex Carbs are great options to eat throughout the day, Simple Carbs are best optimized for pre, intra (during) and post-workout nutrition to aid our exercise performance.
Ketogenic or low-carb dieters preach that you can lose weight quicker when you lower or eliminate carbohydrates. This is true in the short-term, as a reduction in carbohydrates does decrease the amount of glycogen stored in the muscles... which leads to water weight loss.
On the other hand, in the long term, one study found that a high-carb, low-fat, and low-protein diet is equally effective in weight loss (compared to low-carb diets).
The belief that simply eliminating carbohydrates to solve your fat loss problems doesn't work for everybody.
It is probably the easiest to restrict carbohydrate calories, which is why we calculate it last when we use Flexible Dieting methods (we will talk about this briefly in the next section).
If you utilize Flexible Dieting methods, then carbohydrates would be the last area you track. This means we typically put the remainder of their calories into carbohydrates after handling proteins and fats.
As a reminder:
Now that you have your protein and fat intake (total calories and grams), here's how we would calculate our carbohydrate intake:
As we have mentioned previously, it is probably the easiest to restrict carbohydrate calories more than anything, because you don't necessarily need as much. However, consider that fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates contain easy access to micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) and fiber.
Remember that no matter what, calories determine the rate of weight gain and loss, as proven in this study here.
The best diet is the one that works for YOU. Recall that I said that higher carb diets don't necessarily work for everyone... and this is true!
In fact, there are studies that have been done that show that some people respond better to higher fat diets.
This is why some can handle Keto dieting successfully.
Others have difficulty with it... myself included!
When it comes to carbohydrates, you can determine whether or not you respond to a higher carb diet in this way:
This does not mean you should completely eliminate carbs, as they are useful for the reasons provided in this post.
Understand that carbohydrates shouldn't be demonized, and that they are a perfectly viable source of energy.
Just make sure you're getting a decent protein and healthy fat intake along with your carbohydrates.
Any questions or comments? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, Reforged Legion!
Tony is the Owner of Reforged. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help millions exercise their way out of depression and anxiety.
by Tony Gjokaj April 25, 2023 3 min read
Exercise can feel like a chore, and even if you know it’s good for your health, the motivation to get moving sometimes just isn’t there.
But it doesn’t have to be a burden - by making exercise meaningful to you, it can become something fun and rewarding!
Here are five ways to make exercise more meaningful!
by Tony Gjokaj October 07, 2022 4 min read
Men, I know what it is like to be overweight and depressed.
Not having the energy to do anything but relax and sleep.
While relaxation and sleep are incredibly important, they can make us feel like we are not making progress in our lives.
And when depression hits, it’s very difficult to push through with exercise and weight loss.
But did you know that even though it takes time and some effort, you don’t need to get obsessively crazy over it?
In fact, with just a few small adjustments, you can lose weight, fight back against depression, and take your life back.
If you're serious about shedding pounds and pushing away those depression demons, here are five tips that can help get you started.
by Tony Gjokaj September 05, 2022 4 min read
A few weeks ago, my buddy Grant and I talked about nutrition.
We talked about how he's lost over 120 pounds so far with the weight loss progress he's been making.
This is all because he has been making healthier decisions over time.
One of the newest challenges he's facing right now is he's got a new job. He's working 10 to 12 hour days with physical demanding labor.
And what's been happening for him is that he's been super exhausted, he's not motivated to meal prep, he's having trouble trying to sit down and cook foods doesn't have the energy doesn't have the time.
So what I propose is five tips that you can use to live a more on the go fast food healthy eating lifestyle.
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