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Nutrition, Fat Loss

Will Eating Carbs Make Me Gain Weight?

By Darren Nuzzo on Jun 5, 2024 9:00:00 AM
4 Minutes Reading Time

Few topics spark as much debate and confusion as carbohydrates. Carbs are to fitness as trickledown economics are to finance. There are voices on each side of the argument, and over the years, they only grow louder. And like any argument that divides people, the sensible answer sits someone in the middle of the screaming, and it’s left to us to make our way through the noise to find it.

For decades, carbs have been vilified as the primary culprit behind weight gain and obesity. However, as our understanding of nutrition has deepened, it’s become increasingly clear that the demonization of carbs is, in many ways, a myth perpetuated by misunderstanding, oversimplification, and keto cults afraid of bananas.

At the heart of the misconception lies the belief that consuming carbs directly leads to weight gain. While it's true that carbohydrates provide energy and can contribute to calorie intake, the key factor in weight management is not the type of macronutrient consumed, but rather the overall balance of energy in versus energy out. In other words, weight gain occurs when there is a surplus of calories consumed, regardless of whether those calories come from proteins, carbs, or late-night trips to Jack in the Box.

So why does the myth persist? One reason is the prevalence of anecdotal evidence suggesting that cutting out carbs leads to weight loss. Many individuals have experienced success in shedding pounds by adopting low-carb diets, such as keto or Atkins. However, what they often fail to recognize is that their weight loss is not because of the absence of carbs but rather the reduction in overall calorie intake.

To debunk the myth surrounding carbs, people need to understand the role they play in our bodies. Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy, particularly for high-intensity activities and brain function. They are broken down into glucose, which fuels our cells and enables various physiological processes to function optimally.

And carbohydrates are not only about energy provision; they also serve as crucial sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber, in particular, plays a vital role in digestive health, satiety, and weight management by promoting feelings of fullness and regulating blood sugar levels. By demonizing carbs, people will miss out on these essential nutrients; and even worse, they’ll miss out on Olive Garden’s all-you-can eat breadsticks deal.

Adopting a mindset that demonizes food groups can foster an unhealthy relationship with food. Restrictive diets that eliminate options may lead to feelings of deprivation, guilt, and anxiety surrounding eating, ultimately undermining long-term adherence and sustainability.

If none of that can convince you to eat carbs, this might win you over: they help you get jacked. Carbs are great at fueling our bodies for workouts. Consuming carbohydrates before and after exercise ensures that our glycogen stores are adequately replenished, providing the energy necessary to power through intense physical activity and aiding in post-workout recovery.

But if you’re still afraid of carbs and struggling to clear that psychological hurdle, here’s a trick. Start by just incorporating carbs into pre- and post-workout meals. This way you will get the feeling that they are going to good use. If you know the banana you just ate is going to help your performance or is going to help your recovery, it’s easier to accept it into your diet. Now, nutritional biochemistry is a little more complicated than that, and food timing has significantly less impact on your health than your overall diet does, but this small hack can at least get you more comfortable inviting carbs into your life.

Ultimately, cheering or booing a specific macronutrient gets us nowhere. If you can, don’t waste your time lending your energy and emotions toward carbohydrates. Let’s see them for what they are and bury the dogma in the dirt.

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Darren Nuzzo

Darren Nuzzo is a writer and performer from Huntington Beach, California. When he’s not authoring works of literary fiction or bombing at open mics, he returns to his roots of health and wellness, teaming up with Mind Pump to bring a new voice to the fitness industry.

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