Say 'yay' to carbs!

What’s wrong with carbs? They’ve been rapidly cemented into enemy status by the media, and any ‘clean-eating’ health fanatic tends to steer well clear of the dreaded C word. But are they really bad for you? The answer is no.

Sure, if you cut out any food group for a period of time, then it will result in a degree of weight loss in the short term. When you cut carbs in your diet, this reduces the glycogen stores in your muscles and allows the kidneys to excrete water more readily, resulting in relatively quick weight loss. Your protein and fat intake increase as a percentage of calories consumed when you reduce carbs, and both of these food groups also encourage water loss.

If you’re sedentary, a low carb diet can work in the short term, but it’s usually not sustainable. If you’re exercising, a low carb diet isn’t recommended as this is your main source of energy, plus water loss can result in dehydrated muscles.

When you consume carbohydrates, your body converts them to glycogen, which is then stored in the muscles for energy. For every gram of glycogen stored, you gain approximately 2.7 grams of water. This water retention occurs because your kidneys hold on to sodium in response to carbohydrate consumption. Your body reacts to the higher sodium levels by storing more water to keep the sodium-blood concentration at a healthy level.

Restricting healthy carbs can cause a sluggish metabolism due to decreased thryroid function; lower levels of muscle/strength-building hormones such as testosterone, while the stress hormone cortisol increases; and muscle loss (research reveals that lowering carb intake can affect muscle mass even if protein consumption stays the same).

It’s not healthy to overly restrict any macronutrient, or indeed to oversimplify your food choices by classifying foods as either good or bad. Nutrition is a far more complex beast and it’s actually beneficial to incorporate a moderate amount of healthy carbohydrates in your diet. Carbohydrates are essential fuel for our bodies and brains – we wouldn’t survive without them.

Low GI foods such as oats, wholegrains, vegetables, brown rice, fruit, sweet potatoes, beans and pulses are all ideal carbs – just make sure you avoid the sugary, refined types of carbs.

It’s all common sense really, but remember - carbs are not the enemy. Oversimplification is.

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