I feel bad for carbs. No matter what shifts in dietary ideology occur, they always seem to be tossed aside and even demonized for being fattening and addictive.
If someone (or something?) from another planet saw the way we treated carbs, they would think itâ€™s some kind of horribly damaging drug.
Hereâ€™s the truth: yes, carbs can be bad. Yes, carbs can be fattening. However, the same can be said about either of the other macronutrients.
Carbs, in moderation, can be very beneficial, and I would even go as far to say necessary, to achieve fat loss, muscle gain, and improvements in overall health and performance.
So why are they so beneficial? Letâ€™s take a look.
1. Carbs are Muscle Sparing
When dieting, one of your main concerns should be to hold onto as much lean body mass as possible. Lean body mass is a fat burning tool in and of itself, and it helps keep you strong and looking great.
However, sparing our hard-earned muscle on a diet can be difficult. The reason being is that in the absence of sufficient energy (calories, carbohydrates), your body will begin to break down muscle tissue to burn for energy. Not good.
The good news is that dietary carbohydrates can save your muscle. You see, your body needs glucose, and if it doesnâ€™t get it from the diet, it will break down protein via a process called gluconeogenesis to derive its glucose needs. However, if you give the body the glucose it needs through dietary carbs, you wonâ€™t need to break down muscle tissue.
So, in moderation, carbs do an excellent job telling your body that it doesnâ€™t need to break down muscle tissue for glucose, because they provide the glucose directly.
2. They Refill Muscle Glycogen
Muscle glycogen is essentially stored glucose that your muscles use for energy when performing intense activity.
If you restrict carbohydrates and remain active, your glycogen stores will deplete and you will fatigue very easily and you wonâ€™t perform as well as you would like.
So, consuming carbohydrates help to keep your muscle glycogen full, which will provide you with more energy and better performance in your athletic endeavors. Even if youâ€™re more comfortable with a low carb diet, eating a good amount of carbs just one day per week can go a long way towards fueling performance and ensuring that you donâ€™t burn out.
3. They Regulate Metabolism
When you restrict carbohydrates, a hormone called leptin drops significantly. Leptin is the hormone that regulates hunger and metabolism. If leptin goes down, hunger goes up and your metabolism slows. This is typically referred to the starvation response.
Consuming adequate carbohydrates can ensure that leptin levels donâ€™t fall too quickly, which will then allow your metabolism to continue revving at a high rate, which will allow you to burn fat at an efficient rate.
So, summing up, if you consume an adequate amount of carbohydrates, your metabolism will remain fast, hunger levels will be stable, and your diet will run much more smoothly.
4. They Taste Awesome!
Who doesnâ€™t love a nice sweet potato or some white rice with their protein source? It may seem a bit weird to include taste as a reason to consume carbs, but being able to eat great-tasting foods on a diet is essential psychologically.
Being overly restrictive is a great way to ensure failure on a diet, so being able to eat some potatoes and rice and pasta is extremely important. Ever notice that you want something more once you take it out of your diet? Itâ€™s human nature. Humans want what they canâ€™t have.
If you allow yourself to eat some of the foods that you enjoy on your diet, you will drastically reduce the chances of cracking and going on an all-out binge in the future. Be flexible with your food choices. Understand that carbs are extremely beneficial for the reasons I listed above, and donâ€™t restrict yourself to the point of insanity.
Have fun with your diet. Thereâ€™s no point in being miserable.
We need to stop fearing carbs. As long as calorie totals are kept in check, carbohydrates are essential to regulating metabolism and helping you to stick to your diet.
Understand that itâ€™s important to be flexible with your diet, as being overly restrictive can be a recipe for failure. Be flexible, eat the foods you enjoy, and donâ€™t be miserable.
Embrace the power of the carbs!