Nutrition: Carbohydrates Chapter 13

Waistline Enemy #1?


Controlling Excess Calories

Including too many carbohydrates in the diet, especially carbs with little nutritional value, can lead to an excess of total calories and result in significant weight gain over time. Not getting enough carbohydrates, by contrast, can cause a lack of calories needed for energizing cells, a dearth of vital vitamins and minerals, and a requirement to drastically increase protein and/or fat intake to make up the calories. So how do you achieve a reasonable, workable balance? READ MORE

The Short Story on Long-Term Weight Gain

All too often, it goes understated that weight gain is associated not only with poor food choices and overeating but with inactivity. For most overweight people (barring those with chronic conditions that complicate weight loss), a sedentary lifestyle is as culpable as poor habits around food.

When we consume more calories than we burn, most of the excess energy is stored as fat and smaller amounts as carbohydrate (glycogen) in the liver and muscles. There are two surefire routes to preventing these phenomena: consume fewer calories or burn the excess via physical activity. According to The Merck Manual of Medical Information, exceeding your recommended calorie intake by only 200 calories per day for 10 days — not difficult to achieve in the typical American diet — without a compensating increase in exercise can result in weight gain of nearly half a pound, mostly of fat. LESS


The Fast First Pounds of a Low-Carb Diet

When a diet suddenly slashes carbohydrate intake, the body first raids the glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. This is rapid internal energy-mining; the body is efficient in drawing out the stored calories, and excretes water in the process. READ MORE

And, voilá — with the burning of glycogen and the loss of water, rapid weight loss is achieved. It’s not uncommon for people on low-carb diets to drop 10 pounds in the first two weeks.

However (and there had to be a “however”), once the carbohydrate stores are exhausted, no fast-burning sources remain. The body turns next to stored fat, but fat takes a lot longer to convert into energy.

Unfortunately, this is when many dieters become discouraged: expecting weight loss to continue at the same pace as the first few weeks, they drop the plan when the same efforts yield only a pound per week. This usually happens right around the time the bookstore’s return policy expires on the diet book they purchased. LESS


Diet Downsides

Healthy carbohydrate foods are more than vehicles for calories. Unless you’re able to replace all the nutrients you need from other sources, a low-carb or no-carb diet can leave you lightheaded due to underfed brain cells, constipated due to lack of fiber, and in need of essential vitamins and minerals. READ MORE

Another potential side effect of an anti-carb diet, even when it’s going well, is bad breath, the result of chemicals called ketones that are released as the body burns fat. Body odor can result as well. So, you may look skinnier — but don’t let anyone get near you.

Alternative Energy The cells of the body require calories whether we provide them in carbohydrates or not. Low-carb and no-carb diets typically offer a trade: lose the carbs, but add in protein and/or fat. Protein and fat are the other two food sources for energy, and both have the benefit of burning slower than most carbs do. Diet theory holds that a person on a diet will have fewer cravings and feel full for a longer time when nourished by an energy source that burns slowly and steadily. LESS


The Dietary Balancing Act

Dismissing low-carb diets outright is just as fatuous as demonizing the whole family of carbohydrate foods. A diet that is too heavy in carbohydrates should rightly be re-balanced; a diet that excludes them will be challenged to recover the nutritional benefits and other body-balancing components of carbohydrate foods. READ MORE

In fact, achieving a healthy weight is all about balance: balancing the diet, balancing energy requirements with energy expenditure, establishing a new balance of lifestyle choices. Perhaps most critically, being healthy is a matter of balancing expectations — both your own and society’s — with what works for you physiologically and psychologically. LESS

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.