Carbohydrates – Why They Are Making You Fat
The reduction of daily carbohydrate consumption for fat loss has been a major topic of discussion in recent decades, and for good reason.
Carbohydrates, or carbs as they are commonly known, are not altogether bad. It is the habitual excessive consumption of this macronutrient that most often leads to large amounts of fat gain by many Americans. And with fat gain comes the chronic health conditions associated – heart disease, stroke, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure to name a few.
The purpose of this article, however, is not to discuss the symptoms of chronic disease or how to prevent them. But rather to explore the most basic mechanisms that are at play in a carbohydrate-rich diet. And to educate you, the reader, and enable you to make more well-informed decisions about your eating habits.
Carbohydrates’ (along with fats) main role is to function as fuel for the body
They give your body energy to conduct daily activities and are the primary fuel source for certain types of exercise. Also, the brain prefers them as a fuel source, although fats, or ketones derived from fats, may also be used. So, what happens when we ingest carbohydrates?
When carbohydrates are ingested, they are broken down into glucose, starting in the mouth and finally being fully digested in the small intestine. When these glucose molecules are released into the bloodstream, they trigger the release of the hormone insulin by your pancreas.
Insulin is a “carrier” hormone that carries the glucose around in the body in order to find it a good home. Remember earlier when I said that carbohydrates functioned as a fuel source for the body? Just as your car has a fuel tank, so does your body – several of them in fact.
Your body can store glucose as glycogen in both the liver and your muscle cells
When the body needs fuel during physical activity or throughout the day, these glycogen stores are used up or depleted. Through proper nutrition and adequate carbohydrate consumption, these stores are then refilled to help further fuel performance for subsequent bouts of physical activity. But just like your gas tank, your muscles and liver have a threshold when it comes to glycogen storage. And when these stores are replete additional glucose can no longer be stored. So where does it go? You guessed it, fat cells!
Your fat cells essentially have an infinite storage capacity for carbohydrate.
When this glucose enters the fat cells, it gets stored, not as glycogen, but as excess body fat. And because these fat cells have an almost infinite storage capacity, they simply expand and get larger. Your body even has the ability to generate new fat cells to store even more body fat. This is something that we are able to see usually in obese or morbidly obese individuals.
To illustrate this, imagine you are filling up at the gas station. You wouldn’t stand there outside your car holding down the lever on the fuel pump as gasoline spews out from all sides of your gas tank! Why then would we make ourselves fatter by eating more carbohydrates than our body requires? It just doesn’t make sense. Yet despite this readily available knowledge, obesity rates continue to rise. People either refuse to educate themselves or refuse to make the necessary changes to their diet. So, what should you do?
I am not here to demonize carbohydrates. There is certainly merit in carbohydrate consumption especially when it comes to athletic performance. But for the purposes of reducing body fat and maintaining a healthy and fit body, carbohydrates are simply not needed in the amounts most people are eating them in.
The formula is simple:
High Carbohydrate Intake + Inactivity = Massive Fat Gains!
Remember that carbohydrates are a fuel source. Most individuals do not need them in the amounts typically recommended in the textbooks (upwards of 75% of total calories). If fat loss is your goal, be smart about your carbohydrate consumption. Use them in the meals surrounding your weight training or remove them from your diet. Just be certain to get a healthy dose of fiber daily – I’ll discuss this in another article. Not only will you see a reduction in body fat over time, but you can improve your health markers and significantly reduce your risk of obesity-related illnesses, specifically diabetes.
I hope you enjoyed this exploration of carbohydrates and that it empowers and enables you to make wiser, more health-conscious decisions in the future. If you’d like to see me discuss a particular topic or are seeking consult on your fitness and nutrition regimen, send me a message and tell me how I can serve you!
And remember: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein