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Do Carbs Make You Gain Weight? By a Registered Dietitian

Updated: Feb 8

No, carbs do not directly cause weight gain. It's important to focus on overall diet quality and make sure you're consuming a balanced diet that includes complex carbs, protein, fruit and vegetables and healthy fats in appropriate portions. Weight gain is multifactorial!



In the world of nutrition, carbohydrates have often been given a bad rap. Many people believe that carbs cause weight gain and should be avoided if one wants to lose weight. But is that really true?


In this blog, we will dive deep into the topic of carbs and weight gain, exploring the different types of carbohydrates, their role in the body, and the research behind low carb.


Understanding Carbohydrates



Carbohydrates serve several important functions in the body. Primarily, they are the main source of energy for the body.


When we consume carbohydrates, our digestive system breaks them down into glucose, a type of sugar that enters our bloodstream. From there, glucose is transported to our cells, providing fuel for various bodily functions, including brain activity, physical activity, and organ health.


The presence of carbohydrates in the diet does not inherently lead to weight gain. Weight gain is indeed a complex and multifactorial process influenced by a variety of factors. It's important to consider both lifestyle and genetic components


However, it is essential to understand that different types of carbohydrates can have different effects on our bodies.


There are two main types of carbohydrates:


  • complex carbohydrates

  • simple carbohydrates


Simple carbs, as the name suggests, are made up of one or two sugar molecules, which make them easily digestible and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. Common sources of simple carbs include:


  • Table sugar

  • Candy

  • Sodas

  • other sugary foods and beverages

  • White rice

  • White pasta

On the other hand, complex carbs, also known as starches, consist of long chains of sugar molecules, which take longer to break down and are absorbed more slowly by the body.

This slower digestion of complex carbs allows for a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream, providing sustained energy over a longer period of time.


Complex carbs can be found in foods like:


  • Brown rice, oats, wholemeal bread

  • Barley

  • Quinoa

  • Legumes

  • Fruits, and vegetables


Fibre, a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest, plays a crucial role in maintaining digestive health and promoting feelings of fullness. It adds bulk to the diet, aids in proper digestion, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.


Increasing fibre intake by choosing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can have numerous health benefits, including weight management, lower risk of heart disease, and improved bowel movements. 



Restricting carbohydrates entirely from your diet is not recommended as they are an important source of energy. Going for more complex carbohydrates higher in fibre will keep you full for longer and have great health benefits.


What the research has shown about low-carb diets...


Research on low carb diets has shown mixed results when it comes to weight loss. While these diets may initially lead to rapid weight loss, much of it is often water weight rather than fat loss.


Some studies have found that low carb diets can be effective for short-term weight loss, particularly in individuals with insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.


However, it is important to note that long-term adherence to low carb diets can be challenging, and may lead to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue and more cravings!


In terms of weight gain, it is not solely carbs that are responsible.


Weight gain is multifactorial. A recent report found that there were over 100 different factors identified that can lead to weight gain from genetics to lifestyle habits (poor sleep, stress etc.), medications, chronic conditions, mobility limitations and more!.


While excessive consumption of any micronutrient including simple carbohydrates can contribute to weight gain, it is important to consider the overall balance of one's diet and daily calorie intake.


Carbohydrates, like any other macronutrient, should be consumed in moderation and as part of a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Rather than demonizing carbs, it is more beneficial to focus on choosing complex carbohydrates and practicing portion control.


Additionally, incorporating regular physical activity into one's routine is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight. Consuming excess calories from any macronutrient - whether it's carbs, fats, or proteins - can result in weight gain over time.


Instead of demonizing carbs, it is more helpful to focus on consuming a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods.



What happens to your body when you stop eating carbs? you crave them more!


One of the main issues with cutting out carbs completely is that it can cause intense cravings for carbohydrates. Your body is used to getting its energy from carbs, so when you deprive it of them, it sends signals to your brain telling you to eat more carbs. This can make it extremely difficult to stick to a low-carb diet or to maintain a long-term weight loss.


Also restricting carbs can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food where you might find yourself in a cycle of binge-restrict which can lead to guilt and shame around your food and compensatory behaviours.


In addition to increased cravings, cutting out carbs can also lead to a lack of energy. Carbohydrates are our body's primary source of fuel, so when we don't consume enough of them, it can result in feelings of fatigue and sluggishness. This can make it challenging to stay active and maintain a consistent exercise routine.


Furthermore, eliminating carbs from your diet can have an impact on your mental well-being. Carbohydrates play a role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. When carb intake is restricted, serotonin


Tips for Incorporating Complex Carbs into Your Diet


When it comes to carbohydrates and weight gain, it is important to understand that not all carbs are created equal. While it is true that consuming excess calories from any source, including carbs, can lead to weight gain, demonizing all carbs is not the solution.


Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, are an important part of a balanced diet. They provide essential nutrients, fiber, and sustained energy, without causing rapid spikes in blood sugar levelsas well as antioxidants and phytonutrients that can help prevent the development of lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancers. These types of carbs are generally associated with health benefits such as reduced heart diseases and lower risk of colorectal cancer.


On the other hand, simple carbohydrates like refined sugars and white flour, can contribute to weight gain when consumed in excess. These types of carbs are quickly digested by the body, leading to blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes, which can leave you feeling hungry and craving more sugary foods.


To incorporate complex carbs into your diet, consider the following tips:


  1. Choose Whole Grains

  2. Include Legumes

  3. Go for Whole Grain Pasta and Bread

  4. Add Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes

  5. Incorporate Whole Fruits

  6. Snack on Nuts and Seeds

  7. Choose High-Fiber Cereals

Can Cutting Carbs Completely Aid Weight Loss?


Completely cutting carbs may seem like a quick solution for weight loss, but it can have drawbacks. Eliminating carbs can deplete glycogen, impact insulin sensitivity, and lead to cravings and an unhealthy relationship with food. Sustainable weight loss requires a balanced intake of carbs, protein, and fats.


Conclusion


In conclusion, the idea that carbs alone cause weight gain is a misconception. It is important to understand that weight gain is multifactorial. Carbohydrates are just one piece of the puzzle. The key to maintaining a healthy weight is to make wise carbohydrate choices and consume them in moderation. Instead of demonizing all carbs, focus on incorporating complex carbohydrates into your diet, while being mindful of refined sugars.


Remember, a balanced approach to nutrition is always the best strategy for long-term weight management. are an essential part of a balanced diet and provide the body with energy. The key is to choose complex carbohydrates over refined and processed ones, as they offer more nutritional value and are digested slower, helping to keep you fuller for longer.


Moderation and portion control are also crucial. So, rather than demonizing carbs, focus on making healthier choices and maintaining an overall balanced diet and active lifestyle. Remember, it's all about finding the right balance for your individual needs.

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