Are Carbs Fattening?

I hear this question all the time and it felt like the appropriate time to talk about it, since I lectured to my students yesterday on carbohydrates.

First, where are carbohydrates found?

  • Fruits: 1 serving – 15 grams carbohydrate
  • Vegetables: 1 serving – 5 gram carbohydrate
  • Starch/Bread/Legumes: 1 serving – 15 grams carbohydrate
  • Dairy: 1 serving – 12 grams carbohydrate
  • Cookies, candy, soda and other foods containing sugar all have carbohydrates too.

Do our bodies require carbohydrates to function properly?

  • YES! Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy.
  • Your brain needs carbohydrates to function!
  • Your nerves need carbohydrates to function.
  • Carbohydrates aid in maintaining tissue protein and metabolizing fat.

How much do I need?

  • The minimum requirement is 130 grams/day this is how much the brain needs to function, but this number does not include exercise.
  • It is recommended to consume 45-65% of your total calories from carbohydrates.  If you consume 2,000 calories each day, this translates to 225-325 grams/day.
  • If you consume very few carbohydrates (<130 grams/day) your body will produce ketones for energy. Ketones are BAD, leading to breakdown of muscle and body tissue.

Where do the carbohydrates go?

  • When you ingest carbohydrates, three things can happen.
  • ONE – your body uses it for energy.
  • TWO – your body stores it as glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate).
  • THREE – if your glycogen stores are full, and you don’t need it for energy, then your body will turn it to fat.
  • Our bodies have limited glycogen stores.  The muscles can hold 120 grams and the liver can hold 70 grams.  Fat stores are unlimited!
  • This is where the myth that “Carbohydrates are fattening” comes from.  They are naturally low in fat, however, if you eat too much they can be stored as fat.

Do you avoid carbohydrates?

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5 Responses

  1. Just sent this to two of my girlfriends who are on “no to low carb” diets. Binge weight-loss to fit in their Halloween costumes. Hopefully this can change their minds.

  2. I definitely used to avoid carbs but at the end it’s more about calories in vs. calories out. Moderation and balance is key. I embrace carbs now 🙂

  3. I was told by my doctor to live on a no to low carb diet for the rest of my life. I tried it for a while, it worked, then I couldn’t do it anymore.

    I have insulin resistance because of PCOS, and eat generally pretty healthy. Most of the time, I eat more than i should, but all healthy stuff, no processed, sugary crap. Anyways, what do you recommend for my carb intake? I’m supposed to not take in more than 40 gr.

    • I’m not going to go against what your doctor says, but I would recommend seeing an RD to help you with a meal plan for your IR and PCOS. Since you have a specific condition, I cannot recommend what you should do personally. However, 40 grams of carbs/day is very low, as you can see from this post you need about 3 times that just for your brain to get adequate energy! Besides that it’s not really realistic to stick with long-term. Personally I think it’s important for most people to eat carbs (specifically fruits, vegetables, whole grains and some low fat/fat free dairy). Please seek more personal nutrition advice!

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