I’m sure you’ve heard people talking about carbs, and whether ditching them does anything for weight loss, especially when it’s beach season.
In this article, we’re going to cover whether carbs affect weight loss, and exactly what you can do to change your diet in order to lose weight.
What Are Carbs: Complex Vs Refined
Carbohydrates are basically just chains of sugar molecules (saccharides) of varying lengths:
- Monosaccharide - single sugar molecule
- Disaccharide - two sugar molecules
- Polysaccharide - many sugar molecules
The combination of different chain lengths determines how ‘complex’ a carbohydrate is. For example, brown rice is mainly polysaccharides vs white bread which is lots of di and monosaccharides.
White bread is considered to be a refined carb, because it is made up of lots of monosaccharides.
The main purpose of these different sugar chains is to provide energy.
- Polysaccahrdies take longer to break down so provide steadier, more lasting energy (Complex).
- Di and monoscahharides provide quicker, more short lasting burst of energy (Refined).
This is why people who eat loads of sweets and cakes get blood sugar spikes, and have sugar highs then crashes vs people who eat brown rice and oats who have lasting energy throughout the day.
Carbohydrates are not just energy sources though. They are also metabolic signals. They are signals that instruct something called ‘summer metabolism’.
Summer metabolism is basically instructions to hoard energy for the winter, as body fat. As food used to be hard to come by in harsh winters, the body would have a rich store of body fat to use as metabolic energy. The problem today though, is a lot of us are in an endless summer metabolism and keep gaining weight.
This is why we are seeing that 13% of the global population is obese, and 39% are overweight (*).
Are Carbs Bad For You?
You may have heard people saying that carbs make you gain weight, or that carbs can make you fat.
Whilst this is not entirely TRUE, it’s not entirely true either.
It’s also not as simple as yes or no, but rather a gray area that needs a bit of clarifying.
Carbs aren’t inherently ‘bad’ at least not the whole food sources of complex carbohydrates, which we talked about above.
In fact, complex carbohydrates are essential for the healthy functioning of the body. Whilst you can cut carbs for a certain time (which we will cover), it’s not healthy to do long term.
Here’s a few reasons why it is not ideal to always be avoiding carbs, because of some of the essential functions of them:
- Carbohydrates are signals to fuel growth in the body (muscle growth for example). They do this via activating a cellular signaling pathway called mTOR.
- Too little mTOR stimulation is bad over the long haul, and can lead to liver problems, muscle atrophy, delayed healing, and disrupted insulin sensitivity - which is not good for blood sugar regulation.
- Carbohydrates are also needed to keep healthy cells - they are needed to make a substance called glycocolax, to form an outer coating of cells. This helps form a layer of defense. It also helps keep blood vessel walls strong, aids in the breakdown of nutrients in the gut by attracting digestive enzymes, and also facilitates their absorption.
- Carbohydrates are also important pieces of ‘scaffolding’ needed to build cellular structures called glycoproteins.
- Without glycoproteins, we would not be able to make immunoglobulins which help instruct our first line immune defense systems.
- Also glycoproteins are needed to make hormones, such as gonadotropin and thyrotropin (reproductive and energy regulating hormones). This is sometimes why people who are chronic keto are concerned about hypothyroidism (thyrotropin) and fertility issues (Gonadotropin).
The above is true for sources of healthy, complex carbs like carbs from whole grains and legumes.
Where carbs do in fact become ‘bad’ is when they are highly processed, and refined - so simple carbs.
Simple carbs include:
- White Bread
These are carbs that are bad for weight loss because they hijack the bodies blood sugar regulation mechanisms, and cause excessive energy to be stored as fat. Some people don’t even have to eat a lot of them for this to happen.
Even when keeping an eye on calories, it can be hard to lose weight when eating simple carbs.
A number of studies show that when diets rich in complex carbohydrates are compared to those in simple carbs, weight loss is more effective with complex, whole food sources (1).
Cutting Carbs To Lose Weight
Reducing carbs to lose weight has become a popular choice amongst people looking to lose weight fast.
But is there really any truth to it all?
Well, cutting carbs is actually mimicking what our environments would be like during winter time, when foods were more scarce, especially carbohydrates.
Cutting down on carbs is basically telling your body to shift into winter metabolism. This is the opposite to summer metabolism, which is about fattening up.
Winter metabolism is about freeing up stored body fat, and using it as energy. Because carbohydrates (especially simple carbs) are metabolic messengers to pack on fat, cutting out carbs can be a powerful weight loss strategy since it removes pro weight gain signals.
Results can come fast when cutting carbs to lose weight. When I say fast, I mean fast. Even cutting out carbs for 2 weeks can lead to weight loss (2).
Weight loss with a low carb diet was more effective than a reduced calorie low fat and mediterranean diet over a period of 2 years (3).
On the other hand there are actually some carbs that are good for weight loss. Studies show that weight loss is still achievable and quite successful with low Glycemic Index (basically low in simple) carbs, as well as with mediterranean diet (which include healthy carbs) (4), (5). Most often, these diets are also restricted in calories.
What Are the Best Carbs For Weight Loss?
Starchy and simple carbs are some of the first foods to cut out to lose weight. Because these foods contain the signals to promote growth in the body, they are often the first to go when looking for carbs to cut out for weight loss.
Selecting low carb vegetables is an easy, simple and healthy way to switch your diet up to give you better chances of losing weight.
The key difference between low and high carb vegetables is obviously the carbohydrate content, but with the key difference that low carb veg provides the essential fiber, nutrients and antioxidants in order to promote healthy weight loss.
In fact, the rich diversity of nutrients in many low carb fruits and vegetables actually helps to promote weight loss.
When asking yourself how to cut out carbs, you can refer to this list of vegetables to include, whilst limiting the rest. Bear in mind there are other low carb veg (and fruit) as well.
There are almost no carbs in green beans. They’re a low-carb vegetable that help improve digestion, promote weight management, and blood sugar control. They are also rich in fiber, vitamins C and K, folate and iron.
Radishes are low in calories, with only about 0.2 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams. The small amount of carbs in a radish makes it a great option for those following a low-carb diet.
The Carbohydrate content of Broccoli is low, with only 6 grams of carbs per 100g. It's low in calories and has a low glycemic index, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote weight management.
There aren’t that many carbs in cucumbers. Approximately 3.63 grams of carbohydrates per 100g. Cucumbers are a good source of hydration, with a high water content, and also contain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K and potassium, and are low in calories.
There are only 2 grams of Carbs per 100g in lettuce. The high water content of lettuce can also support hydration and the fiber can aid digestion and regulate blood sugar levels.
Zucchini contains very few carbs, only 3.11 grams per 100g. Also known as a courgette, its low amount of carbs, low calories and high fiber makes it great for weight loss.
100 grams of eggplant (aubergine) contains approximately 5.88 grams of carbs. The fiber in eggplant can also support digestive health and regulate blood sugar levels.
Mushrooms are a low-carb vegetable that can provide numerous health benefits. They are low in calories, with only about 2 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, and high in fiber.
Red onions are considered a low-carb vegetable. 100 grams of red onion contains approximately 9 grams of carbohydrates. They also contain anti-inflammatory compounds that help support healthy metabolism.
100 grams of kale contains approximately 6.7 grams of carbs. Kale can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in a variety of dishes.
How Many Carbs Per Day for Weight loss?
It really depends. Diets that are quite high in relative carbs, but low in calories can lead to weight loss. But in general, if you don’t want to go so heavy on the calorie cutting, then you can look to limit carbohydrate intake to below 120g per day.
Studies show the greatest weight loss for a daily carbohydrate consumption of 20-50g (6). But this is not so sustainable long term and is considered very low carb.
Weight loss has been more effective than low fat and mediterranean diets when 120g/day of carbohydrates was eaten (7).
So it may be easier to shoot for between 50-120g per day if looking to do this more gradually and longer term.
Low carb diets produce faster weight loss too when compared to low fat diets (8).
Examples of Low Carb Meals
Here at Marvins Den, we have a great choice of low carb meals, especially from our low carb provider Out of the Box.
- Grilled Bavette Steak
- Pulled Beef Brisket
- Sweet Chilli Glazed Salmon
- Sous-Vide BBQ Pork Fillet
Or you can use the filter function to choose from a variety of low carb meals, which are ready to go, when you are.
Going low carb doesn’t have to be a chore. There are loads of low carb options to choose from that are filling, low in calories and rich in other nutrients. It’s one of the fastest and most effective ways to lose weight, and brings metabolic balance back, especially with a history of eating a lot of carbs.
It can be easily implemented in day to day life, by simply cutting high starch carbs. But here at Marvins Den, we make it even easier for you to achieve your goals, by having the meals prepped and ready to go for you.