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Should you stop eating carbohydrates during weight loss?

Diets with a reduced amount of carbohydrates are often associated with fast weight loss.

Some of the best known examples of low carbohydrate diets are the Atkins diet and the Ketogenic diet. In the latter, for example, the amount of carbohydrates can range from 20 to 50 g per day, or constitute only 5% of the total energetic value of the diet (the rest being divided between fats and proteins).

This food strategy can effectively be an option for those who want to lose some weight quickly.

There is some evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight more quickly than a low-fat diet (…) – and may help them maintain that weight loss.”

However, this restriction should be temporary.

Long-term carbohydrate restriction may result in less positive implications for the body. A recent study found that low carbohydrate intake (less than 40% of total calories ingested per day) increases the risk of mortality.

However, when this reduction is accompanied by an increase in intake of plant-based foods, preferably high in omega-3 fats, this diet already reduces the risk of mortality.

On the other hand, there are studies that credit the fact that diets low in carbohydrates promote greater weight loss in the short-term.

If your goal is to lose weight or to avoid fat accumulation, then discover in this article if you can consume carbohydrates or not, and what are the best options!

Importance of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for various functions of the body.

The main sources of carbohydrates are:

  • Plant-based foods, such as cereals and their derivatives (rice and pasta, flour, bread, cereal flakes)
  • Tubers (potatoes, yams, etc.)
  • Legumes (beans, chickpeas, peas, among others)
  • Fruits

Carbohydrates are essential to meet the daily energy needs of your body.

In addition, they perform many other important functions in your body, such as maintaining adequate levels of glucose in the body, fighting fatigue and tiredness, and facilitating the absorption of nutrients.

That is why they are of special interest to athletes because they not only help to have energy to train (and this is even more important for endurance athletes) but also to recover.

The consumption of carbohydrates ensures that your body looks for energy reserves from carbohydrates instead of proteins, since proteins are  so necessary for muscle building.

have energy

Why are carbohydrates usually associated with weight gain?

Excessive consumption of carbohydrates can, effectively, lead to weight gain.

Carbohydrates should, on average and depending on the goals and needs of each person, constitute 50-60% of the calories in our diet.

When these values are increased, our body can accumulate the carbohydrates in the form of fat, resulting in  weight gain, and often in an increased body volume and also in fat mass.

Ideally, the diet should be balanced and we should consume the macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) in percentages appropriate to our goal.

For this, you can always count on the help of professionals to help you define the best percentages of macronutrients to meet your goal.

Weight maintenance and weight loss diets: should carbohydrates be consumed, or not?

questioning

Carbohydrates can always be used in every process and to achieve any goal.

What varies, is the amount that you consume.

In the process of weight loss, the amount of carbohydrates can be decreased, so that the body uses the fat that’s accumulated in your body as a source of energy.

In the weight maintenance phase, the amount of calories from carbohydrates may be higher than in the weight loss phase.

However, the percentages should be calculated in such a way as to ensure that there are no large fluctuations in body weight or composition.

Examples of the best carbohydrates to support weight loss

Regarding carbohydrates, and according to some studies, the concern should not be so much about the quantity, but about the quality of carbohydrates.

the concern should not be the quantity of carbohydrates, but the quality.

“However, carbohydrate quality seems to have a more important role in population health than carbohydrate amount.”

We can divide them into two different groups: the simple and the complex.

simple carbs vs complex carbs

Simple carbohydrates are white bread, cookies, white rice, white pasta, fruits, cakes and refined sugar.

This group of carbohydrates is absorbed more quickly by your body. You will feel hunger faster and, if you don’t control yourself, this excess energy can be accumulated in the form of fat.

Complex carbohydrates are the whole version of the previous ones.

To promote weight loss, we must prioritize the complex carbohydrates, but fruits can be included, but in moderation.

They take longer to be digested and absorbed by the body, so the release of energy is gradual. This option will help to keep you satiated for longer.

Therefore, consuming wholegrain bread, oats, whole grains and rice, and other carbohydrates, does not automatically result in weight gain.  In fact, it can help create a sustainable weight loss strategy.

In conclusion

Carbohydrates are often unjustly demonized when it comes to weight loss diets.

They can be consumed when calculated with the help of a health professional, like a nutritionist.

Therefore, don’t unnecessarily restrict carbohydrates, and opt for a complete, varied and balanced diet, so that weight loss isn’t a sacrifice, but a viable and healthy process.

 

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The information included in this article concerns the authors opinion only.

About Ângela Ferreira

Ângela Ferreira
Ângela Ferreira is a nutritionist. She has a degree in Nutrition Sciences and she is doing a Master's degree in Consumer Sciences and Nutrition. She currently works in Sports Nutrition and Clinic Nutrition. Her goal is to actively participate in changing the population's eating habits and to demonstrate that healthy eating can be simple and practical.

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