Carbohydrates: What’s the Big Deal?
It all started for me, like many other diets do, in an effort to lose weight. This time was different, though. Besides the fact that I actually stuck with it, I found that it really was not that difficult. But I can say, without a doubt, no other diet change has made me feel as good as this one, which is why I chose to make it a lifestyle and stick to it rather than think of it as a “diet,” which to me sounds temporary.
Let me just say before continuing that carbohydrates ARE important! “No carb” vs. “low carb” are very different. You may have heard the terms “good carb, bad carb” before, and what it really means is some carbs come from sources that are not as nourishing or healthy as others. Good carbs are also known as complex carbs, have longer chains of sugar molecules, and causes our bodies to take longer to break them down (i.e. feel fuller and satisfied longer.) Simple carbs aka bad carbs, on the other hand, are just that–simple and easy to digest. It’s never long after eating them that we begin to feel hungry again, as they have little to no fiber and no real value to our bodies.
So if carbs are just sugar to our bodies, then why do we need them at all? They’re also energy.
Do the Extra Carbs Really Matter?
Here are a couple of the things that happen when we eat excess carbohydrates:
Increases insulin (our fat-storing hormone.) Our intestines break carbohydrates down into simple sugars, and in turn, our blood glucose levels rise. Higher levels of insulin make it more difficult to burn fat, while increasing cravings, which brings me to my next point…
Likely to create feelings of hunger/cravings. In large amounts, insulin prevents fat burning and stores extra nutrients in fat cells. After a few hours, the body may think it is lacking nutrients in the blood, leading to feelings of hunger. We eat again. We gain weight.
And what happens when we normalize our carbohydrate intake:
Lower carb intake=lower insulin (and stable blood glucose.) Fat is then able to be released from storage, and burned. Depending on carb intake/restriction, Ketosis may activate, where your body depends on an alternative fuel (ketones.) Basically, your body turns into a fat burning machine (it’s awesome) but it’s not for everyone.
Bottom Line: Our bodies don’t process sugar very well. Think about the people you know who have lost enormous amounts of weight because they “cut out the sugar,” “stopped eating bread,” “gave up sweets.” It doesn’t matter the source, it’s all the same to our bodies: sugar.
So what about Ketosis?
Our body breaks down carbohydrates into sugar. Once this has occurred, the carbs (or sugar) are known as glucose.
Glucose is used to create energy, and our bodies will run on this. Our bodies have to have some form of energy, otherwise we can’t function correctly. The thing is, glucose is not the only thing our bodies can use for energy. In fact, when we have too much of it, our bodies turn it to fat and store it. So if we don’t want our bodies to store excess glucose to fat, but we need energy..what can our body use instead? Ketones!
A process in our liver in which the body begins to break down and burn fat is releases Ketones. Ketones are another source of energy that brain and muscles can use to function on–better than glucose, in fact. In turn, when the body has a lack of glucose, it begins using excess fat as a source of alternative energy. So, while our brain/muscles are happy using ketones, our day to day activities are being fueled by fat–the stuff we want to burn!
Ketosis occurs when we limit our carb intake to about 20 grams a day or less. It is not necessary for weight loss or to reap the benefits of a low-carb lifestyle, but it’s a great option for those that really want to shock the body and kick-start their weight loss journey.
Is Low Carb Right for Everyone?
I believe that, unless you have a condition or your doctor has told you otherwise, a low carb lifestyle is better for our brains, bodies, weight, and overall health. Those of us at risk for or diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes might find that it is a great option. Same goes for those of us with high blood pressure, myself included. And, you don’t have to experience Ketosis or stop eating fruit (candy from nature, see What to Eat & What to Avoid) to enjoy the benefits of a low carb lifestyle.
If you are on medication for diabetes, high blood pressure, or you are breastfeeding–consult with your doctor before starting any kind of low-carb lifestyle.
Thanks for reading!
“You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.”Paul Walker