There’s been a long-standing debate in the health and fitness community regarding whether or not we need carbs. In fact, if you look online, you’ll find no shortage of information regarding the benefits of low-carb diets like the Ketogenic diet. Consuming less carbs supposedly helps you lose weight, improve mental focus, and potentially reverses common chronic conditions. So, what could really be so bad about eliminating them from our diet?
In this article, we’ll explore what carbohydrates are so you can make an informed decision before making the low-carb plunge.
What Are Carbohydrates?
Many people hear the word ‘carbohydrate’ and automatically think it’s something to avoid due to the popularity of low-carb diets. However, carbohydrates should definitely not be eliminated. They’re one of the three essential macronutrients found in food, with the others being protein and fat. There are actually three different types of carbohydrates: starch, sugar, and fiber — and each of them plays a different role.
Our body requires carbs in order to perform normal, everyday activities and cutting them out could lead to a deficiency of certain nutrients. In fact, without them, you’re at an increased risk of health conditions like heart disease. You wouldn’t be able to reach your maximum fitness potential, increase your energy, or adequately build muscle without them.
Not All Carbs Are Created Equal
The current message about carbs is very flawed in that it suggests that they’re bad for you. However, the truth is, not all carbs are created equal. The correct message is that we should cut back on sugar, as too much of that can lead to joint pain, tooth decay, skin inflammation, and heart disease. It is also one of the leading causes of obesity.
Starch is a necessary carbohydrate, as it converts glucose into energy. The body utilizes the starch carbohydrates it needs at the time and then stores the rest as glycogen. Glycogen is used later when our body needs it, such as to get through a workout or if we skipped a meal.
The other carbohydrate, fiber, is required to regulate the body’s use of sugar and to keep blood sugar in check. Fiber helps in reducing chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but also plays a role in preventing constipation.
Understanding Low Carb Diets
Now that you have a basic understanding of carbohydrates, we’ll explore what it means to follow a low-carb diet. If you switch to a low-carb diet, such as the Ketogenic diet, you decrease carbs (and increase fats) in hopes of entering a state of ketosis. We enter ketosis when food intake is low. Our body produces ketones from fat, which becomes our body’s new fuel source. Ketosis is a natural metabolic state for our body when we’re deprived of food, but it’s not the most practical solution to weight-loss. It’s also very difficult to continue over time.
So, if you’re trying to lose weight and boost performance, then don’t focus on eliminating carbs. Instead, focus on eating the right types of carbohydrates so you can achieve your maximum fitness potential.