Updated: Jan 1, 2020
The world of nutrition can be a very scary, daunting and confusing place, especially if you don't know how to filter through all the B.S. Working as a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist for over 10 years, the question that I hear most often is; "should I be eating low carb or high carb?" or "Have you heard of Keto, what do you think?. My answer each and every time is, "it depends". Let me explain!
What are Carbohydrates
Before we touch upon whether you would be better suited eating a low carb or high carb diet, you first need to understand exactly what Carbohydrates are! Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Though often maligned in trendy diets, carbohydrates — one of the basic food groups — are important to a healthy diet. Carbohydrates are macronutrients, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy, or calories. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Although your brain can run on ketones, its primary and most easily burned fuel is glucose. Carbs are also stored in the muscle and liver in the form of glycogen, which is used for performing activities ranging from walking up a flight of stairs, running, sprinting, weight lifting and so much more.
In simple terms, Carbs provide you with energy! but..... so can fats.
So now you may be asking "what the hell should I be eating if they both provide energy!" The answer is simple, it depends on you, let me explain! The less carbohydrates you eat, the better your body becomes at utilizing fat as fuel, which is great! Not only does your body burn the dietary fat you eat more efficiently, but it begins to burn your body fat at a higher and more efficient rate. There is no doubt about it that a low carb diet is amazing for torching body fat, stabilizing blood sugar and insulin levels and some research even points to its benefit for treating dementia and other neurological conditions. Here is the one small caveat, low carb diets are terrible for athletes and active individuals. If you didn't skip through the quick science lesson in the previous paragraph that explaines what carbs are, you would know that carbohydrates provide you with "MUSCLE GLYCOGEN". This is where things get tricky! If you are an athlete that performs any sort of explosive movement (sprinting, skating, jumping, etc...) then carbs are a must! If you enjoy hitting the gym and lifting weights, then carbs are a must. If you enjoy running up a flight of stairs without feeling like dog sh*t afterwards, then crabs are a must! If you live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day to just go home and sit on the couch, maybe walk the dog two to three times a day, then carbs are NOT NEEDED! See, at rest and in low intensity movements such as walking, your bodies primary fuel is fat. It is only when you begin to reach the anaerobic zone (explosive movements) that carbs, glucose and glycogen come into the party.
The topic of carb consumption is such a divisive one. Some people are so intertwined with one way of eating that they close themselves up from anything else, whether or not it would benefit them. The body is always changing, we maygo through periods of more activity to periods of less activity. We may go six months living like a couch potato, to spending the next six months in the gym seven days a week! Don't get caught up with one way of eating over another! Be flexible and change with your activity level and daily lifestyle. Although, If you want a very quick and dirty answer, here it is. If you are an inactive individual, in which the extent of your daily activity comes from walking the dog, followed by sitting on the couch or your office desk all day, a low carb diet would be better suited for you. If you have a high body fat level, with the majority of that said body fat around your love handles or stomach, then a low carb diet would benefit you. If, on the other hand, you are an active individual that plays a sport, lifts weights and/or lives an active lifestyle, then carbs are a must.
All in all carbs are not the enemy and fat is not the enemy. When trying to lose weight the most important thing above all is to make sure you are in a calorie deficit. Use the two macronutrients to your advantage and your lifestyle, not based on what the trend is or what the neighbours next door are doing!