Do Carbs Make You Fat? The Answer May Surprise You


Looking for the answer to the question: “Do carbohydrates make you fat?

You came to the right spot!

There is a common conception that a major cause of weight gain and obesity are directly related to eating too many carbohydrates.

In this article, we will explore carbohydrates’ role in weight gain, what the research shows, and ways to improve your diet and help you reach weight loss goals.

Now, let’s get started… 

What Science Teaches Us About Carbohydrates & Weight Gain

One of the most recent studies conducted on the topic was published Juned 27, 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study concluded that the body may use calories from low-fat diets much more effectively than calories from low-carb diets, and thus, a low-carb diet would result in greater weight loss.

In the study, the subjects were a group of obese volunteers.

The conductors of the study had the subjects lose weight at the start of the study. They lost 10 to 15 percent initially by reducing their caloric intake by approximately 60% of their predicted “needs” during a 12 week period.

During this time period, the subjects’ diets were carefully monitored and controlled to ensure weight loss.

After the initial weight loss, the subjects were then put on one of three different calorie plans to maintain their new body weights.

The three diets were low-fat, low-glycemic index, and low-carbohydrate.

For the next 4 weeks, the total energy expenditure (calories burned during exercise and at rest) was measured.

The results of the study showed that the subjects on the low-carb diets burned more energy than the low-fat diets, but the source of the energy loss was not determined.

In conclusion, the study suggested that low-carb diets are less efficient and result in calories wasted during metabolism, and as a result, promote greater weight loss.

Does Calories In, Calories Out Matter?

In another study conducted in 1964, however, showed that weight loss is more about calories than anything.

Investigators conducted a study on 5 obese patients at the Institute of Metabolic Research in Oakland, California.

In the study, the subjects were given a full liquid diet containing an exact number of calories with the sole purpose being to promote weight loss.

The amounts of the macronutrients in each of the patients’ diets were changed every couple of weeks.

They were initially given diets with 34% from protein, 52%  from fat, and 14% from carbohydrates.

That was then changed to 27% from protein, 13% from fat, and 60% from carbs before finally being changed to 14% protein, 83% carbohydrates, and 3% protein.

The results of the study concluded that the patients lost weight at a constant rate regardless of the proportions of macronutrients.

Are Carbs To Blame For Weight Loss? Or Calories?

In a controlled environment in which what you eat and how many calories you burn is monitored, the answer is clear cut and dry. 

If you burn more calories than you are consuming, you will lose weight.

Plain and simple. 

Unfortunately, weight loss is not that simple and there are many different factors.

For starters, our bodies are designed to store fat. The whole premise of survival is to store energy and defend fat so that you do not starve to death.

This is why overeating is so common.

The mechanisms in the human body that are supposed to tell you when enough is enough in regards to how much to eat are not as effective as the mechanisms that tell you when you need to eat.

This is because our bodies are designed to survive and store excess fat to prepare for harsh times. 

That’s why the real solution to weight loss comes down to what you should eat rather than how many calories you are eating.

Nature is designed in such a way that the foods that are best for us are the foods that promote weight loss and health.

Well, most of the time. I’m talking to you, avocados. And coconuts.

Most processed food companies’ advertising schemes are based on the premise that health is simply calories in and calories out.

That is why you see McDonald’s offering low-calorie options.

Our culture typically assumes that lower calories are equivalent to better health.

Although calorie control is extremely important in terms of health, this is not a very accurate statement.

No matter how you look at it, McDonald’s is not healthy.

If I were to give you half a big mac instead of a whole big mac and tell you that it has half the calories, would that make the big mac any healthier?

While it would be better to limit calorie intake, that big mac is still not healthy no matter how much of it you eat.

The source and quality of the food is bad regardless of the quantity.

If you were to limit your portion controls to lesser quantities, you would be healthier, but you would not be healthy.

Bad Calories Versus Good Calories

There is also a reason that it is easier to consume more calories of “bad” food versus “good” food.

“Bad” foods are so much less filling for the same calorie amount. It is much more difficult to consume 1000 calories of fruits, beans, and nuts than it is to consume 1000 calories from a BK whopper, fries, and a coke.

I’ll explain. 

When people make a blanket statement like “carbohydrates are bad,” it is inaccurate.

Certain carbohydrates are bad just like certain proteins are bad just like certain fats are bad.

The carbohydrates you want to avoid are the processed carbs that are far from their natural state.

When you eat a fruit or a vegetable, yes you are eating carbs, but you are eating so much more.

You are getting vital nutrients, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.

When you consume fruits, the reason they are so much more filling than, say, a cheesecake, is because of their fiber.

Fiber is indigestible by the body and thus, causes satiety with fewer calories.

Fiber also has other numerous benefits, most importantly, in regards to helping your bowel movements.

With a low carbohydrate diet, you are decreasing the nutrients that are vital for optimal health, as well as your fiber intake. The carbohydrates you want to consume are in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans.

Carbohydrates you want to avoid are the ones found in processed foods and much of what is on the shelves in your local supermarket.

Candy, sugary beverages, cakes, white rice, white bread, cookies, chips, etc. should be avoided.

These processed carbohydrates are the ones responsible for much of the obesity epidemic. They are stripped of all their nutrients and fiber, and lead to overeating and obesity.

Carbohydrates & Weight Loss Tips

There are many different causes of weight gain and none of them can be blamed as the sole culprit.

Calories are important. But so are the foods we eat. 

Focus on eating smaller portions of great-quality food, and you should be good to go. 

I believe we should focus more on our health than calories.

If we exercise, eat healthy foods, limit our stresses, and have a good, clear state of mind, our weight will take care of itself.

Although you could technically lose weight eating nothing but candy and cake, you will ensure a life of many negative health implications.

As with everything in life, balance is key.

Each macronutrient has numerous health benefits and is vital for an optimal diet.

Consume your carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and beans.

Consume your fats from avocados, nuts, fish, seeds, flax seed, and oils such as olive oil and avocado oil.

Consume your proteins from brown rice, quinoa, breads such as ezekial bread, beans, nuts, and good, high-quality sources of fish, lean meat, and poultry.

Daniel Maman

Daniel is a certified personal trainer (ACE), has a Bachelors of Science degree in Sports, Exercise, and Wellness, and spends his free time keeping up to date with the latest research in health and fitness. In his free time, you can find him playing basketball, doing muay thai, camping, traveling, reading, and eating tomatoes like they're apples.

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