If you pass the average person on the street, or talk to a couple of friends, many times when the conversation comes up about food and diets, you'll hear about the Keto Diet (extremely low carb, high fat diet), or a negative connection between carbohydrates and weight gain.
People tend to sum it up as, "you're eating a lot of carbs, that's why you're gaining weight."
However, that isn't true. Whether you're into fitness, health and lifestyle, playing sports, or someone who tracks their nutrition, carbs are known as a main source of daily energy—to put it in simpler terms.
To help you put a better opinion and understanding together about carbohydrates and its necessity, we spoke to the trainers, fitness managers, and educators at Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Club.
Here are their two cents on the stigma around carbs and diets.
Logan Dube, BCPTI
First of all: all diets/trends/fads/plans are only successful at weight loss in a reasonable calorie deficit.
Carbs are one of 3 macronutrient categories and all 3 are important for humans via a well-balanced diet. I hear people say “I don’t eat carbs” while munching on a salad, so I think there’s an important clarification here – fruits & vegetables are carbs too! I think people mean “I’m not eating grains or sugars” and that’s where things like glycemic index, nutrient density and the quality/quantity conversation start to make more sense.
Especially for a group of people that exercise, carbohydrates fuel the 2 energy systems that are dominant in exercise: aerobic (think like a group fitness class or going for a job, doing a weight circuit at a lower intensity) and anaerobic (i.e. lactic acid), so HIIT or lifting weights at a high enough intensity. If you get that “burn” in your muscles and can only go at the desired intensity for 45 seconds to 2 minutes then you’re in that anaerobic state.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if you exercise in common gym ways, you need carbs to fuel your efforts and recovery!
When we, as trainers, work with our clients on nutrition, we want to look at calorie intake vs. calorie expenditure. So how many calories do you need to fuel your body or fuel your workouts but still be in a reasonable deficit so that you achieve weight loss? Then we look at macronutrients. Based on your body type (and your preferences i.e. vegetarian?), we break down total calorie intake into how much protein, how much carbohydrate, and how much fat you need to eat. We want to help our clients find easy, healthy, palatable ways of getting to their calorie AND macronutrient goals each day. It makes sense that brown rice, banana, spinach, yam, broccoli, cauliflower and blueberries are a better choice for carbohydrate intake than white bread/bagels, sour patch kids, and the caramel sauce on top of your Starbucks, right?
The “stigma” with carbs is, I think, related to insulin. If you’ve heard of “insulin resistant” this means that someone doesn’t process carbohydrates well – their body has to produce more insulin to deal with the same amount of carbs as someone who is “insulin sensitive." IR is often paired with people who are overweight, hypertensive, have a very stressful lifestyle, eat poor quality foods (processed, etc.), and in the cases of chronic illnesses like CVD, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, etc., doctors widely recommend that just changing the quality of diet, exercising moderately (like, walk 30 mins a day) and reducing stress can make a huge difference. They recommend a balanced diet including carbs, but focus more on the nutrient density of fruits and vegetables as being the best way to go.
There’s a quote that comes from a nutrition author and kind of sums up the new Canada’s food guide pretty nicely – eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.
Jehoram Carretas, Abbotsford Fitness World
We use carbs primary for energy. I’m not super against diets that have low carbs on one day, and high carbs on another, or even strictly low-carb diets. With lots of “Fad Diets” popping out there, like Keto, for example, people have started jumping into the bandwagon without fully educating themselves. Having the correct amount of carbs and quality for me is what is important.
I think the big question we should start asking ourselves is, how much is too much? What are we eating exactly throughout our whole week? I’ve personally experimented with a lot of different diets. Some work better than others, mostly because I based it on my current lifestyle and what I was training for. What your fitness goals may be and essentially what your lifestyle allows will dictate how you eat, in my opinion.
Carbs are not the enemy. Lack of preparation and not understanding what your putting into yourself is the major issue.
Daniel Svoboda, Coquitlam Fitness World
Throughout the years, there have been fad diets that have come out making people think of carbs as a bad thing.
People don't realize that our bodies need carbs for energy. If we deplete our bodies of carbs, we are depleting our bodies and muscles of the energy they need to work, and to help us achieve our goals (i.e. muscle building, weight loss). Different diets were created for different purposes, and a side benefit can be weight loss.
For example, Keto was created, initially, for epilepsy patients because they realized that the diet limited the amount and severity of the seizures. Once they realized the weight loss benefits, it was then applied to morbidly obese patients who could no longer care for themselves. It is not meant to be a life long diet.
Those are some pretty interesting and thought-provoking views from our own trainers. Let me tell you, these are educated, talented, and very caring individuals who want to make sure you're educated in all things health, too!
I guarantee you, if you work with these trainers, your life change will for the better, forever. Try a Personal Training session for free at your nearest club. I've had the opportunity to work with them, and I can tell you, it'll be one of the best decisions you'll ever make in your life, physically and mentally.