The Reason Why High Carb Diets Will Not Work
In reading various publications, there seems to be considerable backlash against low-carb diets. The Atkins Diet, popular in the 1970’s as a low carbohydrate, fat burning answer to weight loss has made a comeback in some circles, and many publications have come back with the argument that it will not work for long-term fat loss. We are in agreement. But the argument seems to go that if low carbs are a bad thing, high carb diets are a good thing, especially for athletes training for endurance. We would like to illustrate the reason why high carb diets will not work.
With what we have been told in the past few years, carbohydrates are the good guys of nutrition. As a result, people have been devouring breads, cereals, and pastas to drive their percentage of carbs to total calories above 75%, and cutting back on fats. The result is people are eating less fat and getting fatter. Eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates, when they are converted to sugars, are easily converted to storage in excess body fat, as the total that can be stored as glycogen before it turns to fat, even for trained athletes, is only about 1200 calories worth. For the average person, perhaps 400 grams can be stored in the muscle, and another 70 to 90 grams in the liver. So why would you want to consume more than you are capable of storing?
So what actually happens when you start eating those carbohydrates? First, glycogen levels are filled for both the muscle, to promote growth and repair, and liver, to keep the brain working properly. As we pointed out earlier, that doesn’t account for that much, maybe a couple of cups of pasta. After that, it’s all surplus. With the rapid rise in blood glucose, the pancreas secretes additional amounts of the hormone insulin into the bloodstream. Since insulin’s job is to get it out of the bloodstream, it sends it into long term storage, which are fat cells. The result is, even though you haven’t consumed one morsel of fat, and carbohydrates themselves are fat-free, is the body puts on fat, which is the reason why high carb diets will not work. To make matters worse, as insulin levels signal the body to store more fat, because it thinks it is in famine mode it won’t release the fat you already have in storage.
Do you wonder why you get hungry perhaps two hours after a high carbohydrate meal? As has been pointed out, insulin’s job is to quickly lower the blood sugar level. That accomplished, blood sugar is low, and cravings, usually for sweets, kick in. If you don’t satisfy those yearnings, your mood turns sour and you feel like crashing, all the while not burning any stored fat while your energy levels plummet. So the answer to why high carb diets will not work is because they do not moderate insulin response. By limiting or eliminating the intake of refined sugars and keeping carbohydrates on a moderate level, about 40% of the diet, you can avoid those disastrous insulin spikes. Generally, non-carbohydrate foods, that is proteins and the so-called good fats, do not produce as much insulin. Also, natural fiber can minimize the insulin response.
In the final analysis, high carbohydrate diets will not work, but neither will low or no-carb diets. Carbohydrates are neither the devil nor a panacea for fat loss, but must be in balance with the rest of your diet. But remember, carbohydrates don’t come from just sweets and pasta, but from fruits and vegetables as well as a number of different foods, and most if not all of them have other characteristics that have more overall positive qualities. We hope you will use them to the greatest advantage.