Carbohydrates - take a closer look

By Meeghan, 23 October, 2013

Low carbohydrate diets come in and out of fashion all the time. (And if I had a dollar for every time someone told me carbs were bad I’d be a rich woman). But what are the real facts? A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that if we select the right carbohydrates to fuel our bodies, we will have more chance of sustaining our weight loss - rather than cutting them out all together.

And according to the Dietitians Association of Australia there is no scientific evidence that actually supports eliminating all carbohydrates from your diet. Carbohydrates are especially important because they provide fuel for your brain and energy for your body.

At Forever Strong Fitness we believe the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to balance energy consumption with output, that is, to combine a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy products with daily exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity.

To be healthy, your daily diet should include at least:

  • Four serves of bread or cereals – for example, two slices of bread; one cup of porridge; one bread roll; one cup of cooked pasta or rice.
  • Two serves of fruit – for example, one apple, orange or banana; one cup of canned fruit or four dried apricot halves.
  • Five serves of vegetables – for example, one cup of salad vegetables; half a cup of cooked dried beans or legumes; one potato or parsnip; one cup of other cooked vegetables (equals two serves).
  • Two serves of dairy food – for example, one cup of low-fat milk; two slices (40g) of cheese or one small tub (200g) of yoghurt.

In the short term, low-carbohydrate diets may cause you to lose weight because of the restriction of kilojoules or energy. The body begins to use body stores of glucose and glycogen (from the liver and muscles) to replace the carbohydrates it is not getting from food. Around 3g of water is needed to release 1g of glycogen, so the rapid initial weight loss on a low-carbohydrate diet is mostly water, not body fat. As carbohydrate stores are used up, the body begins to rely on other sources of fuel such as fat. This can lead to the development of ketones in the body which can make the body acidic. This can lead to metabolic changes, which may be dangerous for some people, such as those with diabetes.

Some people may also experience some of the following effects of a low-carbohydrate diet including, nausea, dizziness, constipation and lethargy.

And in the long term possible side effects may include:

  • Weight gain – when a normal diet is resumed, some muscle tissue is rebuilt, water is restored and weight quickly returns.
  • Bowel problems – restricted intake of antioxidants and fibre from fruits and vegetables can increase a person’s risk of constipation and of developing bowel or colon cancers.
  • Dieting problems – such as the ‘yoyo’ effect where people lose and re-gain weight many times over a long period of time, rather than sustaining weight loss. A recent study has shown that weight loss on a low-carbohydrate diet was not different to a low-fat diet after a 12 months period.
  • Kidney problems – in people with impaired kidney function or diabetes.
  • Osteoporosis and related conditions – due to loss of calcium from the bones.

So don’t say no to carbohydrates - just be smarter with the types you choose and the amount you consume.


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