Carbohydrates seem to have a bad rep. By eating more processed, less filling carbs, we're consuming way more calories than we need – calories we don't burn. That second helping of rice, those French fries bathed in mayo, that irresistible cupcake with frosting, a large soft drink…all the “good stuff.”
Are ALL carbs evil? When trying to lose weight/get in good shape, should we sacrifice carbs? To get to the answer, first let's consider what “low-carb” diets do in terms of muscle growth and fat loss.
Low carb diets are not optimal for building muscle. It's not just a problem with the energy source; it's due to the glycogen stores in your muscles. Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates in your muscles. When your muscles have a limited storage of glycogen, they have less energy and less ability to stop protein breakdown. Some sources claim that fat is an adequate energy source for building muscle, but there is no actual data to back that up. Fat isn't stored in the muscles as an energy reserve in the way that carbs are, and your body won't be able to make use of it the same way.
Fat loss is where low-carb diets work. Switching to a low-carb diet means that you're necessarily consuming fewer calories. Fewer calories equate to weight loss. Foods like rice, bread, pastries are easy to make, cheap and convenient. Folks don't seem to eat them in moderation, or burn off the extra calories. This lifestyle contributes to fat gain and the difficulty in losing it. One of the main allegations against carbs are, when consumed in excess, they will be stored as fat. Lowering your intake of refined carbs is not only healthy, but is also one of the quickest and most dependable ways to cut calories and lose weight.
So what should you do?
Here's the thing: Carbs, single-handedly, don't increase your weight, excess calories do. If you're not that active but would like to lose weight, cut back on white rice, white flour, refined sugar. This doesn't mean you have to give up simple carbs altogether. Every now and then a scoop of ice-cream, a bag of chips is okay. You're not a zombie, and don't have to live like one.