How many times have you been in a conversation with a friend, colleague, partner, training partner etc etc. where you or they have said ‘’yeah as soon as I cut out carbs I lost weight!’’, ‘’As soon as I stopped eating [insert carbohydrate food – usually bread!] I lost 1 kg in 1 day!’’ Ffs. For me to be able to have a good vent about this, it’s important to explain the science around why the weight went down and highlight some of the factors that we MUST acknowledge. Yes, after consuming carbohydrates, you will likely see an increase in weight gain. Carbohydrates increase our weight via the additional water retention. Importantly, if you were to eat a high protein meal and consume a pint of water alongside it and then jump on the scales, what exactly do you think is going to happen…? Are we then going to start blaming protein and water for making you gain ‘fat’? We know from reading my past blogs that putting on 1kg of weight in a day is likely not going to be fat, because we know fat is not accumulated that quickly. Some of the reasons why we can gain weight quickly or see our weight fluctuate quite a lot on the scales from day to day could be from: - Exercise - Stress - Medication
- Poor sleep - Increase water intake - Increased salt intake
- Consuming more than you usually would. - Inconsistent weighing e.g. weighing first thing in the morning vs last thing at night. - Consuming a high carbohydrate diet…BUT, before you then say ‘but you said carbohydrates shouldn’t be blamed for my weight gain!’ à Here’s why. When we consume carbohydrates, our bodies store around 3-4grams of water at a cellular level. It does this because we need water in our cells in order to break down the carbohydrates into smaller molecules for us to be able to absorb them and use them, you know, for performance, cognitive function, immune health etc. If we revisit my earlier statement about not being able to accumulate fat quickly, if you’re consuming lots of carbohydrates in one sitting and the weight is going up on the scales, this is probably why. Now, if the weight is consistently going up over a long period of time e.g. weeks/months and you’re also consuming a predominantly carbohydrate rich diet then yeah, carbohydrates are likely the cause of this. You also need to acknowledge that this is likely because you are also consuming more calories than you are expending. Again, revisiting earlier blogs where I have talked about energy balance in more depth, if you consume more calories than you are expending, of course you’re going to put on weight. This IS NOTcarbohydrates’ fault, it’s the law of energy balance. The same would happen regardless of the diet you are following. For example, if your daily energy requirements were 2200kcals for the day and you consuming 2200kcals of just carbohydrates, you’re not going to put on weight long-term, short-term you might, because of what I explained above, but you have only consumed what you have expended that day. Makes sense, right? If you started cutting out carbohydrates and have found that you’re losing weight (well done if this is the objective) but I also feel very sad for you because, you know, bread is amazing and carbs are delicious.
If you are doing this and want it to be different i.e. you want to still eat carbs and lose weight, it might be worth paying attention to your current habits, lifestyle, behaviours, emotions and overall environment. Try and identify what foods you’re consuming in high volume or that are kcal dense and see how you can begin managing those (not removing!) and begin looking at developing new habits and behaviours so you can move forward with carbohydrates in your diet/life. This is the real win, right?
This means, from here on, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cous cous etc. are NOT to be blamed for your increase in weight – because now you know the science, you know the answer ;-).
Depending on what your objectives are e.g. health vs performance, will depend a lot on what your diet will look like moving forward.
So, please, in future, do not immediately point the finger at carbohydrates. Let’s work together with them and build a new happy relationship.
Thanks for reading (and listening to me vent).