Myths 2 – “Carbs Are Bad – M’Kay”
Another extremely common opinion I come across on an almost daily basis, is the idea that partially or completely removing only carbohydrates from your food consumption is a good way to lose weight. …well, it’s not.
The idea touted most famously by the Atkins Diet and very common amongst the bodybuilding fraternity that a low carb, high protein, and sometimes high fat diet is a valid approach to weight loss is controversial to say the least.
There usually is a fundamental lack of understanding about carbs from people who say this, and of course they’ll be likely to be talking about pizza, bread, that kind of thing.
But carbohydrates are anything in our diet that is not proteins, fats or fibre. Yes, pizza bases are made largely of carbs, but crucially, so are fruit and vegetables. From a nutritional point of view it is widely accepted that we should generally be eating much more fruit & vegetables than we do.
Even the 5 –a- Day recommendation is actually a cop-out by the UK Authorities in the first place as the actual guidelines advise 7-10 per-Day, but the UK as a nation are so far from that, that our glorious leaders thought it would be easier to try & get us up to 5-a-Day to start with, and take it from there, so as not to scare us all off initially.
Your nutritional intake should be looked at as a whole, in the overall context of the Energy Balance Equation, and in this light, no one constituent of food (protein, carbs or fats) should be looked at in isolation.
The accepted approach to working out what you should be eating is to:
1. Calculate your overall Calorific Intake requirement. = My Amount of Calories
2. Calculate the amount of protein you need. In Grams x 4 = Calories from protein
3. Calculate the amount of Carbs you should be on
(45 – 65% Total Calories) = Calories from Carbs
4. Add these two figures together, and subtract from your total intake figure.
5. The left over figure should make up the rest of your Calorie intake from Fats.
1. Total Calories required = 2636
2. Calories required from protein = 528
3. Calories Required from carbs (60% total) = 1370
4. 528+1370 = 1898.
5. 2636-1898 = 738 Calories to come from fats.
…So we can see that in fact the majority of what we eat should actually be carbs, and ideally be of the fruit & veg variety. Protein is important as it is the building blocks for muscles tissue, but it is not a good thing to get too much of, as it stresses the liver to process & deal with, and will just pass straight through the body if not required.
The guidelines as to how much protein we need vary from 1 gram per Kg of bodyweight, through to as much as 2 grams / Kg for bodybuilders or extreme endurance athletes. The rest of us do not need large amounts of protein.
Carbs are all ultimately digested as glucose by the gut anyway, whether they start out as white bread, pizza bases, sugar, or fruit & vegetables. It is true that some are digested much more quickly than others (GI Index) and that this affects the speed at which the energy gets into the bloodstream, but the basic tenet still applies, a Calorie of carbs is a Calorie of carbs, no matter from whence it came.
Obviously however, if we eat lots of fruit & veg, as well as getting the glucose molecule from the digested food, we also get the vitamins, minerals & antioxidants that we need, which clearly we don’t from a spoonful of sugar.
Fats are also both desirable and necessary in the diet, provided we take account of what type they are. A basic guide is:
Monounsaturated fats – These are the “Good Fats” basically it’s difficult to get enough of this in our diet. Commonly found in Nuts, Olive Oil, Avocados.
Polyunsaturated Fats -These are relatively Neutral and should be consumed without too much worry.
Saturated Fats. – CAUTION. Keep consumption as low as possible , less than 5% of overall consumption is ideal. Found in meat, dairy, and generally in most things nice.
Trans-fats – STOP!! AVOID COMPLETELY. Potentially lethal man-made variant of polyunsaturated fats. Found in pre-prepared foods, fast foods, and anything that says “Hydrogenated or partially Hydrogenated fats” in the ingredients.
An ideal breakdown of fat consumption would have you consuming 3 parts Mono , to 2 parts Poly, to 1 part (or less) Saturated fat, with no Transfats whatsoever .
…So, to wrap up, hopefully you can see that not only are Carbs not bad for you, they actually constitute some of the most essential foods we can eat for our long-term health.
If this all seems too complicated for you there is a spreadsheet available free to accurately calculate your Dietary requirements below.
The spreadsheet is unlocked and the formula used to calculate amounts of protein / percentage carbs in the diet etc are all adjustable in the “Maintenance” Box. This will automatically filter through to all the other calculations. Watch out for the little red tags marking which formula are where when you hold the mouse over the fields. Any questions on its use, please feel free to Email me
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