Sweet's Revenge: Carbohydrates Are Back!

When you restrict carbohydrate intake, your body responds by converting proteins into sugar; too much = fat. That is sweet's revenge. Fight back: rules to consider the next time you think about leaving out carbs.

"I can unequivocally say that the low-carb food trend is dead," said Lynn Dornblaser, analyst with the market research firm Mintel. Five hundred products labeled "low carb" debuted in 2006. That's less than half the number of low-carb products that were introduced the year before.

Instead, other diet trends have emerged. The No Trans Fat hysteria has major food companies like McDonald's, KFC, and Starbuck's announcing their intent to stop distributing foods with trans fats. Last year, gluten-free products - foods that contain no wheat, rye, barley or any hybrid of these grains - jumped 86% in North America, Europe and Latin America.

Misconceptions about carbohydrates and the factors that impact weight loss and obesity, however, still linger. According to the Partnership for Essential Nutrition, 18% of adults who participated in a study conducted last year by the Opinion Research Corporation incorrectly identified that reducing carbohydrates, not calories, was the key to losing weight.

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Many still continue to invest in diet books promising rapid weight loss by restricting the intake of carbohydrates and eating unlimited amounts of meat and other proteins.

Even with popular low carb diets such as Atkins, South Beach and Zone, obesity rates continue to rise. An estimated 65% of adults are classified as overweight or obese demonstrating that, not only do low carb diets not work, but may also be contributing to the obesity epidemic we are experiencing today.

Being constantly bombarded with confusing information on ways to lose weight, it's no wonder why many have opted for quick fix approaches only to have that weight come back and sometimes with even more pounds with it.

When you severely restrict carbohydrate intake, your body responds by converting available proteins into sugar. If you take too much, your body will store them as fat. That is sweet's revenge. So how do you fight back? Here are a few rules to help you the next time you consider passing through the carbohydrate section at the grocery store.

You Need Carbohydrates To Function:

    Carbohydrates on a molecular level are a mix of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen that function as either simple or complex. Eventually, all carbohydrates turn into glucose, your body and brain's main energy source.

A Mix Of Carbon, Hydrogen & Oxygen.

    Any excess is stored as glycogen in the muscles or the liver for later use when you need energy again. When you decrease or eliminate the consumption of carbohydrates in your diet, you begin to feel sluggish, unable to exercise, lose focus and lack concentration.

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Choose More Complex, Fibrous Carbs:

Glycemic Index Podcast Glycemic Index Podcast
This seminar completes the review of carbohydrate topics as they relate to the bodybuilder's performance nutrition and fat loss plan, a general fitness person's weight loss program, and the glycemic index and satiety index guidelines.
[ Click here to learn more. ]
audio Download Seminar #8!
(27:38; mp3 - 25.3 MB; February 2, 2006)

Fruits Are Your Friends:

    Lately, fruits have had a bad rap mainly because they are thought of as being simple carbohydrates with a high GI. For example, the GI score for watermelon is 72. This means that watermelon raises blood glucose levels 72% as much as pure glucose. However, studies have long documented the benefits of eating fruits which include reducing the risk of heart disease, lung disorders and certain cancers.

    A study reported by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the 730 men who were followed from age 54 to 80 had a positive effect on long term survival with daily fruit consumption.

    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Fruits Are Your Friends.

    With a little knowledge and planned timing, you can maximize eating fruits by ingesting them before and after your workouts. By consuming high GI carbs during these times, you help shuttle nutrients, vitamins and minerals into your starving muscles.

    Vitamins & Minerals:

The Low Down On Artificial Sweeteners:

    When it's hard to give up on that burst of sweetness in our coffee, cereal, or yogurt it's no wonder why so many individuals end up turning to artificial sweeteners - chemicals that offer the sweetness of sugar but without the calories.

    The Calorie Control Council reports that as many as 180 million people routinely eat and drink sugar-free products. That's more than double the number a decade ago. However, research published in the International Journal of Obesity found that artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, may actually promote obesity by tricking the body into thinking that sweet-tasting foods and drinks don't contain as many calories as they really do.

    And, there still remains a long standing debate about the safety of artificial sweeteners. For example, research studies reported a link between saccharin and bladder cancer and aspartame with brain cancer in lab animals. But the Food and Drug Administration, after extensively reviewing these claims, have found no clear evidence of an association between artificial sweeteners and cancer in people.

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The Bottom Line: It's The Calories That Matter

    "The real key to weight loss is calories. If you substitute a diet soda for a sugar soda, you save 10 calories, but if you eat 15 sugar-free cookies instead of two regular cookies, you may not be helping yourself at all," states Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, director of nutrition for the American Council on Science and Health.

Each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories and you need anywhere from 40-60% of your calories from carbohydrates to sustain a balanced diet. If your sweet tooth doesn't undo your best intentions, count on your body to perform its own secret act of sabotage.

May Blaiz
Click Image To Enlarge.
Author, May Blaiz.

Time and time again, studies after study, carbohydrates have proven to be essential to a well balanced diet and an important factor for energy consumption, fat burning, and yes, even weight loss. The best strategy isn't about cutting back on carbs, it's about knowing the basic rules of nutrition. When you understand the role of carbohydrates, you have the ammo to fight back.