If weight loss is the good guy, simple carbs are the villain. They’re sneaky, seductive and wreak absolute havoc on any hope you may have to lose weight and develop a more healthy lifestyle. Even a seemingly innocent taste can often send us spiraling down the path to the dark side, next thing you know the whole bag of cookies is gone…
Simple carbohydrates are carbohydrates that are quickly broken down by the body to produce energy. I call them sneaky because they are everywhere. Look at the ingredients list in the items in your fridge and pantry. How many things can you find that have the most sinister simple carbohydrates: sugar and high fructose corn syrup? Condiments, beverages, snacks and even packaged “health food” items often contain these two commonly used sweeteners. Other examples include the white flour found in bread, pastries, cookies and pretzels. Even white rice and white potatoes are rich sources of simple carbohydrates that can wreck our weight loss goals. We will dig deeper into “good and bad” carbohydrate sources in future posts but you get the idea. So if simple carbs provide the body with quick energy, why do call them the villian? There are multiple reasons but for now we are going to focus on two specific to our goal of fast, healthy weight loss:
Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of energy.
Carbohydrates are a highly efficient form of energy for the human body to utilize. That’s great when you are on mile 20 of a marathon and are in dire need of quick energy to keep going but not so good in our day to day rather sedentary life. When attempting to lose weight we need to make the body work harder and what you eat can help. Interestingly, when carbohydrates are in short supply your body will begin to utilize less efficient fuel sources such as it’s fat stores (think love handles) and as a last resort, protein, to produce energy. A nice side effect of using these less efficient energy sources is that they actually require the body to burn a few extra calories in the process of creating energy. So in a low carbohydrate scenario your body is forced to burn more fat for energy and it takes more energy to accomplish the process. This is a fundamental reason why low carbohydrate diets are so effective at speeding fat loss.
Simple carbohydrates encourage overeating and fat gain.
When was the last time you ate just one cookie, took one sip of soda or had just one bite of cake? The simple fact of the matter is that once you get that sugar train rolling it’s hard to stop. As we said earlier, simple carbohydrates are our bodies preferred source of quick energy. Our body is programmed for surviving the harsh realities of nature where food may not be available for days on end. We are not programmed for living in modern society where unlimited calories are at our fingertips 24/7. So when we consume these simple carbs our body senses this wonderful source of quick energy and through its survival programming, sends signals to eat as much of the carbohydrate as we can and then simply store what we don’t need as body fat to be used for the next period of famine. This is a beautiful design when we are struggling to survive in a sporadic food supply type of environment but it sets us up for major health problems and excessive weight gain if we don’t keep this programming in check.
Now some will argue, and I agree to a point, that a no to low carbohydrate diet is unsustainable for the long term. But the fact remains that eliminating simple carbohydrates when starting a weight loss plan and replacing them with complex carbohydrates in moderation once your weight loss goal has been achieved is the single most effective and sustainable dietary approach for long term weight loss success.