Are you carb-phobic? Don’t be. Carbohydrates provide amazing benefits for a fitness lifestyle. Here are 8 reasons you shouldn’t be afraid to eat carbs.
Carbohydrates Provide High-Intensity Fuel
Glycogen is the fuel source required for high-intensity exercise. Glycogen is synthesized from glucose, which comes from the digestion of carbohydrates. In order to keep your energy levels up for intense exercise, you must fuel your body with sufficient carbohydrates.
Intense exercise benefits you in numerous ways. Not only does it burn more fat, but it also improves longevity, increases hormone stimulation, creates a greater afterburn effect, improves your mood, and increases your insulin sensitivity     .
Your Central Nervous System Requires Glucose
Your brain and central nervous system, as well as various other organs require glucose to function. In fact, the brain needs about 100 grams of glucose daily . Now, while your body can derive glucose from protein and fat in some cases, the conversion process is highly inefficient. It makes more sense to just give your body what it needs in the most efficient way possible.
Carbohydrates Taste Amazing
Alright, so maybe this is more opinion than fact, but carbohydrates provide the “sweet” stimulation to the taste buds. While there is likely a handful of people out there that don’t like the taste of carbohydrates, I’d venture to say that 99% of the population enjoys the flavor of fruit, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, beans, or grains.
Carbs Raise Feel-Good Neurotransmitter Levels
Dopamine and serotonin are feel-good chemicals released by the brain in response to reward. An important amino acid, tryptophan, is a precursor to these neurotransmitters. Carbohydrates raise insulin levels, which then shuttle amino acids into muscle. However, insulin leaves behind tryptophan, which then has less competition to enter the brain and be converted into serotonin .
Carbs are Protein Sparing
When carbohydrates drop low enough, protein starts being used in greater amounts for energy instead of for muscle synthesis, among other important functions. Your body is going to get its glucose in one form or another, even if you don’t consume carbohydrates.
Protein can be broken down into glucose via gluconeogenesis, but the process is very inefficient, and protein is expensive. Consuming carbohydrates means your body can get its glucose and then spare protein so it can be used for other essential body functions.
Carbohydrates are Energy Sparse and Fill You Up
A tablespoon of fat has about 120 calories. Two tablespoons of peanut butter have 200 calories. These are fat dominated foods. Carb dominated foods such as a large apple only has 110 calories. Which do you think is going to fill you up more – 2 large apples or 2 tbsp of peanut butter? Each have an equal amounts of calories.
Don’t get me wrong, fat is great for you too, and is an essential macronutrient. The point is that carbohydrates are not bad for you. Eaten in good quantities they provide bulk to your diet from their additional fiber and water content. This in turn helps you feel full and better controls hunger when trying to lose weight. Plus, carbs have less than half the calories per gram (4 vs 9) than fat does.
Carbohydrates Don’t Hinder Fat Loss
Probably the number one reason for cutting out carbohydrates is because of the belief that they inhibit fat loss. Now, this is true to an extent, as elevated insulin levels do prevent fatty acid mobilization, but the effect is practically non-existent in a hypocaloric environment.
Assuming sufficient nutrient intake and muscle stimulation, fat loss is simply a function of energy balance. In fact, studies continue to show that the number of carbohydrates you eat doesn’t matter – your weight loss results are determined by your total calorie intake .
Carbohydrates Add Variety to Your Diet
Dietary variety is an important principle to follow as part of a healthy lifestyle. Variety helps you get in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also ensures you don’t get bored with the foods you eat. It’s much easier to adhere to a diet that doesn’t omit an entire macronutrient as compared to a diet that allows all foods in moderation. Over restriction is the reason many weight loss programs fail.
Don’t fear carbohydrates. People lose weight and stay fit eating diets composed of all kinds of varying amounts of carbs. Choose a carbohydrate level that best suits you and your individual lifestyle. Finding an eating style that you can stick with for the long-term is what’s most important.