Today’s post is about a highly controversial, and often a highly confused, subject. Carbohydrates (CHO) has been villainized by many in the health and fitness industry. However, as a lover of CHO’s, I thought I’d take the time to answer the question“do carbohydrates make us fat”?
Obviously, what I am about to write is not all inclusive and does not cover everyone with a special need, disease, or condition. But I think it is important for everyone to know that science isn’t always on the side of certain authors and their view points.
So let’s get to it. When it comes to CHO’s being bad, many point the all mighty finger of blame towards the “I” word. The word even makes some people feel a wee bit squeamish… INSULIN. Now before we go any further I want you to be comfortable with the word. So I will let you in on a little secret. For healthy individuals, insulin is very tightly controlled by the body and there is no reason at all to fear it. For those of you who are not sure what the hell I’m talking about, here is a brief history on how insulin works, and why some people think it’s bad.
Down Insulin! Bad Hormone!
– Insulin is a hormone that is released by the pancreas, and interacts with skeletal muscle, the liver, and our adipose tissue (fat)
– When we eat CHO’s (sugars) insulin is released into the blood stream where it tells muscles to absorb sugar and and use it as fuel.
– Because the liver releases sugar when our blood sugar gets too low, insulin replenishes what is lost there too
– When the liver and muscle cells are filled up with sugars, insulin will turn the excess CHO into fat
– Insulin decreases the rate of lipolysis (break down of fat for energy) in fat tissue and does stimulate fatty acid and triacylglycerol production
Why This Process DOES NOT Make You Fat
– When we are resting our bodies use fat as the primary fuel source
– When we work out, our body is using stored sugars as fuel so we typically need to top it off when we eat
– Storing fat would require us to have a constantly high signal of insulin
– Insulin is simply a switch in which fuel source we use, thus it tells us when we should burn sugar because we have enough of it to burn, but it does not tell our body that we should become fat!!!
Still wana be on that high protein diet because CHO’s are scary? Well the reality is that some high-protein foods elicit a greater insulin response than high-carbohydrate foods. In fact all proteins come with an insulin response. So by that logic, those who think that CHO’s affect on insulin is the cause of obesity must recognize that consuming protein would also encourage fat accumulation and not fat loss.
As I come to the conclusion I feel obligated to talk about diabetes, the disease that alters the body’s use of insulin. The fact of the mater is that those with type 1 diabetes can do nothing about their situation. However, those with type 2 diabetes often can. This is because the same reason why people accumulate fat due to insulin, is frequently the reason why type 2 diabetes occurs… a lack of response to circulating insulin. This is an entirely separate can of worm that I would be happy to discuss with anyone on an individual basis 🙂
All of this being said, CHO’s can also be a bad thing. When processed, they don’t provide much in the way of nutrition. This decreases how full we feel and makes it hard to judge just how much we ate.
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