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How and Why Carbs Make You Fat Understanding the Science Behind It

Let’s be real, everyone loves carbs. In fact, most of us are addicted to them! That’s because, many thousands of years ago, before the agricultural revolution, carbs were not nearly as plentiful, so we evolved to stock up on them whenever we could (think being stung by bees, just to taste some sweet honey).

Despite today’s mainstream diet, which consists largely of carbohydrate containing foods (think bread, pasta, cereal, rice, etc.) to the tune of well over 50 percent of our calories, carbohydrates are not essential nutrients for our body. This is because our bodies have the ability to release carbs from our liver and muscles and also make carbs (glucose) from protein (gluconeogenesis).

But carbohydrates themselves are not the problem when it comes to our expanding waistlines. The real problem lies within the amount and the types of carbs we choose to indulge in. The wrong types of carbs are carbs are overly processed and stripped of their break systems – fiber. When you remove fiber from a carbohydrate, you basically unload the carbs contents too quickly, which becomes a major issue (think removing the skin and pulp from fruit to make juice).

Sugar, Insulin and Your Fat Cells

The average bloodstream of a non-diabetic person only contains about one teaspoon of sugar. Anything ingested over and above this can easily create metabolic mayhem, leading to hypoglycemia (high blood sugar), heart disease and type 2 diabetes and ever expanding fat cells (obesity).

Since your cells only have a limited storage capacity for sugar (roughly 400-500 grams), your master hormone, insulin, needs to take over to make sure any excess sugar gets shuttled out of the bloodstream, fast. Your body’s sugar (glucose) reserves only get completely drained with abstaining from carbs (diet) and intensive and prolonged physical activity, the equivalent of two hours of jogging at a fast pace.

When you consume a high-carb meal, glucose is shuttled to the liver by insulin, converted into triglycerides (storable forms of fat), and stored in the body's 30 billion fat cells. Insulin remains elevated for hours after a high-carb meal, contributing to more and more fat cell expansion. This high insulin response eventually leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and a false hunger that leads to constant cravings and overeating.

So What to Do?

The only real way to combat excess carb and insulin levels, is to exercise, intermittent fast (for 14-16 hours), reduce your carbs intake and eat higher fiber foods like nuts, vegetables and fruit. High-fiber foods don't impact blood sugar levels nearly as much as low-fiber, processed ones. Low-carbohydrate/high-fiber foods take longer to break down in the gut, resulting in a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream and therefore lower insulin levels.

 Luckily, there is a solution - a ketogenic diet. This trendy diet helps to reduce carbohydrate intake and help achieve healthy blood sugar levels. If you want to reduce your risk of these diseases, try keto!

What About Keto?

 The Ketogenic Diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is highly effective for weight loss and managing medical conditions like epilepsy. It is also known as the keto diet.

Ketosis is a metabolic condition that develops when glucose is used up as a source of energy in the body and fat is used as a fuel instead. The ketogenic diet may provide numerous health benefits, among these being; a reduction in body fat, increase in energy, better mental focus and even the treatment of various chronic illnesses to name a few.

The primary goal of the Ketogenic Diet is to enter into a state of ketosis, which happens when you reach a blood sugar level where your body can't use glucose anymore because its stores are used up.

When this occurs, your body switches from using energy from carbs (sugar) to burning fat (in the form of ketones) for fuel. This process leads to the fat cells breaking down triglycerides into fatty acids so they can be converted to fuel for energy. As a byproduct of lower blood sugar and higher ketones, you become leaner, more energetic, more mentally focused and less hungry – all bonuses.

Due to the fact that carbohydrate consumption is severely limited on low carb/Ketogenic diets, high-fat, moderate-protein, options are prioritized. If you’re considering this kind of a diet, be ready for some uncomfortable days in the beginning. This means you may have insatiable cravings for carbs, as your body shifts from an addiction phase to a ketogenic phase, which can take 3-4 days to achieve.

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705

https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/anti-inflammatory-diet/