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Body’s Reaction to Carbohydrates in the Diet
In premise, losing weight seems incredibly simple. If you ingest fewer calories than you burn off, your body will begin to burn stored calories (body fat) and you will ultimately lose weight. However, this is the romanticized version of weight loss, and you should know that things are often a bit more difficult than this.
While it is true that eating fewer calories than you burn off with result in weight loss, it is important to note that things are not necessarily a 1:1 scenario, and also that there are many other factors to contend with in the human body, like your body’s propensity for storing calories, your metabolic rate, the amount of exercise you do, and even the types of calories you eat (i.e. calories from fat vs. calories from carbs).
In short, diets can become very complicated when discussing how any particular individual can work to lose weight efficiently. One area that gives dieters a lot of trouble is carbs. Knowing how they work in the body and which type of carbohydrates you need is debated throughout the entire weight loss industry.
Simple and Complex Carbohydrates
One of the most popular types of diets is the low-carb diet, and this is aimed at forcing your body to burn fat stores as energy instead of ingested carbs (sugars). In the human body, energy is stored in three basic ways: As glycogen within your muscles; as glucose in your blood; or as body fat.
The idea behind eating a low-carb diet is that your body will instantly begin to burn fat stores, but this is false for a couple of reasons. First, your muscles and blood provide the most immediate source of energy, so this is the first place your body looks. Secondly, the body is constantly seeking out energy other than its own fat stores. It’s evolution; your fat is there biologically as a reserve, so the body is not inclined to dip back into the reserves once they are stored.
This is why low-carb diets require great commitment and an outright elimination of simple carbohydrates—and even most complex carbohydrates—in order to effectively work.
The Right Approach for Dieting
Your body actually reacts the best to a balanced approach. Simple carbohydrates, like that candy bar you eat or soda you drink, are broken down very rapidly. But your body doesn’t know how to handle all this energy at once, especially if you’re not working out already and if your base metabolic rate isn’t used to burning so many calories. So while it may only be one candy bar, your body is breaking it down immediately and perhaps immediately storing the sugars as fats.
With complex carbs, like whole grains, the breaking down and distribution of carbs is much more even, spreading out the energy to be used rather than panicking and storing fat reserves.
Instead of going with fad diets and trying to eliminate carbohydrates completely, understand that your body best handles complex carbs and evenly burns them off as energy.