We’ve teamed up with Nikki Clarke from Body Solutions London, to talk health, fitness and personal training over the next few months. Here Nikki discusses carbs and the myths surrounding the food group.
The saying goes, “No Carbs Before Marbs”, but is cutting all carbohydrates from your diet the best way to lose weight? This article explores the common myths surrounding carbohydrates and how you can use them as part of your nutrition.
(F.Y.I, I told the TWOP girls that one of my guilty pleasures was The Only Way Is Essex, so I may as well confess that now to you guys. Don’t worry I judge myself too).
Myth 1: You Should Avoid All Carbs To Lose Weight
First off, fat was the demon that everyone had to avoid. During the 90’s the Government recommended we should avoid all fats in our diet. Well if the Government says so then it must be true, after all, politicians never lie… right?
Then a few years down the line, Dr Atkins popped up and carbs took the starring role as the dietary version of Dr Evil. Everyone and their mate who wanted to lose weight stopped eating anything that resembled a carbohydrate, even staying clear of the fruit and veg aisle in the supermarket in case they stared at the bananas too long and put on weight.
So what’s the truth?
Low carb diets can be very effective in the short term, a matter of weeks for most people, beyond that and it can start to do the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve and become detrimental to fat loss. For women in particular, I’ve seen many cases of those who have been on low carb diets for far too long (years and years), causing complicated thyroid issues that can take a hell of a long time to reverse. It’s not uncommon for me to take on new female Personal Training clients and have to spend upwards of 6 months trying to reverse the damage done by long-term low carb diets.
The reason many lose weight off a low carb diet has nothing to do with the fact that carbs are inherently bad for you, it’s more to do with the dramatic calorie deficit you put yourself in. If carbs make up anywhere from 30-50% of your diet for instance, and you stop eating them, you’ll be consuming considerably fewer total calories.
In my experience as a Personal Trainer, most people will do well by reducing the amount of carbohydrates they consume or even changing the main sources (think processed to more natural sources), but a total long-term elimination is unnecessary and can in fact be harmful.
Most people will need carbohydrates in their diet. The amount will depend on the person.
Myth 2: You Shouldn’t Eat Carbs In The Evening
“You should never eat carbs after 6pm”. Really? So at 5.59pm I’m OK but at 6.01pm my body decides to add to my love handles? This myth stems from the idea that as we are less active at night, we should consume fewer carbohydrates, as we need less energy. Although this may seem sound in principle, the reality is that our energy requirements at night do not differ much from during the day. Therefore eating carbs past 6pm isn’t going to make you put on weight.
In fact, for many of my Personal Training clients I’ll recommend that their last meal of the day consists of the majority of their carbohydrates. Why? Because it can help with achieving better sleep. Which in turn can aid with fat loss and a host of things such as improved immunity and mood. Win-win.
For the vast majority of us, total calorie consumption is of much greater importance than exact meal timings, so being aware of what you eat over the course of the whole day matters more.
Myth 3: A Low Carb Diet Works For Everyone
Believe it or not, there are people out there who can eat carbohydrates until the cows come home, but never put on weight. They are a select (and lucky) few, but they do exist.
I would say approximately 80-90% of the people I see benefit initially from a low carb diet. Once these people begin to lose weight I will actually look to increase the amount of carbs they eat, as their body becomes more insulin sensitive (better at using carbs). The other 10-20% or so will consume a higher carb and lower fat diet.
So how do you know what works for you? Trial and error is the best way to begin, but you can take an educated case and assume you’re in the 80-90%.
The amount of carbohydrates you should eat will be dictated by a myriad of things and will change over time. How lean you are, your genetic ability and your activity levels are some of the factors that will affect how much and how often you should consume carbs.
Carbohydrates can be an important part of a healthy balanced diet, and should be included on a day-to-day basis for the majority of people. A total elimination of carbohydrates is often unnecessary, however, a better understanding of your individual requirements is paramount to successful weight loss. As well as this carbohydrates can add a necessary extra dimension to your food choices and make mealtimes more varied, which in the long term can keep you on track with your weight loss goals and stave off diet boredom.
Watch this space for more articles from Nikki.
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