Carbs. FRIEND or FOE?
This is one of the most heavily debated topics that I see all the time. CARBOHYDRATES! They are everything that makes food delicious. Breads, pasta, pastries, rolls, rice, cakes, cookies, muffins, cereals, snack bars, ice cream, candy, and so on. There is so many angles to go at this single macronutrient that it can become hard to understand what is right and how much to consume if you are new to food tracking/dieting.
Lets start from the basics. A carb is a single "macro-nutrient" or 1 out of the 3 possible macro-nutrients (fats and proteins are the other two.) Macro- nutrients contain calories, while micro-nutrients do not. Micro-nutrients are your vitamins and minerals. One gram of carbs will yield 4 calories. One gram of fat will yield 9 calories. One gram of protein will yield 4 calories as well.
Here is where things start to get a little blurry depending on which study you look at when it comes to carbohydrates. If you are looking at carbs from a fat loss perspective, it will come down to overall daily calorie intake, regardless if you are taking in carbs or cutting that macro-nutrient out of your diet completely. To lose fat you need to force your body into a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you are taking in) regardless of what those calories are made up of. By using this method, you should be able to lose fat while still consuming carbs as long as you are watching your overall daily calorie intake of all 3 macro-nutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) each day.
Now, this should all workout just fine IN THEORY! The truth is that the body is complex and HORMONE change can have just as much (or more) to do with fat loss or fat gain than calorie consumption! The problem that many people run into with carbohydrates is the hormone called INSULIN. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas to flush glucose (sugar/carbs) out of the blood stream. Without insulin, we would die if we ate something with too much sugar.
Insulin is one of the most anabolic (cue for growth) hormones that the body can produce. If your goal is to gain lots of muscle this works very well because insulin grows new tissue. The problem when it comes to fat loss is that insulin grows ALL TISSUE, fat included. Each persons body is very different. Some people are much more INSULIN SENSITIVE than others. Some people can eat lots of carbs each day and it is part of their daily calorie intake and they gain no fat, while others store lots of fat when they intake carbohydrates. This completely depends on each person. This takes trial and error to figure out over time what type of diet works best for you, your lifestyle, and your body.
My personal opinion on carbohydrates is that they should be kept to a minimum (under 100 grams/day) and only whole food based nothing processed. What I mean by this is that carbs should be consumed through vegetables, potatoes, and fruits, while eliminating processed flour and sugar or man made type carbs. Processed carbs will give you a much quicker insulin spike compared to something whole food based.
I also feel that for general health purposes, carbs should be kept to a minimum because of health risks. Insulin grows fat cells as well as CANCER CELLS. Remember, insulin is cue for growth of all cells, not just muscle. Cancer cells can only survive off of one type of fuel source and that is glucose or sugar. The only way to intake glucose is by eating carbohydrates. There is research that shows when people switch to a high fat, low carbohydrate type diet, cancer cells can shrink ten fold and even become eliminated. Today processed food is at an all time high and cancer and disease is skyrocketing. I am led to believe that there is some type of correlation.
Whether you decide to consume carbohydrates is completely your call. When it comes to scale weight, usually you will have more weight fluctuations if you are consuming carbs due to the fact that carbs hold water. The less carbs you have in your system, the less amount of weight fluctuations you will have. You need to decide what the purpose of your "diet" is. Strictly fat loss or muscle gain for cosmetics, or long term health and longevity? There is no right or wrong answer.