The low-carb diet craze has been a popular way to lose weight and stay lean for decades now. It started with Atkins, then South Beach, to eventually Paleo, Whole30, and now keto. Many people assume that eating too many carbs will impact their blood sugar and make them gain weight, so they eschew carbs entirely in favor of more protein and fat.
In reality, carbs have many health benefits. And while it's true that limiting carbs can help you lose weight in the short-term (carbs hold on to water more than any other macronutrient, so when you cut them out, you lose water weight), it may not be sustainable for most people. After all, could you go a lifetime without sweet potatoes or brown rice or whole-grain bread?
NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness coach Marci Nevin (@MarciNevin) explained in an Instagram post why carbs are so important for overall health, especially for women. "Sure low carb diets can be work in some circumstances," she wrote in her caption. "But for the sake of this post, I'm speaking more specifically to women who are in generally good health, doing frequent intense exercise, likely a little stressed, and have a goal of better body composition. For that woman, eating an adequate amount of carbs can be very beneficial."
She explained carbs are so beneficial for overall health because they:
- Provide fuel for intense training.
- Allow for recovery from intense training.
- Help thyroid function.
- Improve mood and brain function.
- Help you get better sleep.
- Provide macronutrients for good health.
- Have fiber, which supports gut health.
- May help with weight loss.
- Keep sex and stress hormones in check.
"Carbs, like rice, potatoes, etc. are the fuel source for high intensity training," she explained. "They are also what help your body recover from that intense exercise so you can hit it hard again in the next workout." She went on to say that if you're only getting your carbs from vegetables, you will eventually burn out.
Obviously, everyone's nutritional needs are different. Registered dietitian Jim White, ACSM, recommends that carbs should be your biggest macronutrient group throughout the day. For weight loss, he suggests a macro breakdown of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent protein. Start with this ratio and adjust from there, depending on your desired results.
So don't be afraid of carbs anymore — if you are feeling lethargic and burned out on a low-carb diet, feel free to incorporate them back into your life. Just make sure you are sticking to whole complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal.