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How Carbs Affect Your Metabolism

Are Carbs Killing Your Metabolism? This Is What a Doctor Says

The low-carb vs. high-carb debate for anything — weight loss, athletic performance, overall better nutrition — will probably never end, but that's OK. Ultimately, it's about finding what works the best for your lifestyle, body type, and nutritional needs.

Because we know that low-carb diets like the keto diet can affect our blood sugar levels, we wanted to know how our macronutrient profile, specifically carbohydrates, can affect our metabolism. To find out more, POPSUGAR spoke to Holly Lofton, MD, director of the medical weight management program at NYU.

Our metabolism is a complex process that relates to how our body produces energy from fat, sugar, and protein and how it stores that energy. Usually, when people talk about metabolism, they're referring to their metabolic rate — how much energy/calories their body is able to burn in a period of time. The more energy your body is able to produce, the quicker your metabolism will be.


Foods with a smaller thermic effect (how much energy it takes for your body to burn food) require less energy to process, which means your body doesn't have to work hard to burn it. In contrast, foods with a larger thermic effect require more energy to burn and process, which means your body will work harder and burn more energy.

"A higher carbohydrate macronutrient profile likely has a smaller thermic effect of food," Dr. Lofton told POPSUGAR. Just because carbohydrates have a smaller thermic effect doesn't mean you should begin following the low-carb, high-fat keto diet right away. Eating a moderate amount of carbs won't slow down your metabolism, but "it doesn't boost it much," Dr. Lofton explained.

How many carbohydrates you need to consume a day will vary for each person and is determined by variables such as your height, weight, physical activity, and goals. Generally speaking, Dr. Lofton recommends your macronutrient split consist of a greater amount of protein and a moderate amount of carbs and fats.

If you're interested in more ways you can boost your metabolism, Dr. Lofton said to focus on building more muscle (because muscle is metabolically active and requires more energy) and to be more active in general. Here's a four-week beginner's weightlifting program you can start following to build muscle.

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