Weight-loss: Why carbs aren't the enemy

In the realm of weight-loss, carbohydrates have often been vilified as the ultimate foe. However, recent research and shifting perspectives in nutrition science are challenging this notion. Contrary to popular belief, carbs play a crucial role in a balanced diet and can actually be allies in your weight-loss journey. Let's explore why carbs deserve a place on your plate and how they can contribute to successful weight management.


The role of carbs in weight-loss

Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy, providing fuel for daily activities and exercise. When consumed in moderation and from whole, nutrient-dense sources, carbs offer numerous benefits for weight-loss.

Whole grain carbohydrates, such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat bread are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals, which promote satiety and digestive health. Unlike their refined counterparts, whole grains release energy slowly, preventing rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, and keeping hunger at bay.

Carbohydrates, gram for gram, contain fewer calories than fats. While fats provide 9 calories per gram, carbohydrates offer only 4 calories per gram. This calorie disparity suggests that blaming carbs alone for weight gain might not be entirely accurate.

Instead, it's essential to consider the overall dietary context in which carbs are consumed. The problem often arises when carb-rich foods are paired with high-fat and high-calorie accompaniments or processed into sugary treats and snacks. Think about a classic example: a slice of plain whole-grain bread versus a slice slathered with butter or loaded with sugary spreads. The latter not only adds extra calories but also lacks the fibre and nutrients found in whole grains, which help promote satiety and regulate blood sugar levels.

Moreover, the way carbs are prepared can significantly impact their calorie content. Fried foods, for instance, can drastically increase the calorie count of carb-based dishes. On the other hand, opting for healthier cooking methods like baking, steaming, or grilling can keep the calorie content in check while preserving the nutritional value of carbohydrates.

Portion size also plays a crucial role. Eating excessively large portions of any food, including carbs, can contribute to weight gain. It's not uncommon for oversized servings of pasta, rice, or potatoes to exceed our body's energy needs, leading to excess calorie consumption and eventual weight gain. 

Balancing blood sugar levels

One of the key factors in successful weight-loss is maintaining stable blood sugar levels. High-glycemic carbs, such as white bread, sugary snacks, and processed foods, can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, leading to increased hunger and cravings. In contrast, low-glycemic carbs, like those found in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, are digested more slowly, providing a steady source of energy and helping to regulate appetite. By choosing low-glycemic carbs, you can avoid energy crashes and overeating, making it easier to stick to your weight-loss goals.

Fueling physical activity

Exercise is an essential component of any weight-loss plan, and carbohydrates play a vital role in fueling physical activity. Carbs are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, which is the body's preferred source of energy during exercise. Consuming carbohydrates before a workout can help boost energy levels and improve performance, allowing you to push harder and burn more calories. Additionally, replenishing glycogen stores with carbs after exercise supports muscle recovery and helps prevent fatigue, ensuring you're ready for your next workout.

Practical tips for including carbs in your weight-loss plan:

  • Choose whole, minimally processed sources of carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Pay attention to portion sizes and aim for a balanced plate with a mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Be mindful of added sugars and refined carbs found in processed foods and sugary beverages, which can derail weight-loss efforts.
  • Listen to your body and adjust your carbohydrate intake based on hunger levels, energy levels, and weight-loss progress.

In summary, carbohydrates are not the enemy when it comes to weight-loss; in fact, they are essential allies in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. By choosing the right types of carbs and incorporating them into a balanced diet, you can fuel your body, stabilise blood sugar levels, support physical activity, and promote overall metabolic and hormonal health. So, say goodbye to carb fear and embrace the power of carbs in your weight-loss journey.

Ready to shift the weight without resorting to extreme and FAD diets? Then reach out for a discovery call and find out how I can help you reach your goals.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SW14 & E18
Written by Rania Salman, Registered Dietitian, PgDip (Merit), BSc (Honours), MBDA
London SW14 & E18

Rania Salman is a trained dietitian who uses an evidence-based approach to support you in reaching your goals. Her areas of expertise include Fertility, PCOS, weight loss/gain in addition to general health and well-being. She has worked in some of the most well-known NHS trusts, in addition to working for the private sector.

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