Should I eat more carbs?

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1. Why is carbohydrate a dirty word?

Thinking about a diet? Chances are you’ll be told to think about cutting back on “carbs”. Since the rise of the Atkins diet in the 1980s, dieters around the world have been told carbohydrate is what makes their bodies hold onto fat, or at least prevents them from losing weight. Since then, millions have followed a no-carb or low-carb diet. But what if cutting back on carbs is not as healthy as we think? Should you eat more carbs?

2. How do carbs work?

Graphic showing how carbohydrates are broken down in the human body and used for energy

They're essential for our bodies to function properly. But what do we do with them?

3. Do carbs make me fat?

Overeating any macronutrient (fat, protein, carbs) will lead to weight gain.

  • Carbohydrate provides: About 4kcal (17kJ) energy per gram
  • Protein provides: About 4kcal (17kJ) energy per gram
  • Fat provides: About 9kcal (37kJ) energy per gram

Eating carbs won’t necessarily make you fat, but there are “good” carbs and “bad" carbs. And these come down to how refined they are and how quickly they release sugars into your bloodstream. A complex carbohydrate slows down the approach of sugars to your bloodstream. But a simple carbohydrate will let quick-release sugars hit your bloodstream fast.

4. Can carbs help me lose weight?

Carbohydrates that also contain vitamins, minerals and fibre (like wholegrains, fruits and vegetables) can help prevent over-eating. Click on the foods to see why you should eat them:

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5. Should I eat carbs after a workout?

What should you consider when deciding when to eat carbohydrate?

Recovery food

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Recovery food

Combined with protein, unrefined carbs replenish glycogen stores, prevent further muscle breakdown and sooth soreness from a workout.

Muscle growth

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Muscle growth

Insulin released after you eat a post-workout meal can help the body to switch from a catabolic (muscle-losing) state to an anabolic (muscle-growing) state.

Fat storage

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Fat storage

But if you over-consume carbs, especially refined ones, post-workout, then you may over-supply your glycogen stores and store energy as fat.

6. What do I pair carbs with to slow release?

Graphic showing which foods to pair together to slow the release of carbohydrates as energy

Refined, man-made sugar-based carbohydrates are the main culprits of creating fast energy spikes and dips, and stimulating hunger. Combining fast-digesting carbs with slow-release carbs, fats or protein can influence how fast carbs are released into your bloodstream as energy.