Now I was asked by a client over the weekend. Can I just cut out carbohydrates? Are they essential? Well, in theory, when we look at the science no, technically they are not essential. We have essential amino acids (so essential protein strands) and we have essential fatty acids. There were no ‘essential’ carbohydrates on the list.
Now is that to say we should just cut them out?
Honestly, I don’t believe a diet that cuts out one complete macro-nutrient – apart from alcohol, which is that forgotten macronutrient – that cuts out one full macronutrient, I don’t believe any diet that does this is a long-term sustainable and healthy diet. This is probably not news to you I know.
What are we going to look at is what happens when we cut out carbohydrates. Now they get a bad rep. They get a bad reputation purely because we see people drop carbohydrates and lose a lot of weight. Now that was one thing. Well, there are two things that could be going on when we have carbohydrates. The first thing is water loss.
Now, every time we have around a gram of carbohydrates say stored in our muscles. Glycogen stores, sugar stores, whatever we want to call it. We bring in about three to four grams of water as a result.
Therefore, we put on weight when we have carbohydrates, not fat.
But if you imagine it like a balloon. When we fully inflate a balloon, it looks much tighter.
So the skin plumps up and looks much tighter, but when we draw those carbohydrates out, we also take that water out. So that balloon becomes saggy.
Now, what would you prefer? That look, which is tighter skin, which is a much fuller look, not higher fat, or would you prefer to feel drained, feel low on energy and have a saggy look to your muscles.
That’s one of the things which we need to look at – what is actually happening. So when people cut these carbohydrates out, they say, great! because carbohydrates make me put on weight. Well, let’s define the difference between ‘weight’ and ‘fat’. Carbohydrates could make you put on weight. Because they are bringing in water, which helps hydrate you, which helps make you feel good, which helps make you get more energy.
But taking them out then pulls away that water.
So yes, it could make you lose weight, but it’s also one of the reasons that people start on a diet. They drop weight and then level off because they’ve lost that water. And then it becomes more realistic as to what is going on there. We also need to look at another reason that carbohydrates could be making you put on weight – there could be some reactions with carbohydrates, with the foods you take out, probably something to do with gluten, maybe dairy or anything like this.
That could be some of the things – we take those out and we lower inflammation in our body. Therefore, we lower water retention, the bad inflamed water retention. Let’s differentiate between the two. Again, taking a lot of science out of it there, but a lot of people will drop that water weight because they are lowering inflammation because they have taken a food out that their body just simply does not agree with.
Now, another thing that happens when we cut carbohydrates out is we cut a lot of nutrients. Surprising hey?
So, yes, when we have proteins, we’re going to get some vitamins in there with eating good quality meats. We’re going to get the protein sources and so on, same with fatty acids and everything like that. But we cut out a lot of fiber when we stop eating carbs. Because vegetables contain carbohydrates too.
We therefore cut out a lot of vitamins. If we cut out carbohydrates from our diet, that is potentially not very good long-term, especially if we’re not supplementing to replace those. And another thing is that Carbohydrates – when we cut them out completely – it makes eating out,
it makes having a social life
So honestly, sustainability wise it’s getting easier to eat ketogenic diets if we go out, but I would not recommend cutting out carbohydrates for those specific reasons. Because when we lower glycogen storage, we’re going to lower the nutrient intake and fiber and we’re not going to be able to eat very well.
Where is cutting out carbohydrates, actually a good thing? Because a lot of my clients may be listening to this and be like, “Hey, you told me to do a low carb diet. Why are you doing this to me?’ Am I shooting myself in the foot, that sort of thing.
But with carbohydrates in our diet, if we have poor blood glucose management – so if you suffer from things like brain fog, you’re just trying to push through, but there’s this like hypothetical brick wall there that you just cannot bust through – then maybe we need to actually look deeper into why carbohydrates could be an issue.
If you do not sleep through the night, if you wake up once, twice, three, even four times to go to the toilet, you’re just not able to sleep through the night because you have poor blood glucose management or you’re waking up in the morning and you feel really lethargic.
Or perhaps you’re waking up between the hours of say four to six, four to seven, like 3, 4, 5 am, and you’re wired. Then maybe we need to look at what is actually going on with carbohydrates in your diet. And that is where I will look into managing and measuring your blood glucose.
Because after all, what gets measured gets managed.
We cant just guess at these things.
I’ll have a few people say, “oh yeah, but I don’t want to prick my finger every single day”. Honestly, if that improves your brain fog, if that stops you from being lethargic, if that lowers your anxiety, if that gets you sleeping through the night. And if that gets you the ability to actually drop this excess weight that you say you want to drop, then a little prick on your finger can be very beneficial. But I do totally understand it takes a lot to actually work up to that. And I’m not saying you do it every single day.
You take your fasted blood glucose levels for say two/three days and see where they’re at. So depending on whether you’re here in the UK or the US, or what your reading types are, between 4.2 and 4.9 is ideal here in the UK and then for the US between 80 and 90. If they’re higher than that, or lower than that, we need to look at that.
And when we say fasted, I mean simply getting out of bed and testing your blood glucose levels, but within the first 10 to 15 minutes. It’s going to help you so much. And then we can start designing what you need to do with your nutrition around that. But simply saying, ‘should I cut carbohydrates out? Should I go zero carbohydrates because that’s what makes me feel good’ is not sustainable in my mind.
And that’s also including vegetables in there as carbohydrates, which a lot of people don’t do – looking at fibrous vegetables as carbs. Because if you’re struggling to follow a diet or nutrition protocol, whatever we want to call it, I know some people get triggered by the word ‘diet’!
Then there is a reason.
If you’re struggling to follow that and then we go more and more strict by cutting out a whole macronutrient group: carbohydrates/ proteins /fats. Thats not sustainable. Your body needs to be able to manage blood glucose better. Maybe there’s underlying inflammation, maybe there’s stress elsewhere-this can cause you to not be able to follow a diet consistently.
And it’s not just the diet we need to look at. Hydration too. We’ll look at your mindset and the stress that’s going on. And we look at whether there are some supplements that may be able to support you a little bit. What can we do to help you with the underlying reasons you’re not able to follow the nutrition at the moment?
Now, if this is a question that you have asked in the past, if you’ve struggled with having too many carbohydrates or too little, or you’re one of these people that simply has to look at a slice of bread and put on 10 pounds, drop me a message. We can go over a few of the things in a call and see if there’s something which we can work on to improve.
Not just improving your body, not just your mind, but everything from looking at your health from the top down.