Over the past fifteen years, our dietary establishment has made a virtual industry of extolling the virtues of carbohydrates. We're constantly told that carbohydrates are the good guys of nutrition, and that, if we eat large amounts of them, the world should be a better place. In such a world, the experts tell us, there will be no heart disease and no obesity. Under such guidance, Americans are gobbling breads, cereals, and pastas as if there were no tomorrow, trying desperately to reach that 80 to 85 percent of total calories advocated by the high-carb extremists.
This creates a terrible paradox: people are eating less fat and getting fatter! No medical authority will tell you that excess body fat makes you healthier. There is but one alarming conclusion to reach: a high- carbohydrate, low-fat diet may be dangerous to your health. Overeating carbohydrate foods can prevent a higher percentage of fats from being used for energy, and lead to a decrease in endurance and an increase in fat storage.
Eating fat does not make you fat. It's your body's response to excess carbohydrates in your diet that makes you fat. Your body has a limited capacity to store excess carbohydrates, but it can easily convert those excess carbohydrates into excess body fat.
It's hard to lose weight by simply restricting calories. Eating less and losing excess body fat do not automatically go hand in hand. Low-calorie, high-carbohydrate diets generate a series of biochemical signals in your body that will take you out of the balance, making it more difficult to access stored body fat for energy. Result: you'll reach a weight-loss plateau, beyond which you simply can't lose any more weight.
Diets based on choice restriction and calorie limits usually fail. People on restrictive diets get tired of feeling hungry and deprived. They go off their diets, put the weight back on (primarily as increased body fat), and then feel bad about themselves for not having enough will power, discipline, or motivation.
Weight loss has little to do with willpower. You need information, not will power. If you change what you eat, you don't have to be overly concerned about how much you eat. Adhering to a diet of low carbohydrate meals, you can eat enough to feel satisfied and still wind up losing fat-without obsessively counting calories or fat grams.
Food can be good or bad. The ratio of macronutrients protein, carbohydrate, and fat-in the meals you eat is the key to permanent weight loss and optimal health. Unless you understand the rules that control the powerful biochemical responses generated by food, you will never achieve optimal wellness.
Unfortunately, many people don't really know what a carbohydrate is. Most people will say carbohydrates are sweets and pasta. Ask them what a vegetable or fruit is, and they'll probably reply that it's a vegetable or fruit-as if that were a food type all its own, a food type that they can eat in unlimited amounts without gaining weight. Well, this may come as a surprise, but all of the above - sweets and pasta, vegetables and fruits - are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are merely different forms of simple sugars linked together in polymers - something like edible plastic.
Of course, we all need a certain amount of carbohydrates in our diet. The body requires a continual intake of carbohydrates to feed the brain, which uses glucose (a form of sugar) as its primary energy source. In fact, the brain is a virtual glucose hog, gobbling more than two thirds of the circulating carbohydrates in the bloodstream while you are at rest. To feed this glucose hog, the body continually takes carbohydrates and converts them to glucose.
It's actually a bit more complicated than that. Any carbohydrates not immediately used by the body will be stored in the form of glycogen (a long string of glucose molecules linked together). The body has two storage sites for glycogen: the liver and the muscles. The glycogen stored in the muscles is inaccessible to the brain. Only the glycogen stored in the liver can be broken down and sent back to the bloodstream so as to maintain adequate blood sugar levels for proper brain function.
The liver's capacity to store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen is very limited and can be easily depleted within ten to twelve hours. So the liver's glycogen reserves must be maintained on a continual basis. That's why we eat carbohydrates.
The question no one has bothered to ask until now is this: what happens when you eat too much carbohydrate? Here's the answer: whether it's being stored in the liver or the muscles, the total storage capacity of the body for carbohydrate is really quite limited. If you're an average person, you can store about three hundred to four hundred grams of carbohydrate in your muscles, but you can't get at that carbohydrate. In the liver, where carbohydrates are accessible for glucose conversion, you can store only about sixty to ninety grams. This is equivalent to about two cups of cooked pasta or three typical candy bars, and it represents your total reserve capacity to keep the brain working properly.
Once the glycogen levels are filled in both the liver and the muscles, excess carbohydrates have just one fate: to be converted into fat and stored in the adipose, that is, fatty, tissue. In a nutshell, even though carbohydrates themselves are fat-free, excess carbohydrates ends up as excess fat. That's not the worst of it. Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates will generate a rapid rise in blood glucose. To adjust for this rapid rise, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin then lowers the levels of blood glucose.
The problem is that insulin is essentially a storage hormone, evolved to put aside excess carbohydrate calories in the form of fat in case of future famine. So the insulin that's stimulated by excess carbohydrates aggressively promotes the accumulation of body fat. In other words, when we eat too much carbohydrate, we're essentially sending a hormonal message, via insulin, to the body (actually, to the adipose cells). The message: "Store fat."
Hold on; it gets even worse. Not only do increased insulin levels tell the body to store carbohydrates as fat, they also tell it not to release any stored fat. This makes it impossible for you to use your own stored body fat for energy. So the excess carbohydrates in your diet not only make you fat, they make sure you stay fat. It's a double whammy, and it can be lethal.
Insulin is released by the pancreas after you eat carbohydrates. This causes a rise in blood sugar. Insulin assures your cells receive some blood sugar necessary for life, and increases glycogen storage. However, it also drives your body to use more carbohydrate, and less fat, as fuel. And, insulin converts almost half of your dietary carbohydrate to fat for storage. If you want to use more fats for energy, the insulin response must be moderated. Diets high in refined sugars release more insulin thereby allowing less stored fat to be burned. High insulin levels also suppress two important hormones: glucagon and growth hormone. Glucagon promotes the burning of fat and sugar. Growth hormone is used for muscle development and building new muscle mass.
Insulin also causes hunger. As blood sugar increases following a carbohydrate meal, insulin rises with the eventual result of lower blood sugar. This results in hunger, often only a couple of hours (or less) after the meal. Cravings, usually for sweets, are frequently part of this cycle, leading you to resort to snacking, often on more carbohydrates. Not eating makes you feel ravenous shaky, moody and ready to "crash." If the problem is chronic, you never get rid of that extra stored fat, and your energy is adversely affected.