EAT CARBS, LOSE FAT
Drop the whey shakes and listen up. If you’re ready to get serious about your fitness and fat loss, it’s time to start using your loaf THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE
Turn weightloss wisdom on its head and start using your loaf to burn away excess blubber
Back in the ’90s it was Dr Atkins. In more recent years, French fat-loss guru Pierre Dukan. These days it’s devotees of the ketogenic diet imploring you to make the cut. The fact is, there has always been some killjoy trying to steal away the delicious comfort of carbs.
We get it. This slandering of all things starchy is easy to swallow when you’ve seen everyone from Mailonline sidebar non- entities to your fad-following friends losing pounds on a carbohydrate-free plan. But to make simple ‘weightloss’ your goal is myopic. Your early successes are, dishearteningly, likely to come from the loss of water weight alone – not fat. Carb molecules encourage your body to store H2O, so by eliminating them, you’re essentially wringing yourself out like a sponge. But, of course, “2kg less hydrated in just 5 days!” doesn’t feature as high on the bestsellers lists.
Low carb means less muscle mass, too. Without glucose to burn, your famished body turns to precious amino acids – the ones you’re so keen to cram into your meal plan – causing your muscles to catabolise. And with this quick reduction in lean mass, your metabolism begins to stall, burning fewer calories. You need carbs for fat loss 1 .
Glucose is your body’s most efficient fuel source. And yet, the moment we finish a workout, it’s protein we wearily rush to replenish. This habit needs retraining. Sure, your whey shake will facilitate recovery, but reloading your hungry muscles with glycogen from carbs is of equal or greater importance. Not only will this prevent your newly earned mass from being broken down for energy, it also speeds the rate at which amino acids reach your muscles 2 . Ideally, you want to target a 2:1 carb-toprotein ratio with your post-gym nutrition. Cheese on toast, anyone?
This advice doesn’t just apply to wiry endurance athletes, either; the kind who can mainline Mars bars but remain susceptible to a strong wind. As a guide, men of all sizes should aim to obtain 45-65% of their calories from carbohydrates at every meal, with the rest split between proteins and fats.
With this intake, you get a slow rise of insulin, steady energy levels and balanced serotonin, the brain chemical linked to mood. Incidentally, your greedy brain uses up over half of the body’s glucose stores 3 . Which, if you’ve ever struggled to make sense of a spreadsheet after a few days of low- carb lunacy, won’t come as a complete surprise.
Now to answer the big question. What kind of carbs should you be eating? Well, happily we’re not advocating a tedious regimen of chia crackers and sprouted millet. There’s nothing wrong with pasta, potatoes or even bread – yes, we said it – so long as that’s not all you’re eating. By tempering that glucose hit with proteins, fats and fibres, you’ll prevent the insulin spikes that lead to weight gain.
Foods don’t exist in a vacuum. You have to look at those carbs in the context of what’s on the rest of your plate. Then look at that plate in context with the rest of your diet. It’s trite but true that health is about balance. And some days that just means a buttery bread roll in each hand.
“Without carbs, your famished body will burn protein, causing a loss in muscle mass”