Friday, December 14, 2007

Why Eating Carbohydrates Sabotages Weight Loss

Most people who are trying to lose weight are probably aware of the common advice to avoid carbohydrates, but many are unaware of why this reommendation is so critical and to what extent carbs need to be avoided. Although some experts will proclaim that calories are calories and weight loss is simply a matter otaking in fewer calories than you burn off with exercise and daily activities, not all calories are burned the same way. With some investigation, it quickly becomes clear that calories from carbohydrates are much more difficult to burn than calories from other sources carbohydrates have a strong tendency to promote fat deposition.

The primary problem with a high intake of carbohydrate is the stimulation of insulin production. The purpose of insulin is to promote the uptake of blood sugar (which after a meal is in usually in greater supply than what is needed at that particular moment in time) and store any excess for future use.

Surplus blood sugar initially is converted to a fast-energy source called glycogen, which is mostly contained in the liver and muscle tissue. The body can re-convert glycogen to blood sugar to be used for energy during short periods of physical activity. There is not very much room to store glycogen, so when additional reserve blood sugar needs to be stored beyond what can be kept as glycogen, insulin stimlates the remainder is converted to fat.

There is an enormous amount of potential space for fat storge. Fat cells are plentiful and each cell can enlarge to more than one hundred times its starting volume to allow for additional storage of fat.

Insulin has very strong effects in stimulating fat storage. In addition, because fat burning and fat storage are opposite processes, insulin has a strong suppression effect on fat burning. It is this inhibition of fat burning by insulin that makes strictly limiting carbohydrate intake so important for weight loss.

High carbohydrate intake (and it really doesn't need to be very high) stimulates the release of large quantities of insulin. This high production of insulin effectively prevents the body from burning fat - for 24 to 48 hours! In fact, a single meal containing 20 to 25 grams of refined carbohydrates (about the amount in a slice of sandwich bread) can completely block your ability to burn fat for 1 to 2 days - regardless of what you eat and how much or how hard you may exercise during that time.

Some people might dispute that last statement on the basis that some people do lose weight even though they regularly consume carbohydrates. It's not that eating carbohydrates prevents all weight loss, it's that the insulin response prevents fat burning. Loss of retained water weight and weight loss through the burning of muscle and lean tissue can proceed in the presence of high insulin. The big problem here is that lean tissue is highly metabolically active, so any loss of this tissue will reduce the metabolic rate over time and make weight loss very difficult.

Because of the effects of insulin, minimizing carbohydrate intake is strongly recommended for sustainable fat burning and the most efficient and lasting natural weight loss. This is not to say that everyone will benefit from being on a high protein diet such as Atkins. Excessive protein intake can create its own problems that can ultimately interfere with ongoing weight loss due to detrimental effects on the liver. Instead, the best diet program in most intances involves eating plenty of fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, and moderate quantities of protein from lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy. The carbohydrates you do consume are best obtained in high-fiber forms from vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, rather than from refined grains.

Certain low-carb diets I've seen actually suggest eating one carbohydrate-filled meal per week as a way of rewarding yourself for your efforts. I think you can probably find much better ways to reward yourself that don't have the potential to derail your weight loss program like this approach does. First, as we said, any high-carb eating can produce enough insulin to shut-down fat burning for one to two days. If you do the once a week "cheat", you are potentially eliminating your opportunity to burn fat for up to eight days every month - a reduction in your diet's efficiency of about 25%! The other issue is that eating carbs tends to cause carb cravings that could lead to more cheating and eventually cause you to abandon your weight loss plan altogether.

You probably now understand better why you really need to avoid eating refined carbohydrates if you are attempting to lose weight. In my experience, most people who stay away from carbs for two or three weeks will usually stop craving them and then avoiding carbs becomes a much easier thing to do. With some will-power in the early going, your diet will become second nature to you and you'll be prepared to meet your weight loss goals.

By: Dr. George Best

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Dr. George Best writes extensively on the subject of natural weight loss. He has been assisting people with weight loss in his practice since 1992. For additional information about developing an effective natural weight loss plan, please visit

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