Most of us have heard at some point that drastically reducing calorie and carbohydrate intake can lead to quick weight loss and improved health, though limiting these dietary components can ultimately cause more harm than good! We need these elements of nutrition to survive, so learning about the important role of cals & carbs can be helpful for getting over any avoidances. Food is so much more than just numbers on a label!
Calories are a foundation of health - the trick is knowing the right amount (and right source) to consume each day. Everyone has different energy outputs depending on age, sex, size, and activity level, so there’s no one-size-fits all answer when it comes to cal count! The energy to perform vital body functions comes from what we feed our system, and our organs would not be able to carry out the basic processes needed for living if we did not consume calories - numbers attached to calories tell us how much potential energy different foods contain.
Extreme calorie restriction affects your health and your ability to lose weight. Low calorie intake reduces the amount of food you can eat and may prevent you from getting all necessary nutrients. Research shows that calorie restriction reduces leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate appetite. Low levels of leptin can lead to hunger and overeating. Research also shows that low-calorie dieting increases stress and the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. As a result of this stress response, the body conserves energy and the metabolism slows to combat the risk of starvation. While you might think that drastically cutting calories is sure to result in weight loss, these changes in stress levels are actually associated with weight gain.*
Your body’s natural response to a steep decrease in calories can lead to metabolic slowing in order to conserve energy - this leads to weight gain in the long run.
There are plenty of online resources to help you determine the amount of calories you should ideally consume each day, though that’s not enough to ensure body changes in the right direction. For example, one bag of chips could be around 300 calories, where 1/2 lb of chicken contains around 400 calories: which do you think is the better option for weight loss? Calories are not the end-all of nutrition indicators, and you need to know more about beneficial foods in order to achieve a balanced diet. Learning about the nutritional values of various foods is one of the first steps towards an overall healthy lifestyle!
Avocados, nuts, seeds, quinoa, olive oil, chia seeds.
Your brain needs carbs to function properly. The brain runs on glucose, and you get glucose from carbs - if you don’t have enough of them, your ability to think, learn, and remember things will decrease because neurotransmitters in your brain will not have enough glucose to perform properly. Does that sound helpful when it comes to maintaining healthy lifestyle habits?
Good carbohydrates, like whole grains and fruits and veggies, contain a lot of fiber which helps keep your digestive system regular; that means that you’re less likely to feel puffy because your body will naturally eliminate waste more efficiently. Without enough carbs, your body turns to protein for energy, and you need that protein for other critical body functions (as well as for developing lean muscle mass & shaping up from those workouts)! C arbohydrates provide energy, and exercising muscles rely on carbohydrates as their main source of fuel. However, muscles have limited carb storage and need to be topped off regularly to keep your energy up; a diet low in carbohydrates can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue and delayed recovery. Cutting out carbohydrates from your diet could also put you at increased risk of a deficiency in certain nutrients, leading to health problems - you should always consult with a licensed physician before making drastic changes to your eating habits!
Fruits, vegetables, and starchy foods provide a range of vitamins and minerals that would be lacking if you were to opt for different, less nutritious sources of carbs (like sweets, sugary drinks, baked goods). So even if a healthy meal seems to be on the higher end of carb count, it could be because you’re getting a range of foods which provide essential nutrients! For example: a salad made up of quinoa, sweet potatoes, and beets could total a high carbohydrate number, though each of these items is a very good addition to any diet!
Any food can be fattening if you overeat. Whether your diet is high in fat or high in carbohydrates, if you frequently consume more energy than your body uses you are likely to put on weight.
If you have a diagnosed health condition and a licensed physician has consulted you about limiting calories or carbohydrates, then you should take their advice and be cautious about consumption! Otherwise, it’s valuable advice to do some digging about what constitutes a healthy diet without getting too hung up on numbers attached to calories and carbohydrates - these numbers should serve as a reference for investigation!
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