From all the years of different nutrition gurus demonizing different kinds of foods, people mistakenly blame certain foods – rather than too much food – for their weight problem.

Currently a “blame the carbs mentality” exists in current day dietary discourse, but this school of thought is off base… Carbs aren’t the enemy.  And for that matter, protein isn’t the enemy and fat isn’t the enemy either. 

Sugar won’t kill you and neither will bacon.  If you eat a croissant from Dunkin’ Donuts you aren’t shortening your lifespan and a White Castle burger – or 8 – won’t send you into instant cardiac arrest.  Bread and pasta won’t give you a belly and/or love handles.  And none of these foods will – by themselves – pack unwanted pounds onto your frame.

Anyone who eats too much food, no matter how high the quality, will gain weight. “Too much food” is more food than is needed in a day to fulfill all energy and metabolic needs.  So if a person needs 2000 calories a day, but over time consumes 2200 calories, they will gain weight.  It doesn’t matter if the extra 200 calories are from organic food or Stay-Puft marshmallows, extra calories result in extra weight.  And conversely, in this case, 1800 calories will result in weight loss whether or not carbs are in the mix.

Active folks need about 15- 18 calories for every pound of body weight, with those of us who are older at the bottom of this range.  You may have read that people need 12 calories to maintain a pound of muscle, but people who exercise regularly and engage in weight training and cardiovascular exercise need more nutrition than the “average person” does. This is an important distinction, as over the course of a day an active person needs to take in enough calories to provide energy to perform normal activities, to train and to allow their body to recover from exercise. 

I can tell you from my experience, if I were to get “only” 2400 calories in a day I wouldn’t be able to maintain my 205 pounds and would be miserable to boot.  The difference between getting 2400 and at least 3000 calories is night and day with regard to my performance and my energy levels, and ultimately my level of health and fitness. Certain foods aren’t the enemy but eating too much, or not eating enough, food is.  Skipping breakfast – or any other meal – is a terrible habit. 

People who regularly skip meals have trouble losing weight and certainly can’t maintain any energy level that would allow them to be effective throughout the day in any area. Back to carbs.  Carbohydrates are the preferred – and are the instantaneous – energy source for the body, they shouldn’t be avoided and need to be consumed on a regular basis.  The need for carbs changes according to a person’s daily activity level, as the body needs more carbs on days with increased activity, but on average people should get about 60% of their daily calories from carbs.

Carbs are also “protein sparing” in that if there are enough carbs on hand to meet energy needs, protein isn’t used for fuel and can be used for its unique and vital function of building muscle tissue.  The body is able to work more efficiently when the proper amount of carbs are available. So carbs have that going for it, which is kind of nice. So eat and enjoy all of the foods that you like – especially carbohydrates – and get some exercise.  You’ll be much happier, healthier and fit in the long run.


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