Yes and no. What you need to know to eat carbohydrates without gaining weight.

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Carbohydrates have a reputation for making you fat because they tend to be stored as fat. In reality, this is not always true … It is quite possible to limit fat intake by carefully choosing the type of carbohydrate food consumed, its preparation, its accompaniment or even when it will be consumed. Explanations.

Eat carbohydrates! Your organization needs it!

They are essential to the body

Main source of energy, carbohydrates are essential for the proper functioning of our body (organs and brain in particular). After a meal, the carbohydrates ingested are mostly used as fuel for the body. The excess is stored in the form of reserves (liver, muscles, cells) to be used when needed (physical activity, protection against the cold, etc.).

To be balanced, a meal should consist of 55% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 15% protein. Carbohydrates therefore represent an important part of our diet. This share must even be increased in athletes to meet their energy needs .

cereal bars and wheat ears
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy

They don’t necessarily make you fat

Following a meal or snack, excess carbohydrates in the blood are stored (reserves) either as fat in cells (fat intake) or as reserves in muscles and liver . Eating carbohydrates theoretically does not make a healthy person fat as long as meals are balanced and daily calorie needs are met. The reserves stored after a meal are used during the day and at night to meet the needs of the body (muscles, organs, brain, etc.). In practice, it is not that simple because it is difficult to measure what we eat and to avoid small variations here and there …

That said, even without excess, there are situations which favor the storage of carbohydrates more in the form of fat (which therefore makes you fat) rather than muscle and liver reserves (which do not make you fat). However, it is possible, via a few simple tips, to limit this fat gain. This is what we explain below.

Be careful not to remove them from your diet!

To be able to eat more of these delicious sweets without gaining weight, one might be tempted to reduce the share of lipids and proteins in the diet in order to preserve the total number of calories ingested. Alas, it does not work that way! The balance between carbohydrates, lipids and proteins must indeed be respected to give the body what it needs to function well.

Good to know

According to AFSSA , the recommended nutritional intake (ANC) for a person practicing at most a leisure sport, are 30 to 35% lipids, 50 to 55% carbohydrates and 12 to 15% proteins. For a difficult sporting outing, it is advisable to consume carbohydrates at the rate of 4.5 to 6 g / kg of your weight per day before the outing, 60 g / h during the effort and 19 g / kg of your weight during 24 hours after exercise.

Find out more

Protein, for example, is necessary for maintaining muscle mass. Once lost, this capital cannot be recovered beyond 25 years. In addition, if the carbohydrates are lacking, the body is in danger (read on this subject the dangers associated with practicing a sport on an empty stomach ). The body then uses the amino acids in the muscles to convert them into glucose, which speeds up muscle loss. Muscle wasting also decreases the basal metabolism and therefore the consumption of daily calories. It will therefore be necessary to eat less so as not to gain weight! In other words, a zero carb diet can make you fat!

Sugar deficiencies create other problems (irritability, loss of attention, drop in athletic performance, etc.) which are added to the disadvantages mentioned above.

Lipids are also essential for our cells. They provide fatty acids which cannot be synthesized by the body. A deficiency in lipids slows growth, increases the risk of chronic disease and increases the insulin response after ingestion of food which encourages eating more.

Some diets recommend reducing carbohydrates and compensating for them with protein. This practice works but it generates other concerns that can be harmful to health (accumulation of toxins, great strain on the kidneys, among others).

To stay healthy, respect the balance between carbohydrates, proteins and lipids!

Carbohydrates make you fat: yes and no!

If we consume excess carbohydrates, they will be stored as fat in adipose tissue. Weight gain will follow and can even lead to obesity . But in a normal situation (balanced and healthy meals, no excess), we can easily store fat depending on how we eat. However, it is possible to avoid this, that is to say to consume carbohydrates, even sweets, without storing fat. Do you want to know how? Read on.

Storage in the form of fat or energy reserves

As we explained above, following the consumption of carbohydrate foods, the body stores excess carbohydrates in the form of reserves:

  • Glycogen in muscles and liver: this energy is used by the brain (hepatic glycogen) and by the muscles during physical exertion.
  • Triglycerides (fat) stored in adipose tissue: this energy is used during physical exertion and especially in low intensity physical exertion.

In the first case, sugars do not make you fat, in the second, yes … It is therefore worth it to understand how the mechanism works, especially since it is possible to favor one rather than the other.

The principle is as follows. The absorption of carbohydrates from the intestines leads to an increase in blood sugar levels, a condition that puts the body at risk. In order to restore balance, the body then secretes insulin in amounts that vary according to the rate of increase in blood sugar. This creates more or less significant spikes in insulin in the blood. However, the higher these peaks, the more excess sugars are stored in the form of fat.

To avoid accumulating fat, it is therefore necessary to ensure that the insulin peaks are as low as possible. This can be achieved by taking certain precautions. But before talking about it, read the following again to fully understand.

Eating sugars: 3 situations to consider

We must distinguish 3 situations that are important in the way in which excess sugars in the blood will be stored:

  • The glycogen reserves (muscles and liver) are not full: the excess sugars will be used to fill them. The liver can store around 60 to 100 g of glycogen and the muscles 400 g to 1 kg depending on the person and the level of physical training. However, a part will be stored in the form of fat and this all the more so as the insulin peak is high, that the reserves are almost full or that the person is not very athletic.
  • Glycogen reserves are full: excess sugars in the blood will be stored as fat.
  • A physical endurance or cardio-training activity is undertaken: the sugars consumed a few hours before, during and a few hours after the activity will serve as an immediate source of energy for the athlete and, after the outing, to replenish reserves. These sugars do not make you fat.

How to eat carbohydrates without gaining weight?

Limit insulin spikes!

By following a few simple rules, it is possible to eat carbohydrates while limiting fat intake. To do this, it “suffices” to ensure that the insulin peaks which follow the increase in blood sugar are limited.

Obviously, it is not a question of consuming excess sugars, that is to say beyond the daily needs, because once the muscle reserves are recharged, the sugars will inevitably end up being stored in the form of fat … On the other hand, you can have fun without gaining fat by taking the following precautions.

No fat storage around physical activity or on an empty stomach

If we consume sugars just before starting a physical activity, these carbohydrates will not be stored but used by the body for the effort. Thus, if you consume a fruit paste or a sugary drink before going for a bike ride, the sugars will be used by your muscles during the effort.

More glycogen, less fat!

Glycemic indexTo store glycogen instead of fat, eat low glycemic index carbohydrates

Favor low glycemic index carbohydrates ! to replenish your reserves: lentils, whole grains, basmati rice, wholemeal bread, fruits and vegetables. Accompany your carbohydrates with products rich in fiber (salad, vegetables, soup as a starter) to reduce GI. You will promote storage in the form of glycogen rather than fat!

Likewise, if you eat carbohydrate foods just after doing a cardio-training or endurance sport (on condition that you do it for a minimum of time!), The sugars will be immediately stored in the form of muscle stores (glycogen) in the liver and muscles. There will therefore be no fat gain. This is true regardless of the type of sugar (fruit paste, sweet drink, bread, pasta, rice, etc.). The ideal is to consume these sugars immediately after discharge and within 4 hours after discharge.

Finally, on an empty stomach, for example in the morning when getting up, the sugars ingested will be used to recharge the reserves consumed during the night (in particular by the brain which alone nibbles 4 to 5 g of carbohydrates per hour, i.e. the equivalent of ‘a piece of sugar).

Choose the “good” carbohydrates: a question of glycemic index

Contrary to what has long been thought, the concept of fast sugars and slow sugars does not exist. All carbohydrates are absorbed at the same rate. If you’re not convinced, read this: Fast Sugars, Slow Sugars: A Wrong Concept .

On the other hand, digestion can take longer or shorter depending on the type of food, the amount swallowed and whether it is consumed alone or with other foods. This can therefore delay its arrival in the intestines and therefore in the blood.

In addition, the body’s response varies from one carbohydrate food to another: it is not the rate of absorption that changes but the intensity of the blood sugar spike. This observation made it possible to define an index, the glycemic index (GI) , making it possible to classify carbohydrates according to their impact on blood sugar. The higher the glycemic index of a food, the more this food will lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, and therefore insulin, thus potentially causing the storage of excess sugars in the form of fats.

To decrease fat storage, it is therefore better to choose your foods according to the glycemic index .

Not all carbohydrates with the same glycemic index are created equal: a question of glycemic load

fruit jellies

The glycemic index (GI) makes it possible to sort out the “good” and the “bad” carbohydrates, ie those which are or not quick to make us fat. It gives some sort of information on the quality of carbohydrates .

Although this tool allows you to do a first sorting, it is not always sufficiently meaningful. Watermelon, for example, has a strong GI. However, a portion of watermelon contains too little carbohydrate to cause an insulin spike and therefore gain weight. Another index has therefore been established to take into account the quantity of sugars that the food contains: the glycemic load .

To avoid gaining fat, it is therefore necessary to consider the glycemic index but, in order not to unnecessarily eliminate certain “good” carbohydrates, it is more interesting to choose your foods well according to their glycemic load .

Decrease the hyperglycemic power of carbohydrate foods

Storing carbohydrates as fat can be minimized by selecting the right carbohydrates, as discussed above, but also by taking some precautions. For the same food, the glycemic response varies according to how the food is prepared (raw or cooked, whole or chopped, etc.), with what it is accompanied, when it is consumed (during, at the end, just after or for a long time After a meal). For example, a steamed potato makes less fat than the same potato served mashed! But the mash consumed with green salad makes less fat than the same mash consumed alone … Similarly, consuming pasta with vegetables or meat is smarter than pasta alone. Or, drinking the juice of one apple can make you fatter than eating the whole apple.

Certain tips thus make it possible to reduce the glycemic index of the food and therefore to avoid storing fat. The fibers, the presence of lipids or proteins decrease the GI. Cooking and grinding increase it. Discover the factors that influence the glycemic index of foods .

In practice: how to eat carbohydrates without storing fat

Avoid foods with a high glycemic index!

breakfast: croissants, orange juice, coffee

Foods with a high glycemic index, if consumed in significant quantities (glycemic load greater than 20), generate insulin peaks which promote storage in the form of fats, in particular visceral fats. They have harmful effects on health (find out more: risks associated with foods with a high GI ). In addition, they create a reactive hypoglycemia responsible for the famous slump after the meal and they encourage you to eat more sugars! Better to avoid them.

To preserve your health and promote storage in the form of muscle reserves, favor foods with a low glycemic load , that is to say with a low glycemic index or which contain few carbohydrates in proportion to the weight of the food. . They do not induce a significant spike in blood sugar, and therefore insulin, so do little weight gain.

But if you absolutely want to consume, without overdoing it, high GI carbohydrates (sweets, refined bread and pasta, etc.), then read the tips below!

various fresh vegetables
Consuming carbohydrate foods with vegetables lowers their GI

Accompany carbohydrates with vegetables to reduce insulin spikes

The glycemic index of a food varies when it is eaten with other foods. If you mix carbohydrates with low-carbohydrate foods, the GI of the carbohydrate food drops. This is the dilution effect. To avoid fat storage, you must therefore accompany your pasta, rice or potatoes with vegetables or green salad!

Avoid crushed, milled, pressed or overcooked carbohydrate foods

Grinding and cooking increases the glycemic index of foods containing carbohydrates. So prefer the whole food (potato, buckwheat, etc.) rather than puree. Eat your pasta al dente rather than well cooked. Likewise, eat fruit whole rather than juice: juice, devoid of fiber or containing crushed fiber, offers a high GI compared to whole fruit.

Dessert: taken at the end of a meal, it has little effect on your figure!

Foods with a high glycemic index should always be taken at the end of a meal. The dilution effect due to other foods indeed decreases their GI. Thus, the sweet dessert, if consumed after a meal rich in vegetables, will have little effect on your figure! On the other hand, avoid sweets outside of meals!

chocolate eclair

Eat carbohydrates with protein or fat

oil poured on salad

Proteins and lipids slow down gastric emptying. The sugars therefore take longer to reach the intestine. This delay effect slows down and distributes the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood over time, thus reducing the effect of the blood sugar spike. For example, you can pour a drizzle of oil on your pasta or eat mashed potatoes with a steak rather than consuming carbohydrates alone. On condition of course to maintain the balance between carbohydrates, lipids and proteins!

Eat carbohydrates with fiber!

Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate, that is, it is not absorbed by the intestinal wall. They are therefore evacuated in the stool. As a result, fiber lowers the glycemic index. Consuming fiber helps your intestinal transit, stimulates your intestinal flora while reducing storage in the form of fat!

A distinction is made between soluble fibers and insoluble fibers.

  • The soluble fibers dissolve in water and form a gel in the intestine which reduces the absorption of carbohydrates and cholesterol and prolong the feeling of satiety. They ferment in the intestine and thus contribute to the good health of the intestinal flora. They are found in legumes, pulses, figs, prunes, fruits and vegetables, certain cereals (oats, barley, buckwheat).
  • The insoluble fiber stimulate intestinal transit. They are found in the bark of cereals, leafy vegetables (cellulose).

Treat yourself on an empty stomach rather than a snack

cereals and fruits
Breakfast is a good time to eat carbohydrates without much risk of storing fat

On an empty stomach, the carbohydrates ingested will primarily be used to replenish the liver’s reserves and therefore do not make you gain weight. Breakfast, for example, is an ideal time to indulge in a little candy!

Eat your favorite carbohydrates right before or right after your workout!

In athletes, the carbohydrates absorbed just before, during and just after exercise do not generate an insulin spike and are not stored in the form of fat. They supplement the body’s energy reserves and are even essential in long-term efforts. Favor foods with a low glycemic load to recharge the batteries in the hours before exercise. To prepare for your outings.

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