When it comes to losing weight, we usually think that carbohydrates are the first thing that need to be removed from our diets to achieve results. There are many fad diet plans out there that rely on carbs being eliminated from our diet to achieve the desired weight loss – Keto, Atkins, Carnivore and more. If they allow people to lose weight, then why are they important to consume otherwise?
There are two subcategories of carbohydrates: complex carbs and simple carbs. Complex carbs are those that are high in fiber (non-starchy vegetables, beans, fruit, etc.) and have a lower glycemic index, aka they will not rapidly spike then plummet your blood sugar. Simple carbs are those that digest at a faster rate since they do not have a high fiber content. Examples of these are white bread, candy, sodas, table sugar, fruit juice and white rice.
So why is it so important to consume adequate carbs even when we are on a low-calorie diet? Here are just a few reasons:
- Maintain lean muscle tissue – carbs allow protein to be used for muscle preservation/building instead of for energy.
- Energy and mood – carbs provide fuel to the body and help produce the feel-good hormone, serotonin.
- Fiber – complex carbs contain fiber that promote satiety and gut health.
- Maintains steady blood sugars – glucose from carbs prevents hypoglycemia and the “hangry” feeling.
- Optimal brain and red blood cell function – glucose is your brain and RBC’s preferred source of fuel. Therefore, when there is sufficient carb intake, you are able to think more clearly and have more energy.
- Abundance of vitamins and minerals – vitamins such as B12, thiamin, niacin, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium are just a few to name. The more variety of carbs you include, the more vitamins you will get!
If you are approximately 6 months post op, the research states that approximately 90 grams per day is optimal. Also, since average calorie intake at the time is around 850 kcals/d, carbohydrate intake should be around 40-45% of total calories.
If you are one year or further post op, around 120-130 grams per day is an optimal target. Average calorie intake at this time is approximately 1300 kcals/d, so a 40% carbohydrate intake would indicate the above goal.
Keep in mind that everyone is different, and you should consult with your Registered Dietitian for more personalized recommendations. Just like protein and fat, carbohydrates are essential in the proper functioning of our bodies. Even with an overall goal of weight loss through low-calorie intake, carbohydrates are still a vital component of a balanced diet.