Will eating carbs make me gain weight?

Carbohydrate foods include things like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa or sweet potato. When you eat carbohydrates, they digest to sugar and serve as the preferred fuel for your muscles and your brain. Carbohydrates tend to get a bad reputation and low carbohydrate diets have been invented and reinvented under a variety of different names. In reality, carbohydrates are a very important macronutrient that should be included each time we eat.

Why do carbohydrates get such a negative reputation?

When you eat carbohydrates, they digest to sugar that you use as energy in the short term, and they are also stored in your liver and your muscles as glycogen that you use for fuel later. Each gram of glycogen that your body stores will store three grams of water with it. If you decrease your intake of carbohydrates, your body will begin to deplete your glycogen stores and the number on the scale will decrease as you lose water weight. In our society, it’s really common to believe that weight is a good indication of health and that if your weight decreases, regardless of how you achieve this change, that this is a sign of improved health.

In reality, decreasing your intake of carbohydrates can have many side effects including fatigue, dizziness, feeling sluggish during work outs, difficulty concentrating and focusing, irritability and cravings. A low carbohydrate diet is hard to maintain and often results in large fluctuations in weight and food habits, which can have consequences for both physical and mental well-being

So, what should I do?

Everybody’s body is different, and each person is an expert in their own unique body. While every person is different, a good place to start is to try to include a variety of foods and a variety of colours every day. It can be helpful to build meals that include a carbohydrate for quick energy (bread, pasta, potato, quinoa), a protein for lasting energy (nuts, legumes, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, tofu) and fruits or veggies for nutrients and fibre. Experiment to create a food routine that helps you feel good physically and mentally and that you can maintain. Challenge yourself to gauge “success” based on how you feel rather than by the number on the scale.

Questions about your diet and nutrition needs? All University of Guelph students have access to Student Wellness Services nutrition services (free and fee-based options are available). Students can access these services in three ways: