Do Carbs Make You Fat? Science Explained.

Do Carbs Make You Fat?
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More people trying to avoid carbohydrates in their diet because they think that carbs make them fat. Well, this isn’t came out from no reason. Since there are more and more emerging fad diets in the following years, and coincidently carbs often been banned in these diets. This leads most of us to synchronize carbs to fat gain.

However, is this the truth?

To be more specifically, is carbohydrates the main reason for you to gain weight? I know most people interested in this because they are wondering should they cut out carbohydrates in their diet, like how those diets that go viral such as Keto Diet, Atkin Diet.

Here’s my stand. Carbs does not lead to fat gain, and I have my reason. Let’s debunk this!

True Reason Why Carbs Appeared to Be Fattening

First thing first, any macronutrient itself does not make you fat. It makes you fat because of excess calorie intake.

The reason why we notice most obese people have a high carbs intake is just that carbs spike insulin and make us feel hungry faster, therefore they feel less satiety and ended up eating more of them.

Another reason. It’s because high carbs food is usually more easy to obtain. And most of the time we can purchase carbohydrates at a relatively lower price. That no wonder that most of us ended up overeating carbs.

However, if we ditch those nutrition myth and really look at carbohydrates themselves. Carbohydrates, in fact, do not actually possess any factors for extra fat gain. This is contrasting with how society thinks about carbs.

The Only Rule For Fat Gain: Calorie Surplus

Fat gain only happens when you have an excess of calories. Most people like to correlate fat gain with the type of food that we eat, however when it comes to fat gain, only the calories that matters. [Read more nutrition facts here]

If you are eating less or just enough energy than your body needs, then your body won’t care much about which macronutrient you are eating. When you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight no matter how much carbs you eat, so it doesn’t matter how much fat you eat.

When you eat just enough calories that your body burns, then you will maintain your current physique. For those excess calories that came from either carbs, protein or fat, then will be stored after processed. Three of them will be processed differently.

Carbs will be stored as glycogen in our muscle and blood for future energy requirements.

The surplus of amino acids (the by product of protein) is excreted and will be stored as fat.

Excess dietary fat will be directly stored and kept burning when we are in keto mode.

The whole process of Carbs turning into fat

To find out whether carbs actually make us fat, we need to look at the whole digestion process of carbohydrates.

Carbs do not directly turn into fat. It takes a process of De novo lipogenesis (a chemical process in our body to turn non-fat base substances into fat) to turn carbs into fat.

It takes 2 months to truly turn the unused glucose(carbohydrates only) into long-term fatty acid. However, if you are an active individual that constantly lifts weights. I can say you won’t get into that place.

Turning Carbs Into Fat Is Inefficient

Believe it or not, given in the same amount of calories in carbs and fat. Both of them required different energy just to produce one pound of fat.

So here’s the question, given the same situation of overfeeding certain macro nutrition, which is more fattening?

It takes only 3 percent of the energy of fat itself to turn it into fatty acid, however, carbohydrates, it takes up to 30% of its energy. Protein requires similar energy as carbohydrates.

Storing excess carbohydrates or proteins as fat through de novo lipogenesis (DNL) is an energetically expensive process (~75% efficiency) that may offset rapid weight regain by increasing energy expenditure

American Physiology Society

That said, the energy required to turn carbs into fat storage is 10 times than fat needs!

As our body always tries to conserve energy, most of the time carbs are not the first option for fat production. When fat is available, it will seek for left overfat first before carbohydrates. And the remaining carbs will continue to remain in your muscle and liver for energy sources (because glucose is the most easily accessible energy source).

Here is the good news, the scale that results after a few days of eating carbs aren’t fat. It is just the glucose storage that stores in our muscles for future use. This is great because glucose storage is temporary and more easily lost compared with fat storage.

Research Studies Between Energy Storage Between Carbs and Fat

The debates between carbs and fat are still ongoing. Eventually, Horton TJ and the team take both of this macronutrient into an investigation.

In the study involved 16 individuals with different range of physique (consisting both lean and obese individual) . Then they were separated into two groups regardless of heir body composition. One group then will be overfed with (50% above energy requirements) carbs and another group is fat accordingly.

They place these people in a whole calorimeter room to measure their calories burned, calories used and nutrient oxidation for 14 days.

Fat and carbohydrate overfeeding and energy stored (Source)

The results were quite mind-blowing for someone since society had been demonizing carbs for too much. blame the emerging keto diet. It turns out that, the group with carb overfeeding stored only about 75-85% of the energy that they consumed. Whilst the fat overfeed group stores up to 90-95% energy from fat directly.

Weight Gain By Carbohydrates Tend to Fade Faster

The research team also notice another aspect of the experiment. Which is how the weight change after the experiment had ended. Since both of the group that had been overfeed with carbs and fat, undouptedly both of the group had gained weight. However, for the carbohydrate overfed group, although they have a faster rate of weight gain at the begining, but they also tend to lose the weight faster once the experiment is over.

Weight change during and after carbs and fat overfeeding experiment. (Source)

As we know, carbohydrates tend to make us retain water weight. Therefore from above, I highly suspected the fast fate of weight gain and weight loss is due to the water weight caused by excess carbohydrate consumption. However, for the fat overfed group. Their weight gain is slower, but also less likely to lose it.

Carbohydrates Aren’t As Fattening As You Think

From the research above, we can know that actually is no direct relation between high carbs diet lead to high body fat.

The best way is to consume everything in moderation.

For individuals that into weight training, you should definitely consume enough carbs. Tasks that requires muscular energy will use glucose as source of energy. Therefore, most of the time your glucose storage will be used before it turns into fat. If you are consuming at your maintenance calories.

Of course, any macronutrient that accumulates access calories will eventually turn into fat. But eating complex carbohydrates will help you minimize the fat gain compared with the other.

If you found that you had to overeat carbs, stay calm. It’s not the end of the world!

Final Thought

For me, I think that carbs are definitely the most underrated macro nutrition that I know. As a person that are working out regularly, I love carbs so much and I think you definitely need carbohydrates for fuel. Therefore in this post, I wanted to help carbs to clear it’s name.

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