Myth Busters – 2. Carbs will make me fat

by Andy Buckle in Nutrition

“Don’t carbs make you fat?”

“No carbs before marbs”

In recent times Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation amongst common culture and are believed to be a major reason for people’s weight gain. In order to better understand this popular myth, we need to look at what carbohydrates are and why they are important for the human body. The primary function of carbohydrates in the body is for fuel. This is a hugely important function and one that should not be neglected. The fuel that carbohydrates provide gives us not only physical but also mental energy. This is the main reason people feel lethargic and irritable when they dramatically cut carbohydrates from their diet. They also have further benefits such as energy storage and aiding digestion.


Now we know what carbohydrates do in the human body, why do they have a bad reputation and is it a myth. There is truth to the fact that eating excessive carbohydrates will potentially lead to fat storage but does not mean that carbs themselves will make you fat. Carbohydrate consumption will raise your blood glucose and lead to your body releasing insulin, this then directs the glucose to cells and leads to fat storage. This typically occurs through an excess consumption of carbs that contain too many calories and sugars known as ‘simple’ carbohydrates. This means the body is flooded with glucose in a short space of time which then leads to unwanted fat storage. ‘Complex’ carbohydrates on the other hand take longer for the body to break down and the increase of blood glucose is much slower as they are more difficult for the body to break down. This slower increase of blood glucose means it is less likely to be stored as excess body fat and more likely to be used steadily throughout the day as fuel.


So where does this myth come from? It is true that eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates will lead to increased body fat, however the same applies for other major food groups. The reason for this popular myth is potentially due to the fact that carbohydrates are the easiest food group to consume and are more readily available to people in the form of snacks. Thus it is quicker and easier for people to eat excess carbohydrates than other foods. Another reason for the birth of this myth came in the early 2000’s when the ‘Atkins’ diet first came to people’s attention. The idea of eating sausages, burgers, steaks and other tasty meats whilst being able to lose weight did and still does sound great to the carnivores amongst us. The basic premise of the popular diet is that when you starve your body of carbohydrates the body’s response is to produce something called ketones which help convert the body fat on our bodies to fuel, hence a reduction in body fat. Although the science behind the ‘atkins’ diet and the newer more popular ‘keto’ diet is true and does work, however, a vast amount of people find these kinds of diets unsustainable for lengthy periods of time. The consequence of this is yo yo dieting without consistency or sustainable long term results.


The negative attention carbohydrates have received in modern society is a myth that has become more popular in recent years. Carbohydrates like all major food groups should never be excluded from your diet and you should definitely never be scared of them!! If you find yourself in the situation where you would like to drop some body fat, keep carbohydrates in your diet but like all major food groups monitor your daily intake and get them from the best possible sources (complex carbs). This will give you the best chance of achieving long term and sustainable results from your diet and training.