Why Carbs Are Important For Weight Loss

Carbohydrates often get a bad rap, especially when it comes to weight gain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “ I’ve been trying to cut back on carbs to lose weight”. But I’m here to tell you that carbohydrates aren’t bad!

Because of their numerous health benefits, carbohydrates have a rightful place in your diet. In fact, your body needs carbohydrates to function well.

What Are Carbs?

simple carbsCarbohydrates are a type of macronutrient found in many foods and beverages. The other two macronutrients being protein and fat. Carbs are our body’s main source of energy and we need outside sources of carbs for our brains, organs, and muscles to work properly.

What Do Carbs Do For Our Bodies?

Carbohydrates provide fuel for our brain and for our muscles when they are working and prevent protein from being used as a fuel source. Carbohydrates can be converted to glycogen (storage form of glucose). Glycogen can be converted to glucose and used for energy when needed. Carbs can also help with digestion. Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate that helps with the elimination of waste products from your body.

Carbohydrates come in two main forms – simple and complex.

Simple carbs have shorter sugar chains making up their structures which allows them to be more quickly digested and absorbed.

Complex carbs contain more fiber and starch and have a longer chain, which takes the body longer to break down and digest. This allows for a more gradual release of energy.

Let’s compare a donut to an apple. A donut contains simple carbohydrates and added sugars. The body will digest the donut very quickly and easily, which leads to a quick release of glucose into the blood.

Let’s compare that to the apple. Apples contain simple carbs as well, but it also contains fiber. Fiber slows down the digestion of simple carbs which results in a slower release of glucose into the blood. This means you will burn it more steadily resulting in less hunger and more stable blood sugar.

Now let’s say you are trying to lose weight. We still need to eat carbs! When we hear “carbs cause weight gain” it more likely has to do with the type of carbs that tend to be overconsumed which often leads to an increased caloric intake and weight gain. You’re unlikely to eat too many veggies, but cheetos? Yes.

Check out our other article if you are interested in how carbs can help you gain muscle.

whole complex carbs

How Do I Know Which Carbs to Pick?

We don’t like discriminating against any kind of carbs because everything can fit into a healthy diet in moderation. But there are types of carbs that we should be choosing more often:

Fiber Rocks! – Fiber is great for digestion, satiety, balancing our blood sugar, and much more!

Whole Complex Carbs – One great first step is eating more whole plant based foods. Foods like sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables, and legumes.

Watch For Added Sugars – Make sure you are reading nutrition labels to look out for added sugars. They are often hidden in a lot of products you wouldn’t expect!

We can’t blame carbs for weight gain because all carbs aren’t created equal. Learning how to include all types of carbs in appropriate moderation is way more sustainable in the long run!

To learn more about weight loss in the SWF method, click here!


Nina Escobedo, MDA, RDN, LD

Hi! My name is Nina and I'm a Sports Performance Dietitian who grew up in San Diego, CA but currently reside in Oregon City, OR.