Are carbohydrates really the enemy for weight loss?


I cannot tell you how many times… almost daily that someone will mention how bad carbs are, how they dare not eat potatoes or pasta or are aghast when I mention that I have had a sandwich for lunch!

Carbohydrates are painted out to be the enemy and in some circles you would think you were chowing down on cigarettes themselves or consuming asbestos! I am here to tell you that they are not that bad! On a simple level our brains need carbohydrates to function, to stay alert and make big decisions. Our body simply needs energy to move and carbohydrates serve that purpose.

Whilst reading some of the really good Facebook information pages, I came across “The Dietitian’s Pantry” ( which is a page full of some really good nutritional information by a Melbourne-based dietitian named Alex Hoare. She has worded a post so easy to understand for the layman and as such I have taken that post almost verbatim to share with you here and help you get a better understanding on just why you lose weight when carbohydrates are removed or severely restricted from your diet:


George wants to get healthy and lose weight. He’s been searching on the internet and he’s decided that the best way to go about it is to drop the carbs especially those coming from bread, grains and cereals because it’s clear from what he’s read that they cause weight gain, inflammation and are bad for you. It’s going to be pretty hard for George because he usually has cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and will have pasta and rice a couple of times for dinner during the week. He’s not looking forward to it but that’s what he has to do.

George drops the carbs and he struggles the first few days but he makes it through without any bread, grains or cereal. He jumps on the scale after 4 days and he is already down 1.5kg!!!! Woohoo he thinks, that was a tough few days but definitely worth it!

The next few days go by without the carbs and at the end of the week he jumps on the scale and he is down 3kg in total, in just 1 week!!!

He continues the next week but he’s finding it quite difficult to cut out all of the grains, bread and cereal from his diet and find’s it especially hard to order grain free, low carb meals when he’s out with his mates but he thinks it’s worth it because he’s having great results. At the end of week 2 he jumps on the scales and he has lost 1.5kg since the week before. Are you serious he thinks? ‘What happened to the 3kgs I was losing in the first few weeks, I’ve been so good I haven’t cheated once’?!?!?

The following week George is struggling. By the time Friday rolls around he’s had enough. He jumps on the scales and he’s only down 300g from last time. It’s too hard he thinks and if I’m only losing 0.3kg it’s not worth it. So George starts eating bread, cereals and grains once again.

1 week after re-introducing carbs to his diet George jumps on the scales. He’s 2.5kg heavier already!!! It’s true, these carbs do make you gain weight. Not only that, for the past week he’s been feeling bloated and uncomfortable…the inflammation has already set in!!!!

George is totally lost he doesn’t know what to do. Clearly carbs are bad, you lose weight when you don’t eat them and gain weight when you do. Maybe he just needs to suck it up and be stricter with them???…….

So what ACTUALLY happened to old mate George, does he really need to ditch the carbs?

It’s not surprising that he dropped so much weight in the first few weeks without carbs. This most likely happened for 2 reasons:

1) George reduced his calorie intake. Instead of having a sandwich for lunch he was having salad, instead of having pasta and meat he was having salad and meat, instead of having pizza he was having steak and veggies.

2) However MAJORITY of the weight loss would have occurred through loss of glycogen and water stores. After we eat carbs they are broken down and stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. Each gram of glycogen is stored with 3-4 grams of water. Our body generally holds around 400g – 800g of glycogen so you can do the math as to how much water that is. So in those first few days of a low carb diet, when those glycogen stores are being depleted a heap of water (ie. water weight) is also being depleted too. So while the scales were showing weight loss, and George may have even been feeling lighter most of that loss wasn’t coming from fat reduction which is what he (and most other people hoping to lose weight) was after.

So George lost a heap of weight because he was reducing glycogen stores and losing water weight. Once his glycogen stores diminished his weight loss slowed down. At this stage he gave up the fight and got back on the carbs and lo and behold the weight went back on! Yes that’s right I’m sure you have guessed it – the weight that went back on just as quickly that it came off is glycogen and water being stored again by the body. He didn’t gain kilos of fat in 1 week. And because he rapidly went from no carbs to moderate carbs he’s feeling bloated and uncomfortable because of the rapid storage of glycogen and water not because his intestines are acutely inflamed!! And now beings the cycle of fad diets and carbo-phobia because he wasn’t aware that what happened was just a normal bodily reaction and not due to ‘evil carbs’

Bottom line – Carbs are stored as glycogen along with water – Weight loss occurs rapidly in the beginning of low carb diets because of depleting stores of glycogen and therefore water – Water stored with glycogen is neither a good or bad thing, its just a thing. It’s biology + chemistry, it’s biochemistry. – Most people who are above their healthiest weight want to lose weight predominantly from fat stores. This can be achieved by eating a healthy, balanced diet which includes carbohydrates. – Weight gain and possible discomfort which comes from breaking your carb fast comes from glycogen stores being replenished and therefore water too and unlikely because your intestines are about to explode due to grain related inflammation. – Whether or not you eat carbs, grains, breads and cereals is completely up to you, so let’s not begin that debate. I’m just explaining what causes the rapid weight loss/gain when carbs are restricted then reintroduced to the diet. – I want to share this knowledge so people don’t automatically think ‘carbs are bad’ if they cut them from their diet, then reintroduced them and their weight fluctuates rapidly. – Yes people with actual intolerances to grains or gluten should avoid grains and gluten containing products.


I sincerely hope that has cleared up for you the issue with reducing carbohydrates when trying to lose weight and please remember that there never has and never will be any one diet that will work for everybody. We are all very different and we need to learn what works for us, get some greater education into nutrition and working on a behavioural approach to sensible eating.

I would like to thank Alex Hoare for sharing this information and please feel free to visit her website.

If you would like to read further on what the current dietary guidelines are and the latest updated Healthy eating pyramid, please click here

In addition to this is a great blog on “why you shouldn’t blame the dietary guidelines for our expanding waistlines

Lastly, below is a great case study of how when working with our clients to lose weight/fat and monitor their improvement, we use an Omron body composition device that gives readings on more than just weight but more importantly body fat %, muscle % and visceral fat. The attached example is of a client that made fantastic improvements when monitored and did just one Personal Training session a week. A great way to ensure your exercise, nutrition and lifestyle are on track for the results you are hoping to achieve! 2016 OMRON Adam Willis

Thanks for reading!

Justin Moran

Personal Trainer/Managing Director

Just In Time Personal Training

0411 798 934

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