The Real Reason Carbohydrates Make You Fat

I just got done eating some amazingly delicious sushi rice and decided to take a gander at the nutrition label for S’s and G’s (shits and giggles). I was pretty surprised at what I saw, but I definitely wasn’t mad about it. Just a few short months ago, I, like many many other people on this planet (thanks to TONS of misinformation perpetuated in mainstream media), was a carbophobe. I was fairly certain that any gram of excess carbohydrate would instantly turn into stored subcutaneous fat. That was so silly of me.

I know you all want me to tell you that it’s the carbohydrate’s fault for making you fat. I know you want me to tell you that insulin is the devil. But, you see, I just can’t do that. Carbohydrates have never done anything wrong to me, so how could I possibly besmirch them? We all love carbs. And for that very reason, we all love to hate them as well.

Here are the REAL reasons carbohydrates make you fat:

Reason 1: You’re lazy

(-.-)   <——- Serious face is serious

Reason 2: You’re metabolically inflexible

What that means is that your body is not very good at processing carbs to use as an energy source. The most inflexible people you will find are called diabetics. Luckily for them (and you) metabolic flexibility can be increased. How so, you may ask? Simple.

1) Fasting. Check out Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon or The Leangain Approach by Martin Berkhan. I’ve done both and the leangain approach works best for me. That may be different for you.

2) Increase your activity. The scientific term for this is, get off the couch and move your ass.

3) Time your meals accordingly. Now, I’m not talking about the 6 meals/day timing, nor am I talking about the “you absolutely MUST eat within 30 sec. of completing your last rep of your workout, or by God, the anabolic window is closed!!1!!1!!!” timing either.

No, I’m talking about eating your meals in a way that *should* allow you to get away with eating the things you’re inflexible with and still have your body burn them out of necessity.

For instance, in bro terms, you’re supposed to eat a lot of carbs right after you workout to spike insulin and shove all the protein in your meal into your muskules for protein synthesis. However, is that a good idea if you’re inflexible?

How about you eat a lot of carbs leading up to your workout. Then, when you workout, you actually WORK OUT. You know, high intensity, lift some heavy shit, or just throw some light shit around, a lot. The body’s energy system is predispositioned to burn carbs during highly intense periods of strenuous activity. So, by giving it carbs, when it wants carbs, you’re actually increasing the efficiency of how well you burn them.

Now, there is something to the broscience of carbs post-workout in order to help the repair system, but it’s not as huge of a deal as they may think for ordinary people. So, yes, I still believe you should eat some carbs post workout too, but not the 4:1, carbs:protein ratio everyone says. (That is, unless, you’re an athlete that’s training intense enough to support that.)

So, post workout, eat your protein, eat some carbs, and then switch over to dietary fat. Things like eggs, red meat, dairy, and nuts. Personally, while I’m currently trying to get down to single digit bodyfat, I eat a LOT of fat. My body does well with it, and it is oh so delicious. Moving on…

Reason 3: They taste really good

Don’t you agree? What’s better than mac ‘n cheese? A smothered baked potato? A heaping plate of fried rice? Bread! ZOMG!! BREAD!!! Right?!?!?!?!

Do you see how incredibly easy it is to overindulge? This is especially true given this last reason…

Reason 4: Portion size

So, let’s couple the fact that it’s entirely too easy to overindulge with the fact that it’s nearly impossible (at least for me) to get satisfied if I were to eat only the reccomended serving amount of carbs. Don’t believe me? Here, let me help you, and lest you forget that each gram of CHO is ~ 4 calories when you’re doing the math.

Here’s my favorite carbohydrate: sushi rice. I can eat a cup (measured uncooked) of sushi rice without batting an eye. However, what does a serving look like?

Rice Nutrition Info


 So, I said I could eat a cup of that ish. That’s over 200g of carbs in ONE MEAL! What about the rest of the day?

Now, let’s take a look at my favorite carbohydrate: pasta. I remember growing up and my mom would make me “noodles and milk”. (Think: mac ‘n cheese….minus the cheese… a lot more milk… a cereal consistency. FUCK OFF!! So what if I grew up in poverty!)

Ooops, got off track. Anyways, she would make it with a cup of macaroni noodles. I’m a bit more grown now days so when I visit that lovely meal, I don’t really measure, but I feel comfortable in saying that it’s at least 2-3 cups.

Pasta nutrition information

Noodle Food Scale

Doing some simple math, I am again well over 200g of carbs in one sitting. Son of a crap!

My favorite carbohydrates are potatoes. Bar none. I normally have 2 plates during Thanksgiving: 1 plate of mashed taters and the other plate with the other stuff. Tell me, how many of you can stop at just two, small red potatoes?

Potato nutrition Info

Potato food Scale

As I stated, that’s not going to fill me up. Not even as part of a whole meal. And in the case of Slapsgiving, you have to add stuffing and canned cranberries on top of that carb total. Pretty sweet, eh?

The Rest of the Story…

And there you have it, folks. That’s why carbohydrates make you fat. It’s not because the Insulin Fairy came down and turned every gram of CHO into a pound of fat. It’s not because you ate carbohydrates right before bed. The fact of the matter is, they taste f*cking phenomenal and you’re probably too lazy to be burning off the excess calories.

I certainly hope this post shed some light on the subject for you. Enjoy! (Sparingly)

P.S. I’m sorry I didn’t get any pics of my favorite carbohydrate, which is bread, obviously.

Don’t Miss Your Chance

I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.

Then I took control.

You can too, and it starts right here.

20 responses to “The Real Reason Carbohydrates Make You Fat

  1. Hi. My name is Amy and I’m a recovering carbophobe.

    I started eating carbs again after discovering biofeedback. I did it as an experiment in met flex. Would I gain weight if I started eating carbs again?

    Guess what happened?

  2. I think it’s just so easy to eat too many calories worth of carbs, and eating too many carbs, at least for me, makes it hard for me to also eat enough protein without force feeding myself.

    That said, I still eat bread, pasta, rice, etc, I just try to keep it reasonable. And I still try to not eat it late at night so much, because why not? That has seemed to make a difference for me, and I’ve got penty of time in the first half of the day to enjoy plenty of carbs, and my fridge is so filled with delicious veggies and pork and steak and salmon and cottage cheese (this could on for awhile…), that I don’t need to east rice, pasta, bread, etc late at night. A bigass stirfry of veggies and salmon is just fine, thanks.

    1. @Amy
      Welcome to carbaphobe AA. My guess is that the heavens lit up, you saw colors for the first time, you actually ENJOYED your food, and barely gained (if any) weight. Carbs are lovely, aren’t they?

      Thanks for dropping by. I think I need to edit this and make sure you get the credit for the info on Met-Flex.

      Yes, exactly. That’s why I pointed out that 1g of CHO = 4 calories. So, if you eat 200g of CHO in one sitting, you’ve just 800 calories. And as I kept repeating, “what about the rest of the day?”

  3. On a whim today I wanted to know what an average burger & fries meal at a typical fast-casual restaurant would be.

    It’s well over 1400 at a minimum, and that’s just the burger and fries, nothing else.

    It’s not the BUN that’s making your fat ass fatter – it’s the fact that you’re eating ALL the calories you burn in a day in one meal.

    1. @ddn
      Amen to that. In one of my more intellectual tweets, I think I said something along those same lines: “Don’t blame the burger you’re a fatass, blame yourself for eating 4 burgers and then sitting on your fatass.”

      (Ok, that’s more than 140 characters, but it was pretty close.)

  4. With that said – if you want to burn the most amount of fat in the least amount of time – I still hold that you need to cut the fucking carbs out period.

    1. @ddn
      And to your 2nd comment, I also agree. No such thing as an “essential carb”. We just need to make sure to classify carbs in that sense as “starchy carbs”. Otherwise we get people vilifying fruit, and that shit’s not cool. Also, the words “least amount of time” need to be stressed. That approach won’t work for many just because they don’t have the willpower to stick to it (as you know).

      But yes, absolutely, it is the ‘fastest’ way to go about it.

  5. I personally think that the main problem with obesity in every country is: Eating TOO much. Yes,, as simple as that. If for instance,, we eat a loaf of white bread everyday and it’s still under our maintenance [calories requirement] I can assure you that you won’t get fat. Eat ‘diet’ or ‘clean’ food over your calorie maintenance,, and you would gain weight[water weigth,, fat,, and bla-bla-bla].

    As for me is,, I’m a bread addict. I love all kinds of them. My friend said that: “You eat whole wheat bread all the time,, it’s save.” I guess they just don’t get that in the end it comes down to: calorie in vs. Calorie out. Busting my ass to conquer my addiction. Or changing it to my next favorite thing: COFFEE,, hahahaha 😀


    PS: English is not my first language..

    PPS: Thanks [again] for the You Tube vid about squatting without squat rack. You rock!!

  6. @Devy
    Again, I’m amazed at what you know. Such simple concepts that people have such a hard time grasping.

    Like DDN pointed out, it is extremely easy to overeat any kind of food, yet you NEVER see chicken breasts and broccoli getting a bad wrap. Guess what? If someone eats 4,000 calories worth of “clean” food, it’s still possible get fat.

    For that reason, I love intermittent fasting. It’s really hard to eat too many calories in just 8 hours/day.

  7. DDN,

    While it will vary from person to person, I would agree that for most people, cutting out carbs will have a bigger effect over cutting down fats. Most have an issue with their body processing carbs and if you want to teach your body to burn more fat, taking fat in works well.

    The long term goal of Metabolic Flexibility is to burn the right fuel (carbs or fat) at the right time (fat at low intensity, carbs at high intensity exercise).

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
    A shout out for Met Flex is always good!

  8. im having an argument with a triathlon guy…

    his response to 16/8 fasts…

    “The experiment has already been done. Starvation encourages the body to store fat when food becomes available to get ready for a prolonged fast. I doubt this technique you describe is going to work.
    A better answer is to look at food as fuel. Eat what you need and no more. Exercise consistently. The weight will come off very slowly ( 1lbs per week) but your body composition will improve and the weight regain will be slower.”

  9. @Derrick

    Tell your friend, “You lose.”

    I like the article, Dave. I think the basic thing about carbs is (as the “no essential carbs” thing states) that they’re not actually very constructive besides adding to your energy total. If your problem is “not enough energy to get all the things I need to do done” then sure, carbs could help. Only if you’re properly flexible and active enough to access and utilise them though.
    Carbs are stress relief and state management for me. I eat carbs if I feel under greater stress load than normal and feel they would help my state. If not, then I know I don’t need them and don’t bother too much. Simple as that, for me anyway.

  10. @Derrick

    Point that misguided soul to the links provided. If he choses to ignore the facts, then don’t waste your time arguing.

    I like that you’re playing with food as a state management tool. I think I’m going to have an upcoming post about it being ok to be an emotional eater….as long as you’re still mindful about how much you’re eating. Thanks for the comments as usual!

  11. Really good info. I’ve had my carb AA membership a while now. But seriously most nutrionist make it seem like u just sacriced small children to satan if u have something like mac n’ cheese!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I agree with your sentiments about nutritionists. There are ver few that I actually listen to or read their material regularly.

  12. That’s why I restrict myself to strictly no more than 10g carbohydrates per day. Once I go over the limit, my bathroom scale becomes exhausted.

  13. No, carbs do not make you fat, but they make you fatter than you would be had you consumed fat and protein in it’s place. In the last few months I’ve switched over to a no-grains/no-fruit diet and I pretty much eat only animal products, vegetables, and nuts. As a result, I have lost more weight in the last 3 months than I did in the first 6 months, despite having increased my calorie intake by ~30% (I’ve tracked my weight/calorie intake every day for the past 9 months) and maintaining the same exercise level (weightlifting, no cardio). And no, I wasn’t on a low-cal diet before. I’m 5’11” 200 lbs and I used to eat ~2500 cals a day, now I eat around ~3250 cals. I do gain weight, but it’s muscle, as my muscular definition and strength are increasing noticeably.

    Of course, my experiences are anecdotal, but the science backs it up. Insulin promotes fat storage because it needs to get that sugar out of your bloodstream. That insulin stays in your blood stream and prevents your fat cells from releasing energy into your body when your body needs it, making you hungry, and the more you eat carbs, the more the process repeats, and the worse the insulin problem gets.

    If you’re an individual who is already at a lean weight, and you’re not overeating, then no, carbs won’t make you fat. They will, however, still spike your blood sugar when eaten in large quantities (more 50g for “complex” and as little as 20g for “simple” carbs) and slow down your metabolism. For an individual who is simply looking to maintain a healthy weight, that’s not a big deal, but for someone obese who already has a slow metabolism it is a big deal. Also, for people looking to maximize athletic performance, especially ones involving muscle building, you want as fast of a metabolism as you can get.

    So, in summary, I agree that carbs are not an automatic ticket to obesity. There is no one factor that will make you fat. If you eat carbs but watch your calorie intake and stay fit you will probably not get fat. However, it is equally incorrect to suggest that eating carbs, even “complex” carbs, has no negative effects on your body. That’s not to say you need to cut them out of your diet completely, I still get like ~50g a day from milk, nuts, and vegetables, but to consume them as your primary source of energy is not healthy.

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