How Do Carbohydrates Cause Weight Gain?

Control your calorie intake to avoid snug-fitting clothes.

Control your calorie intake to avoid snug-fitting clothes.

Carbs have gotten a poor reputation in the dieting community as a main culprit for packing on pounds. It's true that carbohydrates, when eaten in excess, can lead to unwelcome weight gain. However, eating too much protein and fat may also cause you to exceed your daily calorie allotment, which is what causes weight gain. Consuming carbs as part of a calorie-controlled, well-balanced diet won't cause you to put on pounds.

Stored Carbs

Some of the weight you gain when you eat carbs is water weight. Glycogen -- the stored form of carbohydrates in your muscles – attaches to water in your body, MayoClinic.com reports. That’s why low-carb dieters often lose large amounts of water weight when they first begin their diets. However, when your body’s capacity to store carbohydrates in your muscles is maxed out, any extra carbs you eat are then stored as body fat, which means your clothes may start to become snug.

Satiety

Carbohydrates – especially refined grains and added sugars – don’t fill you up as much as protein, according to a review published in 2008 in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” That’s why many dieters have experienced success boosting their protein intake, while cutting carbs. However, fiber – a type of carb -- also increases satiety. Therefore, choose fiber-rich carbs -- such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruits -- instead of low-fiber sweets, white bread and sugary drinks to avoid packing on pounds.

Sugar

A sugar addiction is often a culprit of carb-induced weight gain. Sugar, which is a type of carb, has addictive properties, which makes it difficult to control your sweet tooth – and total calorie intake. A review published in 2013 in “Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care” reports that sugar and sweet tastes induce cravings and rewards similar to those of addictive street drugs. Beware of hidden sugars in processed foods -- such as granola bars, yogurt, ketchup, salad dressings, jelly and some pickles.

Recommendations

Since your body requires carbs daily to function properly, don’t cut out carbs entirely to avoid weight gain. The Institute of Medicine suggests women eat at least 130 grams of carbs daily, pregnant women get at least 175 grams and breastfeeding moms consume at least 210 grams of carbs each day. Get most of your daily carb needs from fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low-fat dairy products. The American Heart Association encourages women to limit added sugars to 100 calories, or 6 teaspoons, daily.

 

About the Author

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images