It seems that one of the most controversial and misunderstood topics in modern times is the carbohydrate. In an era of overconsumption and an abundance of highly processed food, carbohydrates (carbs) have taken the blame for the obesity epidemic sweeping our nation and much of the 1st world. This poses the questions, "Do carbohydrates make you fat?" and "Do you have to cut carbs to get really lean?" Pose these questions to your trainer, friends and family and you will likely get a yes on both accounts.
Before we dive into what science and experience tells us, let us take a short walk down memory lane. Anyone alive in the 80's will remember the national pastime of hating fat. Fat was not only clogging our arteries but was expanding our waistlines as well. Food manufacturers and grocery stores jumped on the band wagon and store shelves filled up with low-fat foods, that ironically had more carbohydrates. All this was based on a study done in the 1940's that actually had little evidence to show that fat was the cause of heart disease or obesity.(1) Despite American's cutting fat from their diets, obesity began to skyrocket.
Fast forward to today and we see a very similar campaign against carbohydrates. Much of the logic is centered around the anecdotal evidence that low fat diets made us fatter, so it must be the carbohydrates that were the problem, the whole time, not the fat. Also I have heard people say that eating higher fat and low carbohydrates actually increases your metabolism and causes you to burn more calories. Actually studies have shown the opposite. When protein and calorie consumption are held steady, diets higher in carbohydrates had a greater fat loss than high fat diets. (2)
So we are once again confronted with the fact that energy balance is the key to body composition. There is little benefit to reducing just fat or carbohydrates without reducing overall calorie consumption. Eating nutrient dense food has other benefits to your health and wellbeing so you should always choose lesser processed foods. If you want to lose weight you have to eat fewer calories than you burn, period.