How to Eat Carbs Without Gaining Weight

Did you know you can still eat carbs without gaining weight?

Giving up carbs completely can be beyond hard and make you miserable. But you can still eat the right carbs at the right times, in the right amounts and still lose weight.

Limiting carbs to an extremely low amount all the time can feel like pure torture and just isn’t sustainable long term. It gets old having to only eat protein and fats all the time. You can only eat so many meats and eggs a day!

So instead of fully giving up carbs for the rest of your life, I’ll show you how you can still eat them without gaining weight. Carbs play a key role in an overall healthy diet, but most people just do it wrong.

I regularly eat carbs and have my clients eat carbs too, without worry of weight gain. In fact, they even can lose weight when they’re doing it right. So keep reading to discover how to eat carbohydrates without fear of weight gain.

Why You Can’t Eat Carbs Without Gaining Weight

woman craving sugar sweet cookies but worried about weight gain

Eating carbs can cause your blood sugar to rise and cause an insulin spike. Insulin is a hormone that can put your body into a “fat storing mode.”1

This is when your body stops fat burning and starts creating more body fat. Insulin essential tells your body to stop burning fat and instead take up all the fat and glucose in the bloodstream and store it as body fat.

This is one of the driving causes of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs from eating too many carbs and sugars for too long.

Your body has a harder time releasing insulin to bring your blood sugar back down. As your body becomes more insulin resistant, it makes it easier to store more of the foods you eat as fat.2

As insulin is released after eating carbohydrates, your blood sugar will also drop. This can put you on a roller coaster of blood sugar spikes and drops for the rest of the day.

As your blood sugar drops, you’ll then crave sugary carb-rich foods to bring it back up. So with this increased hunger, you’ll be more tempted to eat more sugar and carbs, continuing the cycle.3

To eat carbs and prevent a blood sugar and insulin spike try taking a carb blocker before eating. This can help to keep your blood sugar stable and prevent your body from entering a “fat storing mode.”

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  • May help maintain healthy blood sugar levels
  • May assist weight management
  • Can be used to support ketogenic lifestyle

Carbs That Make You Gain Weight

So eating too many of the bad carbs does cause belly fat. But not all carbs are created equal.

There are two types of carbs – simple and complex. Simple carbs, like those found in candy and soda, are quickly broken down by your body and will spike your blood sugar. Complex carbs, like those found in fruits and vegetables, take longer to break down.

You should avoid simple carbs if you want to eat carbs without gaining weight.

Simple carbs include:

  • Sugar
  • Candy
  • Soda
  • White bread
  • Pastries
  • White pasta
  • Ice cream
  • Cookies
  • Fruit juices
  • Honey
  • Rice

Starches and high glycemic carbs should also be avoided.

Starches have a high Glycemic Load (GL). This means starches will spike your blood sugar levels and are also high in overall carbs and calories. This makes it even more likely you’ll store the starchy carbs you just ate as fat.

Some examples of starchy carbs include:

  • Potatoes
  • Bread
  • Cereals
  • Granola
  • Oatmeal
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Beans

High Glycemic Index (GI) carbs are those that will spike your blood glucose and thus insulin too. Elevated insulin will promote the storage of fat in the body tissues. It’ll also increase hunger and cravings for more sugary carb-rich foods.

So losing weight and preventing weight gain is mainly about keeping low insulin levels.3 This makes it much less likely to store what you just ate as body fat.

What Is a Healthy Carb

woman with measuring tape choosing craving slice of pizza instead of green apple

So what are the good healthy carbs you can eat to lose weight?

Carbs are actually healthy and good for you when they’re low in sugar, starches and low on the glycemic index.

Carbs are essential in your diet since vegetables and fruits are considered in this food group. Vegetables and fruits contain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber that benefit your health.

It’s best to choose vegetables and fruits to eat that are “slow carb.” These ones are low on the glycemic index and have a low glycemic load.

Here’s a list of the best vegetables:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Snow peas
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes

Fruit can fall into the gray area as some factors come into play. First, you want to ensure the fruit isn’t too sugar and is high on the glycemic index.

Then you want to check to see if it contains a high amount of fiber so it’ll slow the absorption in your body, reducing the blood sugar spike. Lastly, make sure you don’t eat too much, otherwise, the GL will be too high.

Eating fruit can make you fat if you have insulin resistance and not metabolically flexible. Drinking fruit juices is terrible for you since you’ll lose all the fiber that slows the absorption of the sugar in the fruit.

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Avocados

But with that said, eating fruit is much better than eating a candy bar if it satisfies your sweet tooth. So if you have a lot of weight to lose, then I’d advise you to reduce your fruit consumption or only eat low-sugar fruits.

If you have trouble eating enough vegetables then try adding a super greens powder to your daily routine. It’s an easy and quick way to get all the benefits of veggies without having to eat a bunch every day.

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How Many Carbs to Eat to Not Gain Weight

Now that you know the bad carbs vs. the healthy carbs, you should also know how many you can eat without gaining weight.

Most people benefit from a low-carb diet because it’s so easy to overeat carbs, especially the bad ones. And most people aren’t very physically active, so they never really burn off the carbs or fat stored in them.

But just because you’re eating a low-carb diet doesn’t mean you have to have a zero-carb intake. Low-carb diets can be highly effective for weight loss, but giving up all carbs completely won’t make life very fun.

Carb Cycling

Carb cycling is the process of varying the number of carbohydrates you eat daily or weekly. Typically, you’ll have higher carb days and lower carb days. This approach can help promote fat loss while preserving muscle mass.

There are a few different ways to do carb cycling. One is to have a high-carb day, followed by one or more low-carb days, and then repeat.

Another option is to have two high-carb days in a row, followed by one or more low-carb days. And finally, you could also do three high-carb days and then two low-carb days.

Carb cycling allows you to still eat carbs but in a strategic method. My typical carb cycling schedule is:

  • Monday: low carb
  • Tuesday: low carb
  • Wednesday: low-moderate carb
  • Thursday: low carb
  • Friday: low carb
  • Saturday: high carb
  • Sunday: moderate carb

Meal Timing

The timing when you eat carbs can also influence whether or not you store those carbs as fat.

It’s best to avoid eating carbs in the morning. Why? It can cause the blood glucose to spike and crash, setting you up for a hard time the rest of the day. You’ll be more fatigued throughout the day and have more hunger.

Intermittent fasting throughout the morning will instantly cut your daily calorie intake by 550 calories.4 You’ll also have better blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity and have an easier time burning your fat stores for fuel.5

If you ever had the afternoon crash, then too many carbs early in the day can greatly influence this. You’ll also be more likely to crave sugar and carbs the rest of the day. Studies have found those eating a protein rich breakfast had better satiety than a carb-rich breakfast.6

Why you should have carbs after your workout…

Having your carbs post-workout can help to restore lost glycogen. Glycogen is essentially stored carbohydrates in your muscles and liver. Your body uses them first for fuel before your fat stores.

Replenishing glycogen can improve the muscle recovery process. For example, eating your carbs post-workout can be beneficial if you’re an athlete or bodybuilder.

However, if your goal is weight loss, then having your carbs post-workout can help to encourage storing the carbs as glycogen instead of body fat.

How many carbs at night make you gain weight…

Eating too many carbs at night can cause you to gain weight since you won’t be burning them off while sleeping as opposed to earlier in the day when you’ll be more active.

But if you’re limiting your carbs the rest of the day then this frees things up to have some in the evening without worry. Eating carbs at night can also help you sleep better. It increases tryptophan in your brain, promoting serotonin, which helps you sleep better.7

But some studies have found eating more carbs in the morning can also be beneficial, especially if you’re physically active, exercise vigorously, or are an athlete or bodybuilder.8 So it’s best to test out what works best for you.

Try to limit your carbs at night if you do eat them in the evening. I stick with the rule of having 1/4 gram of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 200 pounds, then you can have up to 50 grams of carbs in the evening.

Portion Size

Limiting your portion size to keep yourself from gaining weight from eating carbs is best. Becoming more ‘carb conscious’ will go a long way to keeping the weight off.

Even if you’re eating the right carbs, you can still gain weight by eating too many. The glycemic load will increase as your portion size increases leading to weight gain.

So it’s best to keep the carbs you eat on the low side if you’re trying to lose weight. It is easy to overeat carbs since they’re tasty but try to size out your portions before eating them.

Otherwise, we all know how it’s far too easy to end up eating a whole bag of potato chips.

Macro Combining

Try combining the carbs you eat with either protein or fats. Protein is less fattening than carbs and is satiating. A higher protein diet will improve body composition by burning fat and building lean muscle.9

So instead of eating an entire bowl of pasta, you can eat 1/3 of the plate with pasta and fill the other 2/3 with a lean protein like chicken.

Don’t combine carbs with fats…

Be careful with combining carbs with fats. Meals rich in carbs and fats can overload the reward center of your brain, encouraging you to eat more of it. This is why carb-rich fatty junk food like pizza and cheeseburgers are so good and rewarding to eat. They’re also the worst for us.

If you’re eating too many carbs with fats, the sugars will cause an insulin release. This makes it more likely you’ll store all those calories from the carbs and fats as body fat.

There are 9 calories per gram of fat which is more than double that of the 4 calories per gram of protein and carbs. So you’ll end up storing more fat from eating too many carbs with fats.

But fats can help slow carbs’ absorption, preventing too much of an insulin spike. Try to have some fiber first if you combine fats and carbs.

If you are going to eat carbs with fats, then make sure you’re eating a smaller portion of low-sugar, non-starchy carbs that are low on the glycemic index.

How to Eat Carbs Without Retaining Water

If you’ve spent a weekend eating a lot of carbs, then there’s a good chance you’ll feel bloated Monday morning. This is from water retention that’s caused by eating too many carbohydrates.

When you eat carbs, some of them will be stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. This is your body’s first form of fuel that it utilizes before your fat stores.

But for every 1 gram of glycogen, you’ll also store 3 grams of water.10 So as you eat more carbs and store more glycogen, you’ll have more water weight too.

This is why a low-carb diet can quickly flush out 3-8 pounds of water weight. Your body burns through the glycogen and flushes out the water retention. It’ll also set your body up to burn more fat for fuel now that it is out of glycogen stores.

So eating low-carb on a Monday following a weekend of high-carb meals is an excellent way to get rid of the water weight.

You can eat carbs and prevent this water weight by first working out. You’ll best burn through glycogen by lifting weights with resistance training first, then follow it up with cardio exercise.

Also, be sure not to consume carbs with sodium. Sodium also increases water retention, so if you want to keep the water weight off while eating carbs, make sure the carb source is low sodium.

This is easy with whole food carb sources like vegetables and fruits. But if you eat processed foods like pizza, potato chips, pretzels, french fries, etc., they’re usually high in carbs and sodium.

Conclusion

Eating carbs without gaining weight is possible as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. For example, try combining carbs with protein or fats, avoid eating them with fats, and exercise beforehand.

Avoid eating bad carb foods and eat more healthy carb foods like vegetables and low-sugar fruits. If you are eating sugary or carb-rich foods try taking a carb blocker beforehand to prevent a blood sugar and insulin spike.

My Pick
BioTrust IC-5

Healthy Carb Management for Advanced Metabolic Wellness

Benefits:
  • Supports healthy carb metabolism
  • Supports healthy blood sugar metabolism
  • May help maintain healthy blood sugar levels
  • May assist weight management
  • Can be used to support ketogenic lifestyle

Cycling your carbohydrate intake can strategically prevent you from gaining fat. Your meal timing and portion control will also make or break whether you lose weight or gain weight from carbs.

If you still struggle with water weight after eating carbs, try working out first and avoiding sodium-rich foods. Then, go on a low-carb diet to flush out the water retention from the glycogen.

So you don’t have to completely cut out carbs from your diet achieve weight loss. You just have to eat the right kinds, at the right times, and in the right amounts.

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