I remember the first time I came across Gary Taubes’ book, Why We Get Fat. He made a pretty influential case that carbohydrates were primarily to blame for the obesity and preventable disease epidemic we face as a society.
I recommended that book to many people because it does have some good information and insight in it. I recommended it with a disclaimer, though. Don’t treat this book as gospel.
Since then, it’s become apparent that perhaps some of the research wasn’t so sound. Maybe carbs aren’t so evil after all?
I’ve since stopped recommending it because people have a hard time collecting nuggets of wisdom and insight from it without insisting on becoming zealots.
I’m not going to drag you into the science of carbohydrates in this article. I’m not even going to talk much about the context of carbohydrates, because I already did that in a separate article, The Truth About Carbohydrates.
I’m writing this article specifically to answer the question, “Do carbohydrates make you fat?” from a practical standpoint. People continue to ask the question and I really need to be able to point them to an answer that’s slightly longer than, “No.”
And yes, the answer is “No. Carbohydrates do not make you fat.”
Being overweight and unhealthy is a multifactorial condition. Everyone wants to boil this challenge down into a single boogeyman so they can eliminate said boogeyman and ride off into the sunset (that’s pretty much what Taubes does).
That’s never going to happen. There is not one single cause. You can’t even say that calorie excess is a single cause. Eating to excess, in many cases, is more of a symptom than a cause.
Recommended Reading: The Truth About Calories.
Carbohydrates are beneficial to the body and to your journey. They can aid satiety, improve performance, feed gut flora, and so on.
I’m not going to link to a bunch of studies for those claims—I’m speaking from experience working with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world and proving benefits is not the purpose of this article.
The broader point I wanted to make here is that focusing on a single point of blame in this journey is going to cause major problems for your prospects of long-term success and happiness.
Sure, people find a lot of immediate success by drastically cutting carbohydrate intake. They also [sometimes] run into long-term issues like low metabolism, adrenal issues, and poor gut health.
If you want to win and win for life, it’s important to take a panoptic approach. Of course, as a novice you can’t really do this because you aren’t privy to the big picture yet.
Right now, you’re stuck in the weeds. You’re in the thick of it. When someone says something so bold like, “carbs make you fat and eating fat doesn’t” it feels significant. It feels like a pivotal moment in your research. This is especially true if you’re somewhat of a contrarian because this is opposite of what the mainstream has been telling you.
Really, though, it’s a distraction. It causes your focus to narrow when your focus needs to expand. That’s why having a coach is so important. A great coach provides the panoptic guidance. A great coach can pull you out of the weeds so you don’t lose months and years going down an interesting, but only slightly significant rabbit hole.
There’s a lot of pieces to this puzzle that we need to fit together. Carbohydrates are a very very small piece. My advice to you would be: stop obsessing over them, stop blaming them, and stop demonizing them.
Founder of Rebooted Body and host of The Rebooted Body Podcast. Kevin helps men and women finally get a body and life they love with his unique blend of real food, functional movement, and psychology. To work with him personally, choose a program.