Do carbs make you hungry?!

‘When I eat carbs they make me hungry’

I see this a lot. But yet when you ask people what foods they mean they tend to name those above. Processed foods that are high in carbs (and a lot of the time fat as well).

The issue here is that these foods are designed to make you hungry and not fill you up. They pack a lot of calories in to a small package (even bread can be calorie dense), they have no satiating properties (protein and fibre), they taste amazing (combination of sugar and fat is the most palatable combination). So it’s no wonder when people eat these foods they want more. That’s kind of the whole point of them

However you can’t lump all carb sources  in to the same bracket. Cake is not the same as oatmeal

If you look at the properties of the other foods I mentioned you’ll see they’re the total opposite of those processed foods. They are low calorie density, they have lots of fibre (which makes you feel full), they are low palatability/reward value and they are highly satiating (potatoes, apples and oranges are in the top 5 of the satiety index). I challenge anybody to attempt to eat their bodyweight in fruit, veg and potatoes and let me know how you get on (if you haven’t exploded before you get the chance to message me).

Context is important. Not all carb sources are created equal and comparing minimally-processed, nutrient dense carb sources to highly processed, calorie dense carb (and fat!!) sources is crazy.

Another argument people will bring up is that carbs spike blood glucose and insulin and then that subsequent crash makes you hungry. This has been tested and hasn’t been found to be true. Studies (Flint et al, 2007 & Holt et al, 2006 ) have found no association between high insulin levels and increased hunger levels after eating. In fact they actually found the opposite, in that high insulin levels were associated with LOWER short-term hunger. People also forget that protein also spikes insulin, just as much as carbs in some cases (beef is equal to brown rice, whey is higher than white bread). But as we know protein is extremely satiating and has consistently been shown to lower hunger. 

It’s not the properties of carbs that cause the hunger, it’s the properties of the food. If the carbs come packaged with fibre, nutrients, lower amount of calories and don’t set our tastebuds and pleasure centres on fire, then they can be some of the most filling foods you can eat.

Of course you don’t have to eat carbs if you don’t want to. That’s up to you. And if you do, make sure that the majority of the time you’re picking ‘better’ carb sources that are much more likely to help you towards your goals. 

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