According to Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin, probably not:
“The most important thing I’ve learned about nutrition is you need to deserve your carbs . . . to deserve [hundreds of kcal of carbs] post-exercise, you need to be sub-10% body fat. And the quickest way to know if you have sub-10 body fat as a male is: Can I see the lineal alba [vertical separation] on your abs? In other words, can I see all ab rows? One ab row doesn’t count; you’ve got to see them all.”
Let’s assume you have over 10% body fat, or over 13-15% for a woman. It’s a fair assumption that you’d benefit by reducing your intake of simple carbs. Let’s break that down:
What’s a simple carb? — white potatoes, white bread, white rice, cereals, sugary drinks and desserts, among others.
Why are simple carbs bad? — they’re not, but humans eat too much of them now. If you were a hunter-gatherer 100,000 years ago and you came across a honeycomb, the energy-rich honey you found might prevent you from starving. Today, sweet foods like honey are plentiful, and they’re making us fat.
How do I eat fewer simple carbs? — That’s what the rest of this post is about.
You have a limited supply of willpower, and resisting the temptation to eat simple carbs uses some of it. If your stockpiles of willpower aren’t replenished, you return to your simple carb addiction.
That’s where Scott Adams comes in again:
“The willpower you need to resist simple carbs such as white potatoes, white bread, and white rice has to come from somewhere, and as I mentioned earlier, studies show that using willpower for anything reduces how much you have in reserve for other temptations. The approach that works for me involves stealing willpower from the part of my brain that tries to avoid overeating. You might want to give my method a try. For a few months, eat as much as you want of anything that is not a simple carb. That frees up your willpower so you can use it to avoid those delicious and convenient simple carbs.
If you were hungry and I said you couldn’t eat the delicious bread in the breadbasket in front of you, it would take a lot of willpower to resist. But if I said you couldn’t have the delicious bread but you could have anything else you wanted, and you could have it right now, suddenly the bread would be easy to resist. An attractive alternative makes willpower less necessary. It frees up your stockpile of willpower for other uses. Under my system, all you need to do is eat as much as you want of anything that isn’t a simple carb and keep on that path for a few months.
Would this plan make you gain weight for a few months? For some people it might. But the short term doesn’t matter; you’re in this for the long haul. It’s a system, not a diet with a specific weight goal. Remember, goals are a trap. You want systems, not goals. The first part of the system is to break your addiction to simple carbs.
My experience is that after you break the addiction it isn’t hard to recover from the occasional french-fry binge. Food isn’t like alcohol, where one drink can set an alcoholic back to the bottom. Eating a piece of bread is only a pebble in the road for someone who has broken the carb addiction.
If for several months you give yourself permission to eat as much as you want of the foods that don’t include addictive simple carbs, you’ll discover several things. For starters, you’ll have more energy without the simple carbs. And that will translate into keeping you mover active, which in turn burns calories.
Another change you’ll notice after a few months without simple carbs is that your cravings will start to diminish. The sensation you feel as a preference for certain foods can be in reality more of an addiction than a true preference. For example, there was a long period in my life where I couldn’t go a whole day without eating a giant Snickers candy bar. The first bite created a feeling of euphoria that I enjoyed in every particle of my being. But after a few months of eating as much as I wanted of healthier food, I lost the craving for Snickers bars. What I thought was some sort of deep genetic disposition to like chocolate was actually more of an addiction.”
So, what should you eat instead? That’s a highly individual question, but here’s a starting point:
Peanuts, mixed nuts, protein bars, cheese, whole wheat pasta, edamame, broccoli, cauliflower, beef, chicken, fish, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sports, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, pears, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, quinoa, brown rice, berries, eggs, yogurt, butter, peppers,