T Nation

So What's the Deal with Starches?

(like that seinfeld-esque subject?)

so i’ve been going through my diet and when i tell people
that i eat potatoes and corn often; they always say the same thing: “you can’t treat those like veggies, they are starches”

yeah…what’s the big deal???

so my question to T-Nation is…whats the problem with starches?!?

They make you fat if you eat too much as most people are not very carb tolerant and starches seem to go directly to fat storage. A good rule of thumb is to save the starches for the time when your body can best utilize them:

  1. Breakfast
  2. Post-workout

However, the leaner you are, the more starches you can eat. However, if you have a hard time staying lean, then you probably should skip them.

If you believe in bulking up or need the extra calories and carbs to increase your weight (or just to meet your caloric needs if you truly have a high metabolism), then eat them.

I’d skip the corn and stick with sweet potatoes, red potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain brown rice and Ezekiel bread if you’re going to eat them.

[quote]B rocK wrote:
(like that seinfeld-esque subject?)

so my question to T-Nation is…whats the problem with starches?!?[/quote]

Starches ate my baby!!!

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

[quote]Nate Dogg wrote:
They make you fat if you eat too much as most people are not very carb tolerant and starches seem to go directly to fat storage. A good rule of thumb is to save the starches for the time when your body can best utilize them:

  1. Breakfast
  2. Post-workout

However, the leaner you are, the more starches you can eat. However, if you have a hard time staying lean, then you probably should skip them.

If you believe in bulking up or need the extra calories and carbs to increase your weight (or just to meet your caloric needs if you truly have a high metabolism), then eat them.

I’d skip the corn and stick with sweet potatoes, red potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain brown rice and Ezekiel bread if you’re going to eat them.[/quote]

thanks for the info nate

i’m bulking right now, so i’m fine with eating them.

and yeah, im dropping corn once my last few cans are gone…just sticking to potatoes (both kinds) bread pasta etc etc…

Then you should be fine. If the fat gain gets out of control, just back off on some of the carbs.

Don’t forget to do some sort of cardio while bulking. It’s good for health reasons and to keep fat gains down.

A good very low glycemic alternative to starches at other times throughout the day (other than b-fast and postworkout) is beans- they are so fibrous and low glycemic they are good choices for those who need to get their carb numbers up but want to avoid the insulin spike at other times during the day. I stick to starches post workout and b-fast only, and then mostly beans and veggies for carbs the rest of the day.

“They make you fat if you eat too much as most people are not very carb tolerant and starches seem to go directly to fat storage.”

Sorry but you are mistaken. Starches don’t make you fat, excess calories do, no matter their source.

In fact, starches are rarely converted in the body to fat (a process known as De Novo Lipogenisis, of DNL for short) The only case when fat is synthesized directly from carbs is during deliberate overfeeding (think 800-900g of carbs per day for 3 days) or when following an artificially low fat diet (10% or less of calories from fat).

Also, you must be in a caloric excess (remember, you cant gain fat if you are in a caloric deficit)

The reason people say carbs make you fat, is because when you eat carbs, the body burns them off for energy first, rather than burning off stored body fat. This means that the fat you do eat is stored directly in your fat cells(through the actions of acylation stimulation protein, or ASP)

Having said all that, it is still a good idea to place the majority of your carbs around training because this improves nutrient partitioning to muscle cells. Just don’t get hung up on having some carbs (even gasp “white” carbs) other times of the day.

You people make nutrition seem so complicated when really it is quite simple.

[quote]JMoUCF87 wrote:

You people make nutrition seem so complicated when really it is quite simple.[/quote]

RAcist!!!

[quote]JMoUCF87 wrote:
“They make you fat if you eat too much as most people are not very carb tolerant and starches seem to go directly to fat storage.”

Sorry but you are mistaken. Starches don’t make you fat, excess calories do, no matter their source.

In fact, starches are rarely converted in the body to fat (a process known as De Novo Lipogenisis, of DNL for short) The only case when fat is synthesized directly from carbs is during deliberate overfeeding (think 800-900g of carbs per day for 3 days) or when following an artificially low fat diet (10% or less of calories from fat).

Also, you must be in a caloric excess (remember, you cant gain fat if you are in a caloric deficit)[/quote]

I highly disagree. There are plenty of people who eat far below their daily requirements (caloric deficit) and they do get fat. Look at many people who diet as just one example. What you eat definitely matters even if you are in a caloric deficit.

Why would the carbs be burned off but fat (and protein) get stored as fat? So you’re saying that healthy fats from raw nuts, olive oil, avocados, fish, etc. would be stored as fat? This makes no sense.

Agreed. Most people should consume starchy carbs at breakfast and post-workout.

I don’t agree with everything you said. I’ve used the metabolic typing test in Paul Chek’s “Eat, Move and Be Healthy” book. I originally took the test in 2004 and came out as a protein/fat type, meaning that I don’t do well with carbs - they make me fat, irritable and just make me tired, moody and lack energy.

Although I’ve known this for four years, I haven’t always followed the advice and have always struggled to get leaner no matter how I trained. I re-took the test several months ago and decided to stick with it, and it made quite a difference in my body composition.

I feel better, look better and perform better on a lower carb diet with more calories coming from fat and protein.

I think there is more at stake than just having a caloric surplus. The type of carbs you consume definitely matter for many people.

Also, per the Poliquin Pearls of Wisdom thread:

[i]Approximately 75% of people are carb intolerant and should not be eating grains; the grains are getting people fat. The first step is to get the Omega 3’s in balance by taking hi-quality fish oils. You must eat protein with every meal even breakfast.

A meat and nut breakfast will make you leaner even if you do not change the rest of your diet. It is best if you rotate the meat each breakfast. Eat 6-7 meals per day with protein plus smart fats in every meal.

A long-term low carbohydrate diet is the solution for fat people even after they have lost the fat. To begin the diet, eat only meat, fish, eggs, cheese and vegetables (50g of carbs per day or less).

Follow this diet for 14 days then have a cheat day, eat whatever you want for the entire day. Return to the ultra low carb diet and have a cheat meal (one sitting) every 4th or 5th day.

  1. Once you are starting to lean out you can add berries to the diet. They are strong antioxidants and low glycemic.

  2. As you get leaner still you can introduce the Orange family of fruits.

  3. As you get leaner again you can add Plums, nectarines, peaches and apples.

  4. Then grapes and bananas

  5. Then the root vegetables such as yams, and sweet potatoes

  6. Then rice, the darker the better

  7. The last food to add is grains, and it should never be added for those that are carb intolerant. (If eating carbs made you fat)

A no or low-gluten diet is a good thing, it interferes with reaction time.

Stick with this diet 80% of the time and you will do fine and not stressed out by it. Eat more vegetables.[/i]

100% agree with NateDogg here…

I feel obliged to point out, and I quote (though not verbatim), “thermodynamics isn’t just a nice idea - it’s the law”. If someone is gaining fat while dieting, theyre probably just not cutting calories enough, and/or potentially too low on protein (so plausibly losing muscle tissue but maintaining fat stores to increase % bfat). At least, that seems logical to me, at 2:00AM in the morning.

NateDogg, I will simply say you are wrong. Here’s why:

You wrote: “I highly disagree. There are plenty of people who eat far below their daily requirements (caloric deficit) and they do get fat. Look at many people who diet as just one example.”

It is impossible to GAIN fat on a sub-maintenance diet. However, if an individual (especially one who is muscular and / or rather lean already) goes on a low calorie AND low protein diet, (i.e. a high-fat, high-carb diet) and does not perform weight training to keep his muscle, then the PROPORTION of muscle loss to fat loss will be such that his body composition will suffer and he will APPEAR fatter, even though he did not gain any fat (e.g. one may lose 20 lbs of weight on such a diet but only 5 lbs of fat.)

Then, you wrote: “Why would the carbs be burned off but fat (and protein) get stored as fat? So you’re saying that healthy fats from raw nuts, olive oil, avocados, fish, etc. would be stored as fat? This makes no sense.”

Carbs are almost always burned off first. Why? because the body wants glucose out of the blood stream. To do so it will (1) burn them off as energy (which is why people often get hot after eating a lot of carbs)OR (2) store them as muscle / liver glycogen. Carbs are very very rarely stored as actual body fat.

Fat on the other hand, yes even healthy fat, is stored as fat in a fat cell until it is needed by the body to make up for an energy deficit. However, if no such deficit exists, then the fat you eat stays in the fat cell. Hence, you get fat.

You then wrote: “I think there is more at stake than just having a caloric surplus. The type of carbs you consume definitely matter for many people.”

Not as much as many would like to believe. People lose sight of the fact that carbs, no matter how “clean” the source, end up as glucose in the body one way or another. Whether you eat 150g of carbs from cereal or sweet potatoes, the effect on body composition will pretty much be the same assuming calorie control, sufficient protein, etc.

for further reading I suggest you check this out:
bodyrecomposition.com/Articles/calorieacalorie.html

Of course, if your body ha no need to burn blood glucose for energy at a high rate, and your glycogen stores are full (as is the case with most people most of the time), that carbohydrate will easily be used for lipogenysis.

Just because carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, it doesn’t mean it can actually manage to burn off the excessive amounts that most people consume. And these same people rarely undergo pysical exercise capable of causing excess glycogen depletion.

“Just because carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, it doesn’t mean it can actually manage to burn off the excessive amounts that most people consume.”

That’s exactly my point, the enemy isn’t the carbs themselves, but EXCESS AMOUNTS of carbs, or to put it another way, excess amount of CALORIES!

Eating more carbs than your body needs means chronically elevated insulin, which traps fat in the fat cell, making fat loss impossible. But if cut down on calories, (either from fat,carbs or a combination of both) you create a deficit from which fat will be mobilized to cover.

As long as you are in a calorie deficit, even if you eat carbs with every meal, there will be times when insulin will be low enough to make fat mobilization possible.

(Keeping things on topic)

Ok, I’m still gonna keep eating the starches…not a ton; but enough.

And I am doing some cardio stuff these days to keep myself sorta lean and to stay in shape for some upcoming sports. I’m doing some post workout running and/or kettlebell work. KB > Running x100

Hey B Rock. Starcher are just a big string of glucose molecules strunge together with alpha bonds. Fiber is extremely simalar though possess beta bonds. Our bodies don’t posses an enzyme capable of breaking beta bonds meaning we don’t derive energy from fiber, etc.

Think saltine crackers. Remember when you were a kid and you would eat a saltine, you could keep chewing and chewing it until it became really sweet. Yeah, the enzyme in your saliva was able to break the alpha bonds and release the glucose and glucose-glucose mono and disacharides.

For the off topicers.

Eating excess calories makes you fat, not eating carbohydrates. Yes, carbohydrates when broken down into the blood as glucose get preferential treatment. When eating an excess of carbohydrate and calories that glucose is used instead over other forms of energy. The insulin response is capable of storing some of that carbohydate as fat if there is enough circulating glucose, but the big kicker is that the insulin will cause the tryglycerides that are circulating in your blood to be stored irreguardless of the source. That is the source of the “carbs make you fat myth”.

And yes, some people are more carb tolerant than others. It still comes down to calories in vs calories out. Those that cronically under eat lose lean tissue while there Resting Metabolic Rate crashes. This will cause thier energy requirements to be greatly diminished while creating a hormonal environement perfectly suited to store fat as a survival mechanism.

I don’t see where anyone went of topic, the OP asked what the problem with starches is and the answer is absolutly nothing, as long as you don’t eat so many that you end up in a positive energy balance.

I pretty much agree with everything you said Zagman w/ regards to total energy balance, except i would note that the body is capable of storing fat with 0 increase in insulin (meaning a fat-only meal, as amino acids are about 50% as insulogenic as carbohydrates)

I was just helping to dispel the myth that eating carbs outside of the workout window will make you fat. That is simply not true.