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How Do Carbs Increase Hunger and Make You Fat?

Carbohydrates should theoretically fill you with energy so why is it carbs increase hunger and actually cause you to pile on weight?

Well, it’s all about the cravings, coupled with the bodies natural ability to store unused energy.  In this article we will look into some of the reasons behind these.

Now, there is some science to back it up, but lets start with an overview.

Craving carbs

carbs increase hunger - Pasta
Pasta is High Carb!

Imagine wolfing down a hearty breakfast of pancakes or toast. Or think about a heaped bowl of pasta for lunch.

What happens when you eat these meals?

Put simply, this overload of carbs will cause your blood sugar levels to surge upwards. Of course there’s a flip-side to the surge… these levels will just come crashing right back down again.  It happens quickly too, in 4 hours or sometimes much less.
The result:
[mk_highlight text=”You will feel far hungrier than if you’d chosen a meal with less carbs, more protein and FAT!” style=”default”]

Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. Hours later, memories of that tasty but damaging meal ping around the brain. Certain regions linked to reward and craving are stimulated. Now, not only are you hungry and looking for more food but you’re also wired to seek more of the same and thus perpetuate this odious cycle. It’s often referred to as the candy bar effect.


Carbohydrates 101

Carbs are the nutrient with the single most dramatic impact on blood sugar levels.

Not all carbs, though, are the same. Understanding the differences can help you to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels while avoiding the boom and bust cycle of gorging and subsequent hunger.

carbs increase hunger - table sugar
Simple Carbs (Table Sugar)

Carbohydrates were once classified as simple or complex based purely on the number of simple sugars within. Fructose or sucrose (table sugar), for example, were known as simple. Starchy foods earned the complex label as they are made up of long chains of glucose.

The general advice was to focus on eating less simple carbs and more complex carbs. This was based on a flawed and oversimplified assumption. The idea was that starchy foods had a negligible negative impact on the blood glucose but in truth the response to starchy foods can vary quite substantially.

carbs increase hunger - carbs simplified
Infographic – Carbs Simplified

Carbohydrates are now normally split into three main types:

  • Sugar
  • Starch
  • Fiber

Sugar molecules are the simplest unit present in all of these. These can link together to form starch and fiber. When you take carbohydrates on board, the body breaks them down into individual sugar molecules through digestion.

Most are converted into glucose. This is a specific type of sugar used by the body to provide energy. Because glucose can pass easily into the bloodstream it is also able to affect your blood sugar levels.

You mentioned Carbs can also make you Fat, how does that happen?

It’s not just that carbs increase hunger… they can also pile weight on much faster that people think.

Since the 1970’s, we’ve all been on a low fat dietary roller-coaster.  Naturally we’ve all avoided fat! Opting instead low fat options, which are usually high carb, high sugar alternatives… thinking that all is well.

carbs increase hunger - carb cycle
Simple Carb Cycle

Sadly that is not the case… and here’s why.

When our blood sugar levels spike (as we discussed earlier), our insulin levels also spike…
Insulin’s’ job is to regulate the blood sugar levels and remove the spike!
The process to remove the excess sugar from the blood stream actually converts the excess sugar to fat!

Then as we’ve already discussed, as the blood sugar levels drop… our hunger kicks in… and off we go again.

Glycemic Index

Not all carbs are equal when it comes to the effect they have on levels of blood sugar.

The Glycemic Index rates carbohydrate-filled food from 1-100 depending on how rapidly and abruptly they increase blood sugar levels when compared to a reference point of pure glucose. The higher the GI, the more these levels are boosted.

Fat and fiber content, processing and the type of grain used are all mitigating factors.

The GI ranking represents how swiftly the foods are digested and subsequently released into the bloodstream.

GI levels


GI LevelsGI Load


The Glycemic Load is calculated by multiplying the quality of the carb (GI) by the amount of it in a given serving of food.


Since the Glycemic Load factors in both of these key components, it’s possible for a food with an elevated GI to have a reasonably low overall GL.

If your diet is composed of foods with a low GL then you will neatly sidestep these drastic highs and lows caused by rising and falling blood sugar.

A high GL diet can have manifold disastrous effects on the body which go far beyond feeling a craving for more carbs and weight gain.

Ditch these foods completely…

carbs increase hunger - white rice
White Rice

Foods with a high Glycemic Load

  • White pasta
  • White rice
  • Pizza
  • High-sugar drinks
  • Candy

Think about eating more of these instead…

carbs increase hunger - beans

Foods with a low Glycemic Load

  • Sprouted Lentils or beans
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potato or Yams
  • Cashews
  • Fresh cherries

3 sworn enemies!

1) Sugar and artificial sweeteners

It’s a known fact that consuming sugar causes you to crave more sugar. See our article on beating sugar addiction!

carbs increase hunger - sugarArtificially sweetened products as well as (supposedly benign) alternatives to sugar deliver the same crushing blow. And yes, that means diet sodas!

In 2013, a study by a team of Harvard researchers was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. One underlying point was that subscribing to a cycle of carb-rich foods causes the striatum – an instrumental node in the brain’s system of reward circuitry – to become less sensitive to dopamine. This leads to a desire for more high-carb foods married with a lowered resistance to controlling that impulse.

This same study pointed out clearly that consuming an excess of artificial sweeteners is associated with an increased propensity for Type II Diabetes.

2) White bread

carbs increase hunger - breadA few slices of white bread can seem tasty and harmless enough.

Processing strips this type of bread of the vast bulk of its nutrients. It’s also particularly high in fructose corn syrup which provokes hunger rather than satiety. In addition, white bread and activates the brain’s hubs of reward and addiction.

Do yourself a favor and jettison these useless refined carbs completely. Don’t fall prey to a vicious circle that you can very simply avoid while eating superior foods into the bargain.

Try our Paleo Vegan Bread as an healthy alternative!

3) Alcohol

carbs increase hunger - alchocolAnyone who has attempted to moderate their diet and lose weight knows that, in addition to the fat content, sinking a few beers lowers the inhibitions and slackens the resolve.

Alcohol, though, can exert far more of an influence on appetite and hunger than scarfing down some needless bar food.

At the University of Liverpool, the Department of Psychology discovered that downing even two alcoholic drinks truly alters our perception of food. It makes things appear tastier than they really are. It also skews the value of eating making it seem imperative whether hungry or not.

So… if you always wondered why a delivery pizza at 1am entered the equation, now you know!

Health effects

If you watch the GL of the foods you consume closely – or better yet really clamp down ruthlessly on your intake of carbs – you can bring about some major health benefits.

You’ll find it much easier to lose weight and you can rid yourself of that plateau effect from dieting.

carbs increase hunger - diabetes
Medical Impacts – Diabetes

With more consistent blood sugar levels, insulin resistance is prevented and the risk of type-2 diabetes is lowered.

You’re far less likely to suffer from heart disease, autoimmune diseases in general, hypoglycemia… the list of heavy-hitting foes goes on and on…

Even your mental well-being can be adversely influenced with blood sugar levels out of kilter.


Now you are aware of some of the reasons that carbs increase hunger and fat, in one unappealing package, perhaps kicking them to the curb will be an easier task.

If you think you eat well and exercise adequately yet still seem to suffer from health issues, maybe blood sugar levels are to blame.

Carbs are not your friend Click To Tweet

Time to make a choice, to get informed and then take positive action to be the best that you can be.
We work with closely with clients that really want to change their lives.
People who understand that typical diets are not the answer.
Low fat isn’t the answer.
Restriction isn’t the answer.
If that sounds like you, and you are willing and ready to invest in your future, your health and willing to say goodbye to “diets” for good…
Plus you’re not afraid of some hard work! Then…

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