All carbs are not created equal. Overeating carbohydrates goes hand in hand with overconsuming sugar, says Jason Ewoldt, R.D., wellness dietitian at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. “Generally, most people are not over consuming fruits and vegetables or even whole grains but rather processed and enriched carbohydrates including foods with added sugar.” Overconsuming sugar and refined carbohydrates can create a whirlwind of unpleasant symptoms, including these common side effects.
Carbohydrate naturally binds with water in your body. For every gram of carb that you consume, you also hold on to three grams of water. So, after you eat a carb-rich meal, your body retains excess water and you look and feel puffy as a result.
Many common sources of carbohydrate cause abdominal gas. Carbonated drinks, for example, and foods rich in fiber are common gas-producing foods according to the National Institutes of Health.
Sugary carbs cause your brain to release dopamine, a pleasure hormone. The more sugar you consume, the more dopamine is released and the more your body seeks the reward. Some scientists have even gone as far as to research this pattern of cravings and refer to it as an addiction.
When you overeat carbs, you may be more likely to overconsume calories. “You may feel energized short term but you might get hungry more quickly,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Refined carbohydrates don’t provide the same level of satiety as fiber-rich carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein. The result is that you’re likely to feel hungry soon after eating. Long term, this may lead to a pattern of overeating and weight gain.
If your skin isn’t clear, fresh, and radiant, changing your diet may help. Studies have found that eating a diet full of sugary, high glycemic foods may aggravate acne.
Spending a lot of time at the dentist? Your carb intake may be to blame. Health experts point to concerns over an increase in dental caries (cavities) in people who overconsume sugar. Cavity symptoms include toothache, sensitivity to hot or cold foods and pain when chewing.
“One of the most noticeable short term effects of consuming too many carbohydrates would be the effect on blood glucose,” says Ewoldt. He explains that glucose levels quickly elevate providing a surge of energy, then take a nose dive as insulin shuttles glucose into the cells. “With these ups and downs can come a change in energy, appetite, and even mood,” he says.
For some people, the fatigue described by Ewoldt becomes a bona fide “crash” that can have a long-term impact. David Sack, M.D., wrote in Psychology Today, that “research has tied heavy sugar consumption to an increased risk of depression.” He goes on to say that “the roller coaster of high blood sugar followed by a crash may accentuate the symptoms of mood disorders.”
Fatigue from sugar highs and lows may cause you to become more forgetful. Researchers are beginning to investigate a link between sugar consumption and brain impairment. One recent (preliminary) study performed on rats showed that rodents who consumed more sugar had a harder time navigating through a maze than those who ate a healthy diet.
While carbohydrate consumption by itself doesn’t have a negative impact on your muscle mass, not eating enough protein may. If you eat a steady number of calories each day, increasing your carb consumption may mean decreasing your protein consumption. In short, calories from carbs will displace calories from protein. If your body doesn’t get the important amino acids that it needs, your muscle mass may suffer.
Over the long term, studies have shown that consuming poor-quality carbohydrates like added sugars, refined carbohydrates and heavily processed foods can have a serious impact on your health. Increased sugar consumptioncan often lead to overweight and obesity. A poor diet can also put you at higher risk for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
If you’re not sure if you’re eating the right amount of carbohydrate each day, start by following expert guidelines and make changes as needed. “The recommended carbohydrate intake for the general active exerciser will generally range between 3 to 7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight”, says Ewoldt. “This means that a 160-pound individual would fall between 220 grams and 500 grams of carbohydrates per day. But it truly depends on the overall goals and exercise being done as higher intensity longer duration types of sports can necessitate upwards of 8 to 12 grams per kilogram.”