When I first heard of carbohydrate intolerance I wondered, "is that really a thing?" After doing some research, not only is it real but it explains why I have not been able to attain the amount of leanness that I want. Turns out that, yes, I am carbohydrate intolerant.
Scroll down and learn more with me.
Simply put, carb intolerance refers to a body's inability to completely process (digest) carbohydrates such as sugars and starches. This is due to the lack or shortage of certain enzymes needed for their digestion. You may have heard of someone being lactose intolerant; this is similar.
Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal distention, and flatulence. If you have one or more of these symptoms and are having a difficult time losing fat while consuming the carbohydrates as calculated by your macro numbers, you may well have this issue.
There are a couple of issues that can cause a person to have carbohydrate intolerance. Both of them seem to be genetic, although there is some evidence that the condition might develop as we age and have been on poor nutrition. For me, I've been on the nutrition advocated on this site for decades and, as it turns out, I am carb intolerant so I don't personally buy that theory. However, it could be true for some people.
If you have read my page on Carbohydrate Timing, then you are familiar with the impact that insulin levels in the body have on the storage of glycogen that results from the digestion of carbohydrates. If we have high insulin levels, the glycogen tends to be stored as fat (insulin is a storage hormone and the body creates more as it replenishes muscles). If we have low insulin, the glycogen is shuttled to our muscle cells to replenish shortages. This is the preferred condition if we at trying to burn fat. People that are carb intolerant tend to have elevated levels of insulin which, as we note above, leads to fat storage instead of fat burning.
The other theory on the cause of carbohydrate intolerance relates to the lack of a particular enzyme in our saliva. Each of us is born with the genetic propensity to produce the enzyme amylase. However, we don't all produce the same amounts. Similar to many other genetic markers like hair or eye color, blood type and a host of others, we are all different.
Amylase is the enzyme in our mouths that initiates the digestion of starch. Most of us have enough or more than enough amylase to properly pre-digest the starches. However, those that don't are sending the starches to our digestive track "less prepared" than they should be. The study showed that people with more amylase had a lower body mass index than those with reduced amylase. The difference, however, was not huge. Those with low amylase had a BMI of 27 on average while those with adequate supplies had an average BMI of 25.
The study on amylase explained that faster digestion of starches in the mouth make them taste sweeter and more satisfying. The result is that people with more amylase eat less (due to the satisfaction) and have lower BMI. So, tip number one is to eat more slowly. Give your saliva longer to do its job.
This has been a lifelong issue for me. Being a type A personality, I always had something that I needed to do. I ate to live, not to enjoy the experience. I am trying to change that behavior currently.
The study also recommends taking a probiotic. This isn't a sure thing, but it can't hurt. Third: keep eating quality carbohydrates. Be very cautious of the simple sugary carbs. Make sure you eat whole-plant carbs; not processed ones. Lastly, take carb timing into account. I have noticed better leanness results since I started doing that.
Get to know and understand your body and make adjustments that work for you. This site is all about starting points. Where you end is up to you.