If you read some modern diet books you may come away with the idea that
carbs are a bad thing for your health. In fact, you body must have carbs to
function well. The idea that you can eliminate carbs is also
false since most foods, except meats, do contain some carbohydrates.
Knowing that you can see how myths arise about carbs. The fact is that
carbohydrates are meant to be a quick source of fuel for our bodies and brains. Anyone who works out or exercises intensely needs a higher amount of carbs to provide their muscles and body with the energy for their work out. The catch though, is that how much extra carbs they need is a personal thing.
Each person's body responds differently to carbs, and each person's weight and body fat goals are different too. So if someone were trying to lose extra body fat, they may restrict the amount of carbohydrates they're eating even when working out intensely, because this helps them to burn body fat faster. Someone who is trying to maintain their body weight though, will usually need more carbs than a couch
potato kind of person, because they're exercising their body much more than the person who's sitting on the couch all day.
And this is one of the areas where problems and misunderstandings occur with carbohydrates. What you need each day and what I need each day are probably drastically different. There are some people who can eat 500 grams of carbs each day and never have a weight or body fat problem. Others though, might eat just 100 grams each day and still struggle with weight gain and body fat. And that's why a blanket statement such as "eat 5 servings each day" is not good advice for just anyone.
Because carbs are designed to give us quick energy, if we eat them but don't use them they'll get stored as fat on our body. The body decides that it will save them for when they're needed later. The problem of course, is that we don't need them later either, and to make matters worse we've already eaten more of them too.
If that weren't bad enough though, there are different types of carbs to know about as well. If we eat the simple carbs such as those gotten from candy, cake, white breads, white pasta and so on, those turn to fat inside our body very quickly unless they're used. These are simple carbs because they're so easy for our body to process and put to use. They're extremely useful for very fast bursts of energy - such as when we're running a marathon - but they're extremely problematic if they're not needed and not used.
More complex carbohydrates will give us more sustained energy. These are not as easy to break down and assimilate in the body, plus they contain a wealth of nutrients and vitamins the body needs to extract from them. So they're still a source of fast energy yes, but they have a longer term and more important purpose within our body, thus they're not turned to fat nearly as quickly as the simple carbs are.
Protein and fiber are extremely critical to the entire process too though. Fiber is needed to help fill us up while we're eating, plus it assists our body in being able to remove wastes and toxins efficiently. Protein is the long term source of energy for our bodies, and it's also where the body gets the majority of it's nutrition and building block materials. Protein is what gives us strong muscles and bones, provides us with healthy teeth and hair, and keeps our bodies supplied with energy for much longer periods of time. It's used for endurance and strength instead of fast spurts of action.
Many people don't realize it, but the whole premise behind most of the popular low carb diets today is somewhat hidden. These diets are meant to tell you to stop eating carbohydrates. They're actually trying to get you to start eating better ones instead, while also adding the longer term healthy foods our bodies are lacking. Low carb diets tell you to stop eating sugary foods, white flour foods, and other quick and simple starches. Instead of those though, they tell you to eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and high quality protein.
So while you're cutting out the simple carbs which are bad for your body, you're also adding much more healthy sources. At the same time though, you're learning more about your individual and unique body needs. You're able to learn more about how much carbohydrates are "right" for your particular body and your specific weight loss, fat loss, or weight maintenance goals.
The best approach to carbohydrate eating though, is to only eat what your body needs in the short term. If you don't plan to run a mile after lunch, then you'd be better off avoiding the bread basket and pasta during your meal. If you find yourself not being able to resist those high simple carb foods though, then try eating just one fourth of what you normally would. Take a piece of a bread roll instead of the whole thing for instance, and order a half portion or quarter portion of pasta with plenty of meat sauce and vegetables to round it all out.
When your body isn't getting enough carbohydrates each day to sustain your current activity levels, it will start breaking down the stored body fat and using that for energy too. And this is why low carb diets tend to work so well for people who follow them properly.