Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (along with protein and fat), the main components found in foods and necessary to proper bodily health and function.1 Carbohydrates comprise a variety of sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, milk, vegetables, and grain products. Carbs are the body’s main and easiest source of energy, providing fuel for your brain and muscles while promoting fat metabolism.
For many people looking to lose weight, carbohydrates also tend to be the main dietary culprit. Although they are the easiest source of calories, carbohydrates also tend to have the most calories, and if you don’t use up that excess energy, your body will store it in the form of fat cells, resulting in weight gain. While exercise and a regular diet can go a long way in promoting weight loss and improving overall health, many people have recently turned to carb and starch blockers, like white kidney bean extract, for an extra helping hand in losing weight.
Understanding Carbs and Starches in Your Body
Starches are one of three types of carbs, next to sugars and fibers.2 Starches are also complex carbohydrates, meaning they comprise chains of simple carbs or sugars. Usually, when people talk about limiting their carb intake, they’re referring to starchy foods, which include:
- Starchy veggies, like potatoes, corn, and squash
Starches and other complex carbohydrates can’t be absorbed by the body until they are introduced to enzymes, which can break the chains and essentially turn complex carbs into more manageable simple carbs.
The process of digesting starches happens as soon as you put a food in your mouth. When you place a starchy food into your mouth, a digestive enzyme present in your saliva begins the process of breaking those starches down into sugars. That digestive enzyme is known as amylase. As the food passes further through the digestive system, amylase isn’t reintroduced until it reaches the pancreas.3 From there, the starches are further broken down into glucose and other sugars that can either be used immediately for energy or stored for later use.
How Carb Blockers Help
Carb blockers are often made from a group of compounds known as alpha-amylase inhibitors. These compounds are naturally occurring and usually extracted from beans, particularly the white kidney bean, which is scientifically known as Phaseolus vulgaris.4
Carb blockers work by blocking the enzyme amylase, thereby inhibiting the digestion of the carbs or starches.5 When you eat starches and take a carb blocking supplement, the carb blockers prevent a portion of the starches from getting digested. Starches left undigested are either excreted naturally or fed to beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics), allowing them to thrive. By preventing the proper absorption and digestion of carbohydrates, carb blockers essentially prevent you from taking on all the calories that carbs and starches hold. Maintaining low levels of carbohydrate consumption for long periods causes your body to go into ketosis whereby it breaks down fat for energy, producing ketones.
How Effective are Carb Blockers
You can’t eat an entire pizza and expect carb blockers to prevent the complete absorption of all those calories. However, studies do show that carb blockers may be surprisingly effective at promoting weight loss. One random, double-blind study examined 60 overweight individuals who were given either a placebo or a product containing white kidney bean extract before a carbohydrate-rich meal for 30 days. By the end of the period, the results showed that those who took the carb blocker lost a significant amount of body weight and fat mass while maintaining lean body mass.6
Carb blockers generally appear to inhibit 50 to 65 percent of the enzymes involved in carbohydrate digestion.7 They may also help to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce appetite. As with any weight loss supplement, your mileage may vary depending on a wide range of personal and lifestyle factors.
Potential Side Effects of Carb Blockers
Studies show that carb blockers are generally safe to use, but they may come with certain side effects.8
Digestive Tract Distress
As mentioned, the carbs that don’t get digested either pass out of your body as normal or get fed to your gut bacteria. As your gut bacteria feed on those undigested carbs, they produce gas. This process is known as fermentation and can result in some intestinal discomforts, usually comprising gas, bloating, and some stomach pains. Some users have also reported an upset stomach or diarrhea when initially taking carb blockers. None of these side effects are particularly severe, and all of them should go away over time.
Low Blood Sugar
The breakdown of carbohydrates naturally leads to sugar in your blood, which transports that sugar throughout your body to fuel movement and basic bodily functions. Fewer carbohydrates absorbed into your system inevitably means lower blood sugar. While this doesn’t pose problems for most, those who have been prescribed insulin or other diabetic medications should monitor blood sugar levels closely when making dietary changes.
Make sure to read the labels of any carb blocker supplements as they may contain other ingredients that people may commonly be allergic to, including soy, wheat, and fish.
Who Should Use Carb Blockers?
Carb and starch blockers are most effective for those new to fitness and diets by helping to moderate calorie intake.9 However, carb blockers may not be as effective for those who already limit their carbs and exercise regularly. Someone who eats just 150 grams of carbohydrates per day and does cardio or lifts weights four times per day is already using up all of the calories from carbs in their diet (and more). Supplementing with a carb blocker would at best have no effect. At worst, someone who already doesn’t eat many carbs would only further deplete their energy by taking a carb blocker.
There is a middle ground between the two. Those who work out regularly and eat a moderate amount of carbs (up to 300 grams per day) but want to get leaner without completely sacrificing their carb intake can certainly benefit from taking a carb blocker.
White Kidney Bean Carbohydrate Blocker
DrFormulas™ White Kidney Bean Extract offers an all-natural formulation that has been patented and clinically studied for the reduced absorption of carbohydrates. Remember that this supplement may help with controlling your weight, but only when combined with a balanced diet and regular exercise regimen.