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What Happens When You Eat Too Many Carbohydrates

By September 4, 2017December 3rd, 2020Nutrition Education, Weight Loss

What Happens When You Eat too Many Carbohydrates

No matter where the carbohydrates are being stored, liver or the muscles; the total storage capacity of the body for carbohydrate is really quite limited (only about 1200-2000 calories) and that is only if the glycogen has been depleted through exercise. 2000 calories is about a 20 mile run. If you aren’t doing that level of activity everyday, you don’t have that much storage available. Once the levels in the liver and muscle are filled with glycogen, excess carbohydrates have just one fate: to be converted into fat and stored. Even though carbohydrates are fat-free, excess carbohydrates can end up as excess fat storage. Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates will generate a rapid rise in blood glucose. To adjust for this rapid rise, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin then lowers the levels of blood glucose by storing it in the liver or muscle as glycogen. Insulin also tells the body not to release any stored fat. When this happens, you can’t use your own stored body fat for energy. So the excess carbohydrates in your diet not only make you fat, they make sure you stay fat.

But the bigger issue is something called oxidative priority. The body has a process for dealing with different fuels in the blood stream. When you eat, it goes through a priority when dealing with the fuels coming in from the meal. Here is a chart showing that priority.

As you can see Alcohol is the #1 priority and there is no storage in the body for alcohol. This is one of the reasons why alcohol is so bad for weight loss (more on that HERE). All of it has to be burned off before the body can start using other fuels. The second priority is ketones. If you have more ketones than the body needs, it has to deal with them before moving on to other fuels. Next is protein. Protein goes to muscle synthesis to generate and repair lean tissue. Next is carbohydrates and last is fat. So in a typical American diet, you will have moderate protein along with high carb and high fat in the diet. The whole time the body is dealing with the high carbohydrates that came in the meal, all the fat that also came with it gets put straight into storage in your fat cells. This is the bigger problem with high carbohydrate diets. Due to the priority of fuels most of the fat you ate with the carbs goes directly into storage because insulin remains high and the body is busy dealing with all the carbohydrates you just ate. Remember, a normal blood sugar is 1 teaspoon of sugar in the entire volume of blood in your body. That is 4 grams of carbohydrate.

Lipolysis is the process of using stored bodyfat for fuel. An increase in insulin tells the fat stores (adipose tissue) to stop releasing fat into the blood stream or stop lipolysis. This makes sense since you don’t want an over supply of fuel in the blood. This happens when any food is eaten (yes, even fat will raise insulin enough to stop lipolysis).  To recap, when we eat too much carbohydrate, we are sending a hormonal message, through insulin, to the body that states: “Store as fat”.

Whenever insulin is raised, lipolysis is stopped. If you want to lose fat, you want lipolysis running as much as possible. This is also why intermittent fasting can be helpful as you limit the amount of time that insulin is raised. Look at this chart.

Chart from Ted Naiman HERE.

Eating every few hours and adding snacks keeps your insulin raised and keeps you from using stored bodyfat for fuel. And if what your eating includes excess carbohydrates then the insulin response is higher and longer keeping you from burning fat even longer. More on Intermittent Fasting HERE.

After you eat carbohydrates your blood sugar increases and your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin makes sure your cells receive some blood sugar necessary for life, and increases glycogen storage. But, it also tells your body to use more carbohydrate, and less fat, as fuel due to the oxidative priority.  If you want to burn fat for energy, the insulin response must be decreased. Eating refined sugars release a lot of insulin, allowing less time for using stored fat for fuel.

Sugar Free Sorbet, low carb sorbetJust as important is the hormonal response. Eating a high carbohydrate meal also stimulates hunger. As blood sugar rapidly increases, insulin rises sharply since too much blood sugar can kill you. This results in a drop in blood sugar. But with a rapid rise due to over consumption of carbohydrates, there is an over correction and blood sugar drops too low before it can correct. This results in hunger, often only a couple of hours after the meal. Cravings, usually for sweets, are frequently part of this cycle, leading you to snack on more carbohydrates. Not eating makes you feel ravenous shaky, moody and ready to “crash.” This cycle causes you to never get rid of that extra stored fat, and a decrease in energy intake. To read more, check out Keto; A Complete Guide to Success on the Ketogenic Diet, including Simplified Science and No-Cook Meal Plans.

Insulin’s actions are countered by glucagon. Glucagon alerts the liver to slow down triglyceride and cholesterol production, for the kidneys to release excess salt and fluid, to the artery wall to relax and lower blood pressure, and to the fat cells to release stored fat to be burned for energy. But, insulin is a stronger hormone and when it is high, it suppress glucagon’s actions. After a childhood of over consumption of sugar, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance can result. This is why what we feed our children is so important to set them up for a lifetime of healthy living. To find lots of ‘kid-friendly’ meals and snack, check out my KIDS COLOR cookbook: The Art of Eating Healthy: KIDS.

Excess carbohydrates results in both a fuel problem (fuel storage and stopping of lipolysis) as well as a hormonal problem (blood sugar crash with hunger and cravings). Controlling our blood sugar and keeping it as even as possible throughout the day not only limits our hunger and cravings but it enables the body to get back to burning fat for fuel quicker.

Here is a photo of my son Kai on his birthday enjoying his favorite meal… my Mexican meatloaf cupcakes topped with guacamole and a cherry tomato! As you can see by his face, he is one happy little boy!



“80 pounds lighter and life is just beginning at 50!!!  This lifestyle is the BOMB!!! Thank you Maria and Craig for your time and commitment towards helping others live their best life!!” – Marnie
Maria Emmerich

Maria is a wellness expert who has helped clients follow a Ketogenic lifestyle to heal and lose weight for over 20 years. She has helped thousands of clients get healthy, get off medications and heal their bodies; losing weight is just a bonus. She is the international best selling author of several books including "Keto: The Complete Guide to Success on the Ketogenic Diet.".


  • I have a website and work with folks that are pre diabetic, diabetic, overweight or obese. I have learned through 5 years of research”CARBOHYDRATES” are the problem. I’ve also learned from experience; I had a heart attack in 2001, a-fib the same year, diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010, peripheral neuropathy in 2012. Since discovering the reason for my illnesses I’ve lost 70 lbs. A1C went from 12.9 to 5.3, blood glucose from 529 to 83, LDL from over 350 to 92, HDL from 3.3 to 5.2 and triglycerides from 135 to 34 all while throwing away all 13 medications I was on. America is in disaster mode when it comes to health care. This health debacle is what will sink this country, not some other adversary!

  • Kim says:

    I need help! I am a type 2 diabetic, insulin-dependent. I started eating keto so I can lose weight and stop taking insulin because insulin is causing me to gain weight and making losing weight impossible. In spite of eating keto, my sugar levels are remaining high. So diet alone isn’t working. I can’t discuss the problem with my endocrinologist because he advises me to eat more carbs and take more insulin. I don’t know where to go to get help. Any suggestions?

    • Maria Emmerich says:

      That is terrible advise. Eating more carbs is not the answer. I would do keto but make sure you are doing it right. Keep total carbs to 20 grams or less and day and after 4-6 weeks you should see big improvements.

    • Angela says:

      Hi Kim, not every insulin dependent type 2 diabetic can get off insulin altogether with a ketogenic diet, but you will need a lot less and that is a great thing. Don’t lose hope, you are doing great.

  • Laurie Lewis says:

    I love your blogs Maria! I tried Keto a couple years ago but couldn’t grasp or even fathom the idea the fat makes you thin. FAT MAKES YOU FAT, RIGHT? It’s been pounded into my head for years and Just could not wrap this eating fat concept around my head. Fat bombs and bulletproof coffee? Haha! So three years later doctors are recommending Ketogenic diets! I started back exactly 4 weeks ago. Haven’t been perfect but I feel I’m on the right track. I’m even trying the Keto/OS. I gained a couple pounds but something is different. I’ve always been a grazer so breaking that habit has been a challenge. I feel hungry often. I know it’s just a feeling and the hunger is really “tricky hunger” so I’m not sure how to handle this. Anyway, I’m in it to win it! My sister Colleen has been doing this successfully for over three years!

    • Maria Emmerich says:

      That is great! But if weight loss is the goal I would stop the Keto/OS. Just focus on getting carbs under 20g a day and hitting your protein goal each day.

  • Amy says:

    Hi MARIA, I am hoping to ask to purchase one of your plans or memberships as a birthday present in December😝 but I am just not sure which plan would be the best fit…Inhave been low carb for over 3 years but have really been trying Keto for the past 6-8 months. I am losing weight and gaining muscle and am an avid exerciser. (Weight training 5x/week and HIIT workouts on the bike 3-5x/week). I am home with my two small children, one with special needs so I am on the go like you😀 I am about 24%bodyfat around 145lbs and 5ft 6. I have PCOS but am otherwise healthy and really just would like to get down to 18-20% bodyfat to challenge myself in hopes of starting back to working as a Personal Trainer part time when my girls are a little bigger. I love Keto because it is enjoyable and the most sustainable way of eating for me. I would love to “dial it in” and really understand Keto more so that I can continue to grow and correct my mistakes and hopefully be a good role model to my daughters and future clients. Since I have some experience but could use help with tweaking and diet adherence, and have a specific goal in mind, which plan or package would you recommend? Sorry for the long question, I wasn’t sure where to ask.

    • Maria Emmerich says:

      I would be honored to help you. The best package is the phone consult as it gives us a month to work together to get you on the right track, a phone consultation, a health assessment and everything in the meal plan packages (90 days of meal plans and grocery lists). Otherwise, the Keto-30 Advanced package is great. It gives you all the tools to reach your goals and makes it easy to follow all the way down to a weekly grocery list. You might want to add a health assessment with that to get on the right supplements to help heal (one is included in the phone consultation package).

      If you get the Keto-30 package and are looking for more support to go with it, my new subscription site keto-adapted.com is perfect. Or if you like to make your own meal plans, keto-adapted.com allows you to do that too at the platinum level. 🙂

      Nutrition packages and Phone Consult (at bottom):

      Supplement plans and assessment:

      Keto-Adapted.com Subscription site:


      • Amy says:

        Thank you Maria!

        I am leaning toward doing some one on one coaching with you so I think the full package may be the way to go correct? With the platinum membership, is there some personal one on one help available with you? I am definitely into the recipes but I generally keep my meals very simple (less time and less chance for me to veer off course), I love learning new recipes slowly when I have time and then I incorporate them in to my regular menu. So I feel I would benefit most from some more “targeted troubleshooting ” type of help/advice. Is there a way to add phone consults/email consults to the platinum Keto adapted membership or is it best to just go for that full phone package you mentioned first? Thank you again Maria! You are an inspiration! Through combing books and the internet for sound Keto advice through the years, I always come back to your website and books!!! I really think you have the personal experience, education and background that truly produces results and makes Keto fun and enjoyable!

  • Friedman Vikki says:

    Hi C & M, I love all your advice & recipes. Thank you! I tried to buy your kids book: The Art of Healthy Eating, vol 2. Amazon only has used ones ( one was asking over $700!!!) and the above link (I’m on your newsletter page right now) says it’s no longer available. Do you have any good news for me as to where I can get a copy of this book? I hope so!!!
    Thanks for everything,
    Vikki Friedman

  • Maria Emmerich says:

    I get this just for the soup.
    188 calories, 13g fat, 5g protein, 11g carbs, 3g fiber (I think fiber was a little low in book)

    • Karen says:

      Maria – I have a question too – hope it’s ok to ask it here – I have your book “quick and easy ketogenic cooking” (love it!) Anyway – here’s my question – is swerve good to use past the “best by” date ?

      Thanks in advance-


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