When most people alter their diet to lose weight, their prescription is simple: cut out the carbs. But is this the best method?
Is Low-Carb Effective?
The only way to lose body fat is to consume fewer calories than you burn. Reducing, or eliminating entirely, an entire macronutrient from your diet (carbs in this case), is an easy way to reduce your calorie intake. Therefore, making a concerted effort to lower your carb intake is an effective way to lose body fat.
Is There a Downside?
A low-carb diet is not for everyone. Since the by-products of carbohydrates (glucose) are needed for essential life functions, many individuals feel more sluggish on a low-carbohydrate diet, especially when they first decrease their carbohydrate intake.
Everything from brain function to physical activity will slow down to match the reduced energy within the body of someone eating very few carbs. For most people, if they are consuming enough dietary fat and protein with their low-carb intake, they will start to feel better after a week or two.
Is There a Fat Loss Advantage of Eating Fewer Carbs?
In the end, there is no direct fat burning advantage to eliminating carbs rather than reducing calories from both carbs and fat. Barbara Rollls, Ph.D., Chair of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University, has stated it best:
“Many diets tell you that simply by choosing particular foods or combinations of nutrients your body will eliminate excess calories and burn off body fat. Believe me, if there were such a magic metabolic solution, those of us who spend out lives researching ways to battle the epidemic of obesity would be the first to tell you about it.
The truth is that you must eat fewer calories to lose weight and, when you do that, your body uses all of the food you eat for energy, regardless of whether it is primarily carbohydrate, fat, or protein. While there are some differences in how your body uses the different nutrients as fuel, these have only a small effect on your body weight.”
An overview of the research supports this claim.
How To Determine Where To Cut Calories
After cutting excess calories, the most important determinant of your diet should be how well you can stick to it! You must limit your calories while feeling as full and satisfied as possible.
For some people, this means eliminating most carbs because they can reduce calories while still having plenty of fat and protein in their diet. Fat adds delicious textures and flavors to foods.
Other people choose a low-fat diet, allowing them to eat more carbohydrates and protein. Carbs and protein have only 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories per gram. This means a meal of only protein and carbs can have the same quantity of a meal that’s filled with mostly fat, but for half the calories.
There is some thinking that the higher your body fat, the better you will feel on a low-carb diet, and I do think this a good starting point for your fat-loss plan. Individuals should make changes based on how they feel and how well they can stick to their diet.
Adherence truly is the most important thing to consider. If you can’t stick to a diet, what’s the point of ever starting it?