Carbs.. Some love them, some dislike them and some think they’re the source of all the evil in the world.
Over the years many myths surrounding carbs. Who can forget the famous one about eating carbs after 6pm making you fat?
So, is a low carb diet the key to fat loss?
Like most things in nutrition, the truth rests somewhere in that grey area between black and white. We believe that different approaches work for different people. No two people are the same, so no two approaches to dieting should be the same. A low carb diet might work for some people for fat loss but to be clear, there is nothing magical about following a low carb diet.
So why do people think it’s so special?
I think we can all recall a time when someone has mentioned their successful weight loss effort when they stopped eating bread. There are two main explanations behind this:
1. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. For every 1g of carbohydrate we store we also store 3-4g of water. We repeat – Water, not fat! This is one reason why people weight in heavier after a large meal or an increase in calories. Naturally, as we reduce the amount of bread, pasta, rice and other carbs we eat, we reduce our stores of glycogen and water. Therefore, when you weigh yourself, you will weigh in lighter. A big drop is typically seen in the first week of a low carb diet. However, this drop in weight is predominantly due to decreased glycogen stores and decreased water stores, not actually fat loss.
2. It’s created a caloric deficit! Removing or reducing intake of a food group like carbs automatically cuts out a lot of foods. Reducing food choices can directly reduce overall calorie intake because there’s simply less to choose from! Treat foods like cake, biscuits and sweets are also high in carbohydrate making them off limits when eliminating carbs from your diets. These delicious foods can be easy to overconsume and are also high in calories, so cutting them out of your diet once again cuts caloric intake.
But as we’ve discussed previously, the underlying principle behind any diet designed for fat loss whether it’s low carb, low fat, carnivore or keto is creating a caloric deficit. There are so many factors which come into play for fat loss but creating a caloric deficit or eating less than you’re burning is the main factor that will dictate fat loss.
So by now we’ve seen that a low carb isn’t magical for fat loss. It’s important to mention that you don’t have to choose one dietary approach and be married to it. But a low carb diet is one approach that may suit some people. When trying to decide whether or not a certain type of dietary pattern is for you, you should always ask yourself a few questions;
How sustainable is it?
Diets can fail. That’s a fact. People may lose weight and regain it. But not all diets fail, only some. The underlying factor that separates fails and wins is adherence. If you can easily adhere to a diet, you can sustain it. But if you’re so miserable then how do you expect it to work long term? We’re all about finding the right approach for each person.
Is it going to affect your performance?
Carbs, namely glucose, are our bodies preferred fuel source. For example, our brain uses 120g of glucose a day! When carbohydrates are low, our bodies can switch to using ketones for energy. However, our bodies prefer carbs. High carb diets have constantly out performed low carb diets when compared for performance. Consuming carbs, especially around training, can really help fuel sessions and improve performance.
Are you replacing the nutrients you’re losing?
When cutting out carbs you automatically cut out nutrient dense foods like oats, potatoes, starchy veggies, fruit and wholegrains. These foods are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre. Are you sourcing these nutrients from other sources?
A 2018 randomised clinical trial known as the DIETFITS study examined the effects of a healthy low carb versus a healthy low fat diet on fat loss over a 12-month period. Results showed that there was no significant difference in weight change between a healthy low-fat diet vs a healthy low-carbohydrate diet. So, as you now see, there’s no magical diet for fat loss, even a low carb diet! The main points of important of any successful diet are that you can adhere to it and that it’s mainly sourced from nutrient dense foods.