One of the most common things I hear from people is “Cutting carbs is the only way I lose weight”. While that can hold merit, it’s probably not the only way to lose weight. In fact, it’s certainly not the way you should approach your diet if it’s something you can’t sustain longterm. For all my carb-lovers out there, here’s why a low carb diet can be effective, who it may be right for, and how you can have your pasta and lose weight too.
Here are the facts about low carb diets:
Carbs Hold Water
If you cut out carbs on Monday, you may notice by Wednesday you’re down three pounds. Amazing, right? Except for that’s likely not actual fat loss. Every 1 gram of carbohydrate holds about 3-4 grams of water. So, for example, if you eat 45 grams of oats, you’re also holding an additional 135 to 180 grams of water. (For reference, there’s 454 grams in a pound). So while cutting carbs seems like the quickest and most effective way to lose weight, you have to take a hard look at where that loss may be coming from.
Carbs Don’t Inherently Make You Fat
The reason low carb diets can work has nothing to do with actually cutting out carbohydrates. The ultimate precursor to fat loss is energy balance (a.k.a. you need to burn more calories than you consume). So, if you’re cutting out an entire food group, that will likely inadvertently put you in a caloric deficit. But you can achieve the same results if you were to cut those calories from fats, for example.
A Low Carb Diet May Be Appropriate If…
If you have blood glucose and insulin issues, going low carb can be a great way to improve insulin sensitivity. A low carb diet can also be very effective if you’re not super active and have goals of general health and longevity. This is when styles of eating like Paleo and the Keto diet fit well.
A Low Carb Diet May Not Be Appropriate If…
If you’re a super active individual (especially if you’re doing high-intensity exercise like CrossFit and OrangeTheory), carbs are going to be your major source of fuel and recovery. Going low carb doing that type of training will likely make you feel sluggish and less effective at making the adaptations you’re working so hard for.
If going low carb is something you can only sustain Monday through Thursday, or for X amount of days before you cave, what’s the point?
There’s a major precursor to effectively dropping and keeping off fat — being in a caloric deficit by a means that is sustainable, no matter what that means for you.