Are you trying to lose weight? Diet fads and trends come and go and most of them don’t lead to lasting weight loss. Fortunately, there are legitimate ways to approach losing weight. You can cut back on either the amount of carbohydrates, fat, or calories you eat. If you combine one of these strategies with exercise – and do it consistently – there’s a good chance you’ll get results. Any of these approaches will lead to weight loss if done consistently – but which is better – cutting carbs or calories?
Cutting Carbohydrates: It’s not Always the Best Approach
Very low carbohydrate diets were the rage up until a few years ago. They’re still around, but they’re not quite as popular as they were in the days of Dr. Atkins. The reason? A very low carb diet is hard to stick with and a significant percentage of people who go on this type of restrictive diet gain most of the weight back. In fact, studies show that people who follow a low fat diet are more likely to keep the weight off long term than those who follow a low carb diet.
There’s another reason why cutting carbs isn’t always best. If you’re exercising to build lean body mass and cutting carbohydrates too much, it can work against you. With high intensity exercise, the body uses carbohydrates as its primary fuel source. If you limit carbs too much, your body breaks down protein to get the energy it needs – not fat as most people think. Fat is the primary fuel burned during low intensity exercise such as walking.
Carbs or Calories?: The Best Way to Do It
The best way to maximize weight loss while preserving lean body mass is to cut calories and change the type of carbohydrates you eat. Eat more complex, low glycemic carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits that are low in sugar – and nix the sweet desserts, processed foods, and deep fried potatoes. These foods offer little in the way of nutritional value and send your blood sugar and insulin levels soaring – which causes more fat to be deposited in spots where you least want it.
When Cutting Carbohydrates Works Best
Certain groups of people may benefit more from a low carbohydrate diet. This includes people with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and people with polycystic ovary disease since they’re usually insulin resistant. Anyone who has these conditions should talk to their doctor about trying a low carb diet.
Carbs or Calories?: The Bottom Line
If you’re active, aim for a ratio of about 50% carbs (complex, healthy carbohydrates), 25% fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), and 25% protein. If you’re like most people, cutting back on calories and cleaning up the kinds of carbohydrates you eat works best for long term, sustainable weight loss.