Low Carb vs. Low Fat for Weight Loss
A recent British study found that the average adult tries 126 diets over their lifetime. That's two new diets every year.
Dukan, Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, Atkins, HCG, Zone... there's a buffet of fad diets for you to choose from.
The research that goes behind picking one of these diets may make you want to give up before you even get started. The journey goes something like this: you find a diet that you like, do a quick Google search on it, and apparently, you will not make it to see your grandchildren. Now, some of this might be stated with data-backed research, but the majority is not. It's merely industries and communities just bashing each other and promoting their own.
Understanding all those diets can get really confusing, but there's a way you can quickly wrap your head around them all and find the ideal one for your lifestyle (after all, diets don't work, long-term changes to lifestyle do).
Some diets are about restricting your food sources, such as vegan and vegetarian diets. However, most revolve around controlling your macronutrient intake. The difference between most of these diets is just the split of carbs, proteins, and fats you'll have to consume. You can try any diet you like, but you won't get the needed results unless you keep a close eye on what really matters - Calories.
Calories In vs. Calories Out
We all know that one skinny friend who can stay skinny despite their horrible eating habits. You watch them stuff their face with an entire pizza in one sitting while slurping on an ice-cream shake. Meanwhile, you're cursing them under your breath while looking down upon your sad garden salad.
Here's a dirty little secret you should know. You can lose weight by eating whatever you want as long as you're burning more calories than you're consuming. Weight management at the end of the day is all about calories in vs. calories out. Done correctly, you could lose all your excess weight without even setting foot into a gym (but you shouldn't ignore training as you risk losing muscle as well).
So does that make it okay to wash down burgers with coke every day if you're taking in fewer calories than you're burning? No. You see, not all calories are the same. There are good calories, and there are bad calories.
Good calories come from fresh whole foods and quality meal replacements. They have lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, and provide your body the premium fuel it needs.
Bad calories, however, have a poor nutritional value. Sugar, processed foods, refined flours, and fast foods are all unhealthy and mess with your hormones if eaten in excess.
Eating bad calories in controlled quantities can lead to weight loss. While eating a surplus of good calories can lead to weight gain (great if you're trying to bulk, more on that next time), which is why you must focus on achieving a balance by consuming the correct amount of good calories every day. If you're unsure of how many calories you need to consume daily, find out using this calculator below.
To attain your dream body, you will need to commit to your chosen 'diet' long term. After all, this isn't a punishment; it's the path towards your goals. You need to be happy with whatever you select and make it a consistent part of your lifestyle. Also, remember to not be so hard on yourself, long term is what matters, you can still have whatever it is that you're craving as long as it's done occasionally and in moderation.
Most of the popular diets that you see today can be split into two categories, low-fat diets, and low-carb diets. So what do they each bring to the table?
Low-fat high-carb diets have been around for a long time, and there are plenty of people who've successfully lost weight on them. It's the more popular option, but many still make poor buying and eating choices because they're ill-informed.
Some think it's okay to pick anything low fat from their supermarket aisle and stuff it into their mouth without any guilty conscience. But we know weight loss is more about calorie intake than fat intake. Just because something is low fat doesn't mean it's also low calorie.
You've got healthy low-fat options and unhealthy low-fat options. It's on you to make the right choices. So what are the right low-fat choices then? Everything your parents made you eat when you were a kid.
Bananas, corn, vegetables, brown bread, lean chicken, whole grains, beans, peas, low-fat dairy, and sweet potatoes all make for good calories.
And what are the unhealthy low-fat options you should avoid? You'll have to make reading the nutritional label a consistent habit. You'll be surprised at how many things that are advertised as low fat and healthy are just loaded with sugar or processed with ingredients and preservatives that don't do your body any good. A simple rule of thumb is not to consume anything that is made with ingredients that you cannot pronounce or haven't heard of before.
Breakfast cereals, flavored yogurt, flavored coffee, cereal bars, sandwich spreads, are all labeled low-fat but loaded with sugar. They're mostly junk food in disguise.
So how do low-fat diets benefit you?
- They're easier to stick to.
- They'll reduce your risk of getting strokes, heart, and gallbladder diseases.
- They're better if you work out a lot, or plan to do so.
- They're lighter on your wallet.
And what should you look out for?
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies because cutting out too much fat might result in those.
- You may have to compromise on taste as you'll have to keep your oil and fat intake in check.
- Your temptation to gorge on low-fat, bad calorie snacks.
Low carb diets have had a sudden surge in popularity, but mind you - these are not "just a trend." They consist of real long term benefits and are arguably more suitable for shredding fat than low-fat diets (ironic).
Typically your body burns carbs for fuel. When you drastically cut carbs, the body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis, where it burns fat for fuel (more on this next time). Since your body is using your fat stores for energy, you may shred fat and lose weight.
You should check with your doctor or a nutritionist to see if this type of diet is okay for you.
Meat, cheese, cream, cauliflower, eggs, leafy vegetables, broccoli, nuts, seeds, avocados, nut butter, olive oil, and berries (in moderation) are examples of the ideal types of food you'll have in this diet.
But resist the temptation to eat bread, starchy vegetables, rice, pasta, cereal, low-fat salad dressings, beans, legumes. And pretty much everything with sugar (say bye-bye to sweets).
So how is a low carb diet better, and what are its benefits?
- It'll reduce your hunger and control your craving for junk, making it easier for you to lose weight.
- By dropping your insulin levels, it'll make life easier for your pancreas.
- Will help you with high blood pressure and cholesterol in the long run.
- Might help you with preventative care if you have a family history of diabetes.
Well, here are some things to bring you back down from cloud nine:
- They're incredibly restrictive, so you'll need superhuman willpower to stick with them initially (it gets easy, though).
- There is a small chance that you might get the keto flu.*
- You can forget about eating most of the things on a restaurant menu.
- You're initially likely to be irritable and moody, adapting to a new way of eating.
*The keto flu is a collection of symptoms associated with the body adapting to a ketogenic diet. Nausea, constipation, headaches, fatigue, and sugar cravings are common in some people who are adapting to a high-fat, low-carb diet. These symptoms fade away once the body completely adapts to the new regime.
What worked splendidly for someone else might not work for you at all. This is why before you decide which side you're on, you must consider your personal circumstances and what YOU'RE willing to put up with.
Both these diets will help you lose weight. However, do remember, weight loss that lasts is usually based on changes that you can live with for a long time, not a temporary diet.
If convenience matters more to you, go for a low-fat diet. It works great for most people.
But if you want to control your hunger and food cravings, or perhaps you have a family history of diabetes, you should try out a low carb diet. If you want to test your willpower, you gotta give this a shot. It is a real challenge, but definitely worth it.
And remember kids, don't be a party pooper. Eat the damn cake, and burn extra calories the next day to make up for it.
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