Carbs do not cause fat gain. Eating too many calories causes fat gain.
As a coach I hear this nearly every single day:
“To lose fat you need to cut carbs”
Every self-proclaimed expert on social media advocates keto, banting, low-carb, Atkins, whatever you want to call it. Now, yes, you can lose fat on a low carb diet. You can lose fat on any diet you decide to follow, granted your calorie intake is less than your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). I will agree that in most cases when working out a client’s macronutrients to put them into a deficit, carbohydrates are one of the totals I reduce first TO A CERTAIN DEGREE. Just like when a client wants to gain weight, I will manipulate carbs first to increase total energy intake. This is because you can survive without them in high amounts.
Just like fats and protein, certain amounts of carbs on a daily basis are required for a healthy body.
Are all carbs necessary?
Are some carbs necessary for daily survival?
Is fat and protein intake more important than carbohydrate intake?
If those carbs are refined sugars and processed foods, possibly. But if they are from whole grains, vegetables and whole foods, that’s a completely different story.
Decreased carbohydrate intake has been shown to decrease thyroid output, increase cortisol production, decrease testosterone levels, increase muscle catabolism, can lead to impaired mood and cognitive function (your brain needs glycogen too) and suppress immune function. So in the long-run your metabolism might slow down, your stress hormones go up and your muscle building potential goes down. Those aren’t really great side effects. This isn’t to say that you cannot or won’t lose weight on a low carb diet, at least not for the short term, but for most of us that want to follow a long-term fat loss strategy, while still maintaining our sanity and athletic performance, low-carb is not the way to go.
Now most people who have tried going low carb will most likely exclaim their results after a couple weeks as extraordinary because of the massive initial weight loss. Unfortunately, this is mainly water and glycogen depletion so over a short period of time it seems as if low carb is the answer. However, the research states that in the long term, when calories are equal, low carb does not prove to be more beneficial to fat loss than higher carb diets (and you don’t get your oats in the morning which sucks).
The answer here to what the most effective way to lose fat is then, Calorie. Deficit.
Strict diets aren’t the answer because they lead us into believing that if we aren’t seeing progress we need to be more restrictive which leads to more problems like missing out on vital nutrients, developing an unhealthy relationship with food, guilt tripping ourselves into believing we are failures if we slip up and progress is wasted and finally you still don’t get to have your oats in the morning (listen, I love my oats for breakfast).
Don’t take your nutrition to great extremes unless you have extreme goals like competing in bodybuilding or doing an Ironman. Strategic moderation, as boring as it can sound, is the key to lifelong success with your nutrition and physique goals.
I would highly recommend working with a nutrition coach if you don’t know where to get started but work out your daily calorie needs. Split your intake between carbs, fat and protein and source those from a wide variety of whole foods (which you actually enjoy) and from there manipulate your calorie intake. If you’re not losing weight when that’s our goals, decrease things here and there slightly. If you are not gaining weight when you’re trying to get huge, increase other inputs in your diet.
The less restrictive a diet is while still being controlled, the more sustainable it becomes which means it is easier to stick to and therefore much more likely to help you reach your goals.
Carbs are good.
Dublin Strength Coach
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