Low Carb Diets - Do You Really Need To Cut Out Carbs To Lose Weight?

Just to clarify, food quality does matter, I'm not saying calories are all that matter. But you need to understand that calorie balance needs to be taken into account, or you'll hit a roadblock.
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The below was originally posted in a blog on www.samkwhitaker.com

Low carb diets are becoming increasingly popular these days.

I'm sure many of you have heard about someone who's tried a low carb diet, maybe you've tried it yourself. It's almost become the trendy thing to do. But why? What's all the fuss about?

I think it partly comes down to our urge to simplify things down to absolutes; yes or no, good or bad, black or white.

With many people beginning to understand that dietary fat isn't the evil it was once thought, something else needs to take it's place.

If popularity is anything to go by, dietary carbohydrates seem to have taken the place of fat to be blamed for the obesity problem. At least in some circles.

So, is cutting out carbs necessary to lose weight?

In short, no.

Can cutting out carbs help you lose weight?


Let me explain a little further...

To lose weight, first you need to create an energy imbalance.

Put another way, you need to consume less calories than you burn. Yep, those pesky little things called calories come into it.

Why low carb diets can work

If cutting carbohydrates out of your diet means you inadvertently consume fewer calories, then bingo, you will lose weight.

And in studies that don't tightly control food intake, low carb diets seem to work really well. But it's because they help people reduce their caloric intake, not because carbs are bad, carbs make you fat or anything like that.

The reality is, carbs tend to make up a high % of many peoples diet. So when they're told to cut out carbs, in most cases, it automatically reduces the amount of food they eat and therefore their caloric intake.

Many hyper palatable foods, (foods that are so deliciously awesome you struggle to stop eating them), are high in carbohydrates. So cutting out carbs will remove many of these hyper palatable foods from your diet. Therefore, reducing the chance of you overeating many deliciously awesome foods.

The power of protein

A side effect of ditching carbs is that it tends to increase someones protein intake by limiting food choices. Which is another reason why in free living studies low carb diets do so well.

Increasing your protein intake can cause you to eat less without realising. This is because protein fills you up more than any other nutrient.

So if you can maintain this way of eating for an extended period of time you'll likely be successful in reaching your weight loss goals. And it might be a really good approach for you to take.

Where low carb diets go wrong

However, if you find it difficult to stick to a low carb diet, for whatever reason, long term success will be hampered.

If you feel restricted or deprived by limiting your food choices to low carb options only, then you're less likely to be able to maintain this way of eating long enough to benefit from the reduced caloric intake.

A flaw that's common in people that fanatically promote a low carb approach, is that they think carbs are the single cause of weight gain. And keeping carbs in the diet will prevent weight loss.

If someone holds this belief, it's not unusual for them to completely overlook & disregard the role calories play. Combine this belief with the increased hunger that's inevitable on any diet, then it's easy to see how they might start eating more.

The disappearing advantage

So the low carb diet that helped them eat fewer calories to start with, turns into a low carb diet that no longer helps them eat fewer calories.

The advantage gained from cutting out carbs just vanished.

So while cutting out carbs can be a viable option to lose weight, just know that it won't always work out in the long run. It might do, but it's not a guarantee. Or a necessity.

With all that said, if you want to lose weight, the chances are you'll probably have to reduce your carbohydrate intake. But doing so is just a method of reducing your caloric intake.

As I mentioned above, many people's diets are comprised of a high % of carbohydrates. So it's almost by default that you'd reduce your carbohydrate intake, as a way to reduce your caloric intake.

(Please note the use of the word reduce rather than cut out.)

The calories need to be reduced from somewhere. And considering the advantages on satiety protein has, (among others), it probably shouldn't come from protein.

That leaves carbs & fat to reduce calories from. So it should be left to personal preference, the individuals situation, goals etc whether or not a low carb approach is a good choice.

Why am I telling you this?

I want to help you realise that carbs aren't the devil. They're not the primary cause of weight gain and you don't have to cut out all the carbs from your diet.

Viewed with the belief that carbs are to blame for the obesity problem, it's easy to run into trouble on your weight loss journey. And I want to help you along that journey with as few bumps in the road as possible.

If you believe dietary carbohydrates are the single reason you're overweight, and all you need to do to is cut them out, you're completely disregarding what really matters - calorie balance.

Without being aware of the role calories play in weight loss, you could be left confused & frustrated you're not making progress.

Just to clarify, food quality does matter, I'm not saying calories are all that matter. But you need to understand that calorie balance needs to be taken into account, or you'll hit a roadblock.

The above was originally posted in a blog on www.samkwhitaker.com

Take home

  • Dietary carbohydrates aren't the single cause of weight gain
  • Don't think of carbohydrates themselves as good or bad
  • Low carb diets can, and do, work
  • A low carb diet isn't always necessary to lose weight
  • A low carb approach can go wrong if you don't take calories into account
  • Food quality matters but so do calories