Low Carb Diets Or Calorie Cutting Which Is Best?
Low carb diets vs. calorie cutting – which is right for me?
If you’re looking to lose weight, chances are at some point you’ve mulled over the eternal dilemma ‘should I be counting calories or cutting out carbs?’ In this article we delve deeper into the debate – join us as we explore the ultimate fat loss dilemma.
The Calorie/Carb Debate
While calorie counting used to be de rigueur for anyone looking to shed the pounds, recent years have seen carbs rise to the fore as a key factor stopping weight loss.
The premise of calorie counting is the notion that you should be burning more calories than you consume. Makes sense, right? Traditionally, in order to lose weight people would set a goal for daily calorie consumption, often along the lines of cutting 500 calories a day (which would see weekly fat loss of a pound on average).
The advantages of this method is that it’s easy to monitor your daily calorie intake given the increasing simplicity of food labelling. Low calorie diets can also help ease serious health conditions like heart failure and high blood pressure.
Yet calorie counting comes with its share of risk, too – this approach can sometimes mean that your overall nutritional needs are neglected, while taking things too far and restricting calorie intake to less than 1,500 can be a dangerous way to lose weight.
Carb counting, meanwhile, involves monitoring the amount of starchy, refined and carb-heavy foods that you’re putting away. This is important because foods like this are the biggest source of fat and empty calories in most of our diets.
Like calorie counting, the approach you take to carbohydrate counting depends upon your daily carb target. One option could be to get around 45% of your daily calorie intake each day from carbohydrates. If you eat 1,800 calories per day, this would be about 810 calories from carbs to split across meals, say 45g for three meals per day and 30g for two snacks.
Which Should I Be Focusing On?
While we think it’s crucial to bear both carbs and calories in mind if you’re serious about transforming your body shape – as both are super important to maintaining healthy fat levels – we’d recommend staying focused on carbs.
Why? Because many of us already receive a huge chunk of our day-to-day calorie consumption form carbs, so cutting down in this area will see accelerated results, as you’ll automatically be consuming less calories. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, really.
Backed By Research
In 2006 a group of researchers set out to answer this very question, collating five controlled studies that compared calorie counting and controlled carbohydrate intake.
They revealed that after six months, across the board subjects that had been put on low-carbohydrate diets lost considerably more weight – on average between seven and 11 more pounds than those on a low-fat, low-calorie plan.
So what happens in terms of total calories consumed for people on low carb diets? In the majority of these studies participants weren’t encouraged to restrict overall calories, but to eat until satisfied. They found that as a result of eating fewer carbohydrates, participants ate more protein and fats – this is important as both of these nutrients signal to the body that you’re full. This means that filling up on these nutrients sees you eating fewer calories overall.
The Bottom Line
In short, research has proven that eating fewer carbohydrates tends to see you eating less calories overall, because as a result of this you’ll focus on eating foods that leave you feeling sated. That’s why we have to recommend the controlled carbohydrate approach.
But there’s no reason by you have to be stringent – monitoring both carbs and calories and eating with moderation is a perfectly valid choice, too.
As with anything, common sense is key here, and the most important thing is that you choose a diet plan that fits around you and your lifestyle. If you can’t live without carbs, for example, then even the best-intentioned carb-cutting effort will go off the rails as some point, so focus your efforts on something you can stick to. If that’s calorie cutting, then so be it.
But if you think you can stick it out, get watching those carbohydrates.