In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a fat-free and low-fat diet trend. Bodybuilders avoided fat when dieting down. Snack foods started carrying the low or no fat label to improve sales. The worst part was the increase in refined sugar use.
Americans heard “fats are bad,” so they assumed carbs were good. There are two problems with this: fat is not bad. It’s necessary to balance your hormones and keep your heart in good health via omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The other problem: the nation took the carbs are good statement way over the top and starting eating loads of sugar.
We rode the crest of the wave with carbs back then; now we’re in the trough. Everything is about low-carb today. The ketogenic diet has exploded. Even fruit has been demonized.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Nope, apples are bad because carbs” -Ketogenic Dieters
I don’t know about you, but statements like that are an obvious red flag to me.
My issue with low-carb dieting stems from two main things.
1. Low carb diets typically promote increased fat intake
This is detrimental to big eaters who are trying to lose weight — 1g of carbs is 4 calories and 1g of fat is 9 calories. What’s even worse? Fat elicits the smallest metabolic response by far. Only about 5% of the calories consumed from fat are burned via the thermogenic effect of digestion.
Carbs though? Carbs can burn up to 25% of the calories they contain simply through digestion. It’s the fibrous and complex carbs that accomplish this. Do the math. That means smart carb choices will only net 3 calories at the end of the day, while the same amount of fat nets 8.55 calories. That’s almost 3 times as many calories you get from fat! So, by the gram, carbs have fewer than half the calories fat has AND, when chosen smartly, can burn more than twice the amount of calories by simply digesting them. So why does everyone go low-carb to lose weight? I don’t know man. Carbs are good.
Well, that’s only half true. I do know why people go low carb: because it produces fast “results.” Cut out carbs, and you WILL lose weight fast. I can’t lie.
The problem: that weight is not fat and will immediately return as soon as you eat a sodium-filled, high-carb cheat meal. So, unless you never want to eat carbs again, that weight is going to come back (just as fast as it came off) and it’s going to be disappointing since you will have thought you lost weight.
The explanation: that weight you lost was simply your body depleting itself of glycogen (your body’s means of storing carbohydrate in the muscle). Stop eating carbs and these stores deflate. In other words, you have just as much fat on you whether you are glycogen-depleted or not; I don’t care how much the number on the scale goes down.
It’s also worth noting that you’ll be mentally cloudy and grumpy since your brain functions almost entirely on carbohydrates. Not to mention you will feel physically weak and sluggish since your muscles will be running on fumes.
The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. Keep reading for the explanation.
2. People like and crave carbs
How do you expect to stick to your diet for any decent length of time if you cut out all of your favorite foods?
If you’re losing weight, your body is going to crave foods. The best approach, in my opinion, is to incorporate those foods you crave just a little bit every day. Yes, that means eating a cookie if you’re dying for a cookie. Otherwise, cheat day is going to hit and you’re going to down two and a half boxes of Oreos because “it doesn’t count.”
Ever hear that your body can’t process all the calories you consume on cheat day? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. The human body is incredibly efficient in fact. Believe me, I’ve eaten 10,000+ calories on multiple occasions (the silly things I do to get views on Youtube…) and you bet I gained 2-3 pounds each time after the initial bloating went away.
Fortunately, I know how weight loss works so losing that weight is easy. How does it work? Well, I already said: by burning more calories than you consume. Forget the whole cutting carbs thing. Think about it like this. Calories are energy. The first law of thermodynamics states energy cannot be created or destroyed. If you eat X calories, you either burn them via physical activity or store them via fat storage.
If you are engaging in physical activity and the number of calories you consumed was insufficient to supply the energy you needed to perform that activity, guess where your body gets the extra energy it needs? The energy stored on itself, AKA your fat stores.
I’ll say it one more time to drill it into your head: you have to be eating in a calorie deficit to lose weight.
In fact, you can lose weight eating Twinkies and Doritos. Don’t believe me? Look up the Twinkie diet. A nutrition professor at Kansas State University, Mark Haub, ran an experiment on himself to prove the point that calories determine weight loss. He restricted himself to 1800 calories daily for 10 weeks eating only Twinkies and Doritos. The result? He lost 27 lbs, decreased his LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) by 20%, and increased his HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) by 20%. Guess what Twinkies and Doritos are primarily composed of? Carbs. If someone told you that carbs are the key to weight loss, they lied.
I’m not saying to eat like he did – at least not for every meal. Despite improvements in his LDL and HDL cholesterol, Twinkies and Doritos are obviously not healthy foods. He went to an extreme to prove the commonly overlooked law of weight loss: you must be burning more energy than you are consuming in order to lose weight that stays off.
I suggest increasing your healthy carb intake: fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, whole grain breads and pastas. Not only will this kill your cravings, promoting diet longevity and consistency. It will allow you to eat more at the end of the day.
Why do we take diet to extremes?
Avoid carbs. Avoid fats. What ever happened to eating a balanced diet?
It’s all because people want results fast. Nobody wants to exercise. Nobody wants to diet. Nobody wants to work to lose weight. They overlook the fact that it took them years to pack on the extra 10, 20, 30, 40 pounds and think they’re going to lose it in a couple weeks. While it won’t take years to lose that weight (if done right), it’s going to take months.
I know this article will get a bad rap from some low-carb dieters out there because people simply cannot accept that their way isn’t the best way. I never said low-carb doesn’t work. My issue is that low-carb dieters will tell me it’s the only thing that works.
The one and only requirement you need to lose weight is this: eat fewer calories than you burn.
Science doesn’t lie. I promise it works.
Featured photo credit: flyingbanzini.com via flyingbanzini.com