Is it necessary to cut carbs to lose weight? On this episode of The WERD, we’re looking at the evidence behind low-carb diets and weight loss.
These days it seems like everyone is afraid of the big bad carb, but ask a lot of people, and they couldn’t even tell you which foods have carbs!
First up, let’s clear up what a carbohydrate is.
Carbs are life-sustaining molecules that provide energy for our bodies and brains.
Our brains run primarily on the carbohydrate or sugar molecule, glucose, and when there’s not enough in the diet, our body actually converts other molecules like protein and fat into glucose.
Carbohydrates and Weight Loss
Research does not support the idea that you need to cut carbs to lose weight.
Studies show that any diet will help you lose weight (at least initially) and the most important factor is a decrease in overall calories, not in a certain macronutrient profile.
That’s because any macronutrient – carbs, protein, or fat – can be converted by our bodies into fat tissue when we eat too much overall.
In fact, people who eat high-carb, plant-based diets usually weigh less on average than people eating lower-carb diets.
This is likely because plant-based diets tend to be lower in overall calories and higher in satiety-inducing components like fiber.
Fiber and Weight Loss
Satiety, or the feeling of fullness, plays a major role in our ability to manage weight. If you feel full and satisfied after a meal, you’re less likely to overeat.
Eating foods rich in fiber maximizes satiety.
One study found that participants eating a high-carb plant-based diet, with about 75% of calories coming from carbohydrates, lost about 13 pounds on average compared to those eating a standard diet – without any caloric restriction.
Therefore, we want to maximize satiety at meals.
This is done by balancing macronutrients at every meal and including a good source of protein, healthy fat, and the right kind of carbohydrates, those that are rich in fiber.
This includes whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.
Low-Carb Diets and Weight Loss
I want to add that while low-carb diets often result in rapid initial weight loss, it’s typically fat-free mass that’s lost.
This means body weight from water or lean muscle tissue versus adipose tissue.
This is because as the body depletes its glycogen stores (the storage molecule for glucose), it also releases water.
Finally, low-carb diets can actually be detrimental to long-term health.
Studies show that low-carb dieters have a higher intake of foods associated with poor health like red and processed meat and saturated fat and a lower intake of health-promoting nutrients like fiber.
This is because fiber is only found in plant foods and plants have carbs, hence, low-carb dieters often avoid them.
A low fiber diet not only jeopardizes gut health, since fiber is what fuels a healthy microbiome, but it also puts people at risk of other chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
And that’s The WERD.
Weigh-in: Have you heard that you need to cut carbs to lose weight?
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