In these days of Keto, Atkins, The Zone, and Paleo, a high-carbohydrate diet plan seems like a contradiction. However, yes, you absolutely can lose weight on either a high-fat or a high-carbohydrate diet plan.
However, before you break out the cake, cookies, ice cream, and beer, let’s review what does matter when it comes to burning fat from our body.
First, let’s take a look at the three competitors in the weight loss war of the macros.
War of the Macros: High-Fat, High-Protein, or High-Carb Diet Plan?
Most often you will hear recommendations from officials such as the USDA recommending a “high-carbohydrate diet” plan. Meanwhile, the weight loss industry (and possibly the lady who lives next door to you) will be recommending either a high-fat or a high-protein diet.
So, which of these dieting approaches will culminate in weight loss? Any of them.
When it comes to straightforward weight loss, any diet where you have cut calories below a particular threshold will work. You will lose weight. Furthermore, your weight loss will be compounded if you are also taking in adequate protein. So, if we had to choose a Most Important Macro, protein would be the winner. But, this does not mean that you should be getting most of your calories from protein.
Calories and Protein
Studies consistently demonstrate that the two most important components of a successful diet plan are caloric intake and protein consumption.
Most people do understand that in order to begin burning excess fat from our bodies, we must create a deficit between the energy we are consuming and the energy that we are burning. That deficit is the single most important component of weight loss.
What most people may not know is that in controlled, peer-reviewed studies, findings indicate that those who are on a low-calorie diet AND consuming at least .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight will lose significantly more weight than those who have only cut calories. (Side note: Interestingly, the consumption of dairy protein further boosted weight loss.)
High Fat or High Carbohydrate Diet Plans?
Okay, so we now understand that we HAVE to create a caloric deficit (usually consuming about 1500-2000 calories per day depending upon the person’s needs), and we also understand that within that number of calories we should be getting one gram (four calories) of protein for each pound we weigh.
What about the difference? Should you be eating mostly fat for energy as popular media suggests, or should you be listening to the USDA who suggest that the bulk of your energy should come from carbohydrates?
Studies show that when it comes solely to weight loss, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the individual is healthy, comfortable, and satiated as this will enable them to adhere to their low calorie diet plan and for their body to function properly.
So, let’s examine the ins and outs of both approaches.
A High Fat Diet Plan
A high-fat diet plan can have the participant taking in as much as 50% of their calories from fat. Most officials will not recommend this diet plan, although research does demonstrate that a high-fat diet (with a caloric deficit) will actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and lessen metabolic syndrome overall.
Just as importantly, a high-fat diet is satiating both physically and psychologically. For example, many find a nice rich, high-fat yogurt bar (Clio bars for example) provide a very close experience to eating a piece of cheesecake. While the bar itself is relatively low in calories (due to portion size) and high in dairy protein, it is also high in fat. The overall impact is satisfaction and no further desire to consume calories.
It is for this reason that so many people find a high-fat diet plan works for them.
However, carbohydrates are the energy source of choice for our brain. Furthermore, sources of fat (nuts and seeds aside) do not typically provide much in the way of the vitamins, minerals, or fiber that we must have to function. In addition, fat is higher in calories than carbohydrates; it doesn’t take many Clio bars to suddenly find one’s self beyond their calorie needs for a given day.
A High-Carbohydrate Diet Plan
On the other hand, we have the high-carbohydrate diet. Here we have access to all those wonderful grains, fruits, vegetables …. sugars, cakes, cookies, and soda drinks ….
It’s easy to see why the high-carbohydrate diet is revered as an enemy of weight loss. On one hand, we have highly nutritious, low-calorie foods. When it comes to vegetables, popcorn, and even many fruits, we can eat a fairly large volume of food and still maintain a caloric deficit.
However, when we opt for “junk” foods that contain high calories and very little actual nutrition, we are thwarting our own goals and health.
Firstly, that tally of calories goes up fast. Secondly, our body must address the sudden influx of deadly sugar circulating in the blood. It begins removing the sugar as quickly as possible, usually storing it as fat. Unfortunately, our bodies further realize they are still hungry. Partially because all the sugar in our blood was removed and partially because our food choices lacked nutrition. Our bodies still need precious vitamins, minerals, and fiber to perform day-to-day tasks, including fueling a healthy metabolism.
The result is hunger. Yup, eat a bunch of junk food, and you will be left hungry. That’s just how it is.
So, what is the answer? I recommend a little flexibility and choosing the option that works best for your body the majority of the time.
A High-Carbohydrate Diet Plan That Works?
Most dieticians will recommend moderation and balance because that is what ultimately is going to work. Our bodies are amazing at maintaining homeostasis; it is mandatory for our functionality and health. Therefore, any extreme weight loss measures are met with counter measures by the body … much the way a pendulum pulled high in one direction will immediately swing high in the opposite direction. You can find more tips for maintaining steady weight loss here.
We need the whole food sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that come from complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread or pasta, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These foods are absolutely necessary, and supplements are not the best solution. Furthermore, our brains and muscles rely on glucose (processed carbohydrate) for optimal performance.
We also need good sources of fat. Fat plays a vital role throughout the body, and Omega 3 fatty acids are a major combatant of inflammation. In addition, many essential vitamins are fat-soluble (actually requiring fat to be used.) And of course, fat provides satiety.
Enjoy A Balanced Fat and Carbohydrate Diet Plan
If you want to wake up in six months (or six years) and be the healthiest and leanest you that you can be, concentrate on creating a deficit between the calories you are consuming and the calories you are burning. Of those calories that you are consuming, make sure that you are getting four calories (or one gram) of protein per pound of your body weight. Then, divide up your remaining calories between fat and carbohydrate as you see fit, keeping in mind that you need vitamins, minerals, and fiber for your health and to satisfy your true hunger.
There are many calorie and macro counters available online. The most popular calorie counters at this time are the My Fitness Pal and Avatar Nutrition apps.
The My Fitness Pal app is easier to use for those just starting out and offers a free version. The Avatar Nutrition app is more complex and visually more difficult to navigate. Avatar also costs $10 per month to use. However, if you really like to get into the nuts and bolts of your diet, Avatar really does offer all the information you could want to see, along with an option to scan the barcodes of foods straight into the app. Furthermore, the Avatar app allows you to adjust between energy sources from fat and carbohydrate.