You Can Eat Carbs AND Still Lose Weight

Let me start this off with, if you are running a low or no carb diet option, and it’s providing you with the results you want, and you’re feeling good then keep doing you, don’t worry about changing what YOU like just because some guy on the internet told you to. BUT, for the vast majority of people, I know they don’t want to cut carbs out of their diet, but every single media outlet is making it seem like it’s the only way to lose weight. So today I’m here to defend the poor little macronutrient that got thrown under the bus with little to no rhyme or reason as to why whatsoever.

1. You Don’t Need to Cut Carbs

Cutting straight to the point, you DO NOT need to cut carbohydrates out of your diet to lose weight. In fact, weight loss is completely independent of “macronutrient balance” (amount of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins you are eating in a given day). The only and I mean the ONLY true factor that matters in weight loss is whether or not you are in a “calorie deficit” (eating less calories than your total daily energy expenditure of calories, also known as maintenance calories). IF you are in a calorie deficit you WILL lose weight overtime, that’s it, it’s that simple (just easier said than done is all). Any balance of the three macronutrients (as long as the calorie deficit is the same across the board) will lead to the same net result of weight loss. Believe it or not you would be able to lose weight on a diet composed completely of fats. That’s right, you could lose bodyfat, eating only fat, pretty crazy right?

2. Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Now just because you could theoretically lose weight this way does not mean I’m going to recommend it. For one you’ll feel awful and lowkey possibly die, and secondly, it’s a balance of all three macronutrients that keep us nice and healthy, and all our cellular processes running smoothly. The main issue with cutting carbohydrates out of your diet is that their major role in the body is as our body’s NUMBER ONE source of energy. When it comes to providing energy, there simply isn’t a better option than carbohydrates. Yes, our body has a process to break down fat into glucose for energy, and even one to break down proteins (our own muscles) into glucose in cases of starvation. Unfortunately, these just aren’t as efficient as breaking down carbohydrates for glucose. For most people this means when they switch to a low or no carb diet they become sluggish, more irritable, and simply experience an overall loss of energy.

The two most important aspects of a weight loss diet are that one, they put the individual in a caloric deficit, and two the individual is able to adhere to the diet for long enough periods of time to lose weight. Adherence tends to be poor when the diet is causing an individual an outcome as negative as loss of energy. Secondly, if the individual who wants to lose weight is an athlete, or training in any sort of way, their overall performance during training is going to suffer. And it’s for these two reasons I don’t recommend running a low to no carb diet. This loss of energy might be acceptable if cutting carbs out of one’s diet did lead to improved weight loss or some other comparable benefit but unfortunately there just isn’t one there. This means there’s no innate benefit of cutting carbohydrates out of one’s diet, but there IS a very real negative to cutting them out.

3. Why The Carb Hate?

So why all the negative press on carbohydrates if there’s no true benefit to cutting them out, AND they are our bodies first choice when it comes to providing energy? In MY opinion, it is an idea that was good at it’s inception, but has turned into something rather extreme. The main issue with carbohydrates is we are able to eat a significant amount of calories in carbohydrates without experiencing satiety in terms of appetite (Think about all those pasta dishes, and bread baskets, how easy is it to plow through those without even thinking?). So the idea at the start was limiting your intake of these kinds of dishes, and adding in some lean proteins to try and help with overall satiety which I agree with. However, somewhere along the way this idea took a turn for the worse and we started to develop this idea that carbohydrates were innately bad and we should just cut them out of our diet completely. This is where I disagree.

In tackling the issue of carbohydrates we have to understand that they aren’t super filling. Even the more “complex” carbohydrates vs. the simple sugar carbohydrates just won’t help satiety as much as a lean protein would. And that is the exact solution to the issue. You want the carbohydrates in your diet to provide you with ample energy, but you don’t want to overindulge, so just pair your carbohydrates with something more filling like that lean protein that we mentioned, and maybe even some low starch veggies that will also help aid satiety without accruing a big calorie intake.

4. It’s About What Works for YOU

Like I said above your macronutrient balance does NOT matter for weight loss (keep in mind macronutrient balance IS important for other areas of physiological health, an obvious example being protein’s important in the muscle building/repair process). But the fact that we don’t have to worry too much about the balance of macronutrient’s for weight loss means you are free to play around with how many carbs, proteins, and fats you are eating. Experiment and see what works for you, maybe a higher protein diet will leave you feeling more full overall, maybe you need to bump up your carbohydrates to leave yourself feeling a bit more energized, maybe you are fine on your low carb diet and you don’t need to change anything at all, you won’t find out until you try! The key here is that everything is going to be specific to YOU. There is no one size fits all diet, and there is no “BEST DIET EVER” and there probably never will be, we are all far too unique in terms of our physiology for one solution to work for everybody. Take the time to do some experimenting and make that diet that works for you. Carbohydrates are not your enemy, and in fact, they will probably do you some good.  Oh, and don’t forget about those fat’s, you need those in your diet too, but that’s a different conversation.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.