You’ve heard about low-carb diets and how they’re better – or worse, or equal to – low-fat diets for losing weight. If every report is different, how do you know what’s best?
The rise in popularity of low-carb and keto diets has led to many research papers comparing these to the more widely-accepted low-fat diets. The results are varied, but there are excellent reasons for the variations.
The first is the problem of defining ‘low’. Whether it’s low-carb, low-fat or low-anything else, the word lacks clarity and can be used purely to compare it to another number. Let’s be clear: to maintain your current weight the “dietary guidelines recommend that carbs provide 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake. So if you eat a 2000-calorie diet, you should aim for about 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day.”
On this basis, a low-carb diet could have a daily carb intake anywhere from 20g – 200g per day. A ten-fold difference! If losing weight is a goal, at 200g carb per day you’d rightly be looking for an alternate diet. You will get much faster results eating around 20 to 100 grams of carbs per day, depending on the needs of your body.
The second reason for variation in results is in the amount of protein consumed. If you’re comparing low-carb to low-fat, it makes sense that the protein intake is the same in the two diets. This is not always the case.
It’s unfortunate that low-carb diets are often confused with high-protein diets. When protein intake is too high for your body’s needs, the excess is converted into glucose. Glucose, of course, is a simple form of carbohydrate, so a high protein eating pattern can inadvertently increase the amount of carb consumed. Aren’t our bodies marvellous?
Instead of filling up with protein when going low-carb, a better strategy is to keep the protein about the same but increase your fat. This works in reverse for a low-fat diet: reducing fat makes people hungry, and so they need to increase their carbs.
In essence, keeping protein consistent means that you’ll be choosing between a low-fat high-carb diet, or a low-carb high-fat diet.
The third reason, and this is actually a problem, is how these diets are composed. A low-fat diet could consist of lean meats, vegetables, fruits, breads and dairy. It could also consist of lollies, diet foods and soft drinks. Both eating patterns achieve the low-fat goal.
Similarly, a low-carb diet could consist of meat, vegetables, nuts, cheese and some fruit, or of steak, bacon, and eggs.
The similarities between the two diets can be summarised as consisting mainly of meats and vegetables – ie protein and low-carb foods. The differences lie in the extra fats or carbs that are added.
Individual differences. Some people manage better on one diet over another. Their body responds better, they cope better psychologically, and their weight loss results are easier.
So, how do you know what will work for you? Some people have a good idea. Others don’t. The secret is that regardless of what your brain thinks, your body knows. How your body responds to any eating pattern is the marker of the suitability of the food choices made by your brain and taste buds.
For help in determining the right eating pattern for your body, fill in your details for a 7-Day Women’s Wellness Program, or give us a call or drop in to your nearest centre. Our ICT Reset program or our Great Shape program can help you get into the best shape and health of your life.