Should You Count Calories or Carbs?
There are two major schools of thought related to weight loss. The first and most conventional says that
weight loss comes from burning more calories than you
consume - period.
A more modern theory suggests that carbohydrates are actually the culprit behind weight gain, and should be
Which advice should you follow? Let's take a look at each approach to help you decide.
Calories are units of energy that our bodies burn as fuel. If you eat too many calories, the extra units get
stored as fat. Eat too few, and you risk malnutrition, fatigue, and the eventual breakdown of your bodily
Dieters have been counting calories for decades. There is ample scientific data to support the fact
that a calorie deficit results in weight loss. That deficit can be attained through eating less and moving
Your daily caloric requirement depends on your gender, current weight, and level of activity. BMR calculators
can quickly tell you how many calories your body needs to carry out its essential functions.
People who count calories usually combine diet and exercise to produce a deficit of 3500 calories week. A 3500
calorie deficit results in one pound of fat loss.
One benefit of counting calories is that you can eat a variety of foods as long as you stay within your allotted
calories for the day. You can also compensate for special occasions by eating fewer calories on the days leading up
to the splurge.
The theory behind low-carb diets is simple: carbohydrates are the preferred fuel of the human body, so your body
will burn off the carbs you eat before it taps into stored fat. If you don't eat carbs, your body will be forced to
feed off of its fat reserves.
Carb-limited diets can be healthy. There are many diets that emphasize eating the right kinds of carbs, or keeping your total carb
intake below a certain number each day.
There are very few diets that actually advise you to avoid carbs altogether, and even those plans do not advise
you to do so for extended periods of time.
Carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet. They are a quick source of energy, and are low in
calories compared to fat and protein.
There is little evidence to suggest that limiting carbs results in faster fat loss, and even
fewer long-term studies to vouch for the safety of very low-carb diets.
If you're in good general health, you should get 45 - 60% of your daily calories from complex carbohydrates.
Avoid simple sugars, sweets, and anything containing high fructose corn syrup. Get your carbs from whole grain
pastas and breads, vegetables, fruits, and fibrous roots like yams.
Diabetics need to count their carbs, since eating too many carbs of any kind can lead to elevated blood sugar
If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, ask your doctor to recommend a
healthy number of carbohydrates for you.
The Bottom Line
Low-carb diets often result in a dramatic initial weight loss. This is mostly water weight; carbohydrates
attract water molecules, leading to water retention. After the initial loss, the only way to keep losing is to
create a calorie deficit.
If you have a health concern that requires you to limit your carb intake, you will need to count carbs as well
as calories. For everyone else, the weight loss equation is a simple one: burn more than you consume, and you will