Low Fat Versus Low Carb: Which Is Best For You?
If you’re considering starting a fat loss diet plan, one question that you may be wondering is which diet you should use. You’ve heard two different stories. Some people say that going on a very low fat diet is the route to go. Fat is evil, they often claim, citing that eating dietary fat will just lead to rapid fat gain. As such, it should be avoided at all costs. On the other side of the fence, you have the low carb campers. These are those who don’t fear fat but rather, think that carbs are the enemy. If you can avoid carbs, it’s the route to slimming success.
Who’s right? The reality is that there’s no clear answer to these and in fact, they both might be wrong. Let’s look at what you need to know.
First things first, the number one thing that you need to remember when it comes to fat loss dieting is that each and every person is different. Just as you may love digging into pickled eggs – a favorite from when you were young – others simply look at you in disgust as you eat this food. You have your preferences, they have theirs. No two people are exactly alike. The same applies for dieting. Some individuals will find that they feel excellent when putting themselves on a lower carb diet. They don’t have any problem with energy levels, they don’t suffer from food cravings and the fat practically melts off.
For others, it’s not the same story. The minute they go on low carb diets their brain craves pasta, cookies, and bread 24/7 and their energy level plummets to an all-time low. In fact, some people may find they can’t even think clearly while on these plans. They know one thing for certain and that is that low carb dieting is not for them. And this is fine. Success with fat loss is about learning your own body and recognising what works for you, not your best friend, significant other, or workout buddy. If you feel miserable going low carb, don’t force yourself to go on a diet plan that calls for this, as you are just setting yourself up for failure.
What’s the best way to determine whether you will or won’t do well on a low carb or low fat approach? Consider this scenario. You come home after a day of work to find a delicious meal prepared for you. It’s a full plate of pasta with freshly made tomato sauce along with two slices of garlic bread. You dig in – polishing off your food. How do you feel after this? Do you feel energized and like you could go do an intense workout? Or do you feel more like the couch is calling your name? If it’s the former, you’re likely someone who will do very well on a lower fat diet plan as your body tends to react very well to carbohydrate consumption. If, on the other hand, you’re someone who wants to go crash after such a meal, you can’t handle carbs all that well and would find you do far better on a lower carb meal plan instead. Use this as a rough guideline.
Your Activity Level Matters
The next thing to remember is that your activity level matters. Are you someone who’s doing intense exercise four to five days a week? If so, this too is something to take into account. You need carbohydrates to fuel intense exercise, there’s simply no way around it. If you aren’t giving your body those carbohydrates, you won’t be working out like you hope to. The higher your activity level is, the more carbs you’ll need in your nutrition plan. Those who aren’t all that active or are just doing steady state cardio training a couple times a week will be fine doing a lower carb approach without too much trouble. This is an important consideration that too many people miss out. They start up on a very low carb diet and keep up their workouts as normal and after two weeks, they’re so low in energy they can hardly get out of bed in the morning.
The reason is because at this point, all muscle glycogen (which is the storage form of carbohydrates in the muscle tissue) has been depleted and it was not replenished with incoming carbohydrates. They’ve essentially ‘hit the wall’, so to speak with their energy. If you don’t want to use a higher carb diet but still plan on doing intense workouts on a regular basis, it will be critical that on at least one day, you eat a very high carbohydrate diet in order to replenish that lost muscle glycogen.
Don’t Neglect The Importance Of Nutrition
Which brings us to another point you need to consider – nutrition. Remember that even though your primary goal may be to shed excess body fat, this isn’t or shouldn’t be your only goal. You also want to promote health as best as possible. What’s the best way to promote health? Make sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet. This means taking in sufficient vitamins and minerals in order to give your body the nutrients that it requires. If you are going too low carb, you may find yourself completely eliminating fresh fruits and vegetables, which are some of the healthiest foods you can consume and will go a long way towards preventing disease.
On the flip side, if you are going on a very low fat diet plan, you’ll be missing out on all the nutrients that come with dietary fat and may struggle to absorb the fat soluble vitamins, vitamin A, D, E, and K. What’s more is that if you aren’t consuming sufficient dietary fat, you may also notice that you are struggling to maintain proper hormonal function and this can have negative impacts such as decreasing your libido or causing issues with infertility. In males, it can also cause your testosterone level to drop significantly, which as you might imagine, is very detrimental to your overall well-being. Without adequate testosterone levels, males will notice a great loss in muscular strength, increased rates of fat gain, and they simply won’t feel like their normal selves. In order to meet your nutritional requirements, you should never be going to any extreme.
Finding The Middle Ground
Which brings us to the final recommendation – finding the middle ground. Note that going very low carb or ultra low fat is not recommended. You need those nutrients in your diet to sustain health, energy levels, and activity. This said, you can certainly decrease one macronutrient if need be in order to get to your desired calorie deficit level. It’s expected that some of these nutrients will have to come down in order to see fat loss. As a general guideline, avoid making your fat intake any lower than 0.3 grams per pound of body weight for an extended period of time (more than a couple weeks, if dieting for the long term) and aim to keep your carbohydrate intake to at least 50-80 grams per day. This will be the proper levels to at least supply you with the minimal nutrition that you need to keep your body feeling healthy. As you lower your intake of these, also keep in mind the fact that you will want to be choosing the healthiest foods possible to maximise your nutritional benefits.
If you strictly eat unhealthy forms of carbohydrates, like the refined sugary types to make up those 50-80 grams, you won’t be reaping any benefit. Instead, fill up those carbohydrates with vegetables and fruits first and then if you still have room left over, add in some wholesome grains, beans, and lentils.
Likewise, with the fat content, choose unsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids first and foremost. This means foods such as salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, nut butters, olive oil, and avocado’s. These will give you your best ‘bang for your buck’ so to speak, maximising your nutrition with the calories you are consuming. Then if you have calorie room after that, you can add in some healthier types of saturated fat, which is needed in small amounts for testosterone regulation. Good sources here would be whole eggs, grass-fed meats and coconut oil.
So there you have the information to keep in mind when answering the question as to whether you should be going on a lower fat or lower carb diet plan. Note that you should never take either to the extreme. Rather, look at which type of nutrients you tend to feel best eating more of in your diet and then simply emphasise it, making sure that you are taking in adequate amounts of each of them while optimising your food selection. If you do this, you will find that you see the perfect rate of fat loss for your body and enjoy the process that much more too.