Is It Possible to Lose Fat Eating Carbohydrates?

Is It Possible to Lose Fat Eating Carbohydrates?

We can lose fat eating carbohydrates. Here we tell you how you can lose weight without having to say goodbye to your beloved «carbs».

I constantly receive tweets and emails from people commenting that after weeks spent losing weight they reach a stagnation, or simply lose less weight than before.

At risk of becoming a broken record, I have to say that this process is largely due to two reasons:

  1. By cutting carbohydrates, in the first few days you’ll lose glycogen (the way carbohydrates are stored in our body) and water. Each gram of glycogen retains 3-4g of water, so if 250g of glycogen is lost, you’ll lose 750g of water, giving a total of 1kg without doing anything.
  2. When you cut the calories, your body sets in motion a series of mechanisms to expend fewer calories (survival mechanism), so if before a deficit of 300 calories a day was enough, it now falls short.

Counting calories

Now, let’s get to the point:

The person has seen how cutting carbohydrates has lost weight, and that by maintaining or increasing them, they recover part of the weight lost.

Conclusion? Carbohydrates are the bad guy and fat is what makes you “dry out” by not raising your insulin. Is that really how it works?

Can you lose fat eating carbohydrates?

Time and calories mark the success of the diet; they are key to losing fat.

Anything that helps you improve long-term adherence will result in greater fat loss.

A large proportion of people on very carbohydrate-restrictive diets (such as ketogenic diets) see their desire for high-carbohydrate foods or even sweets increase compared to people on a mixed diet, which will increase the chance of long-term failure.

Some studies1 show that any weight loss achieved is associated with diet duration and calorie restriction, but not with carbohydrate restriction.

Athletes

When we look at the studies, high-fat diets result in greater weight loss compared to a high-carb diet.

Lovers of the ketogenic diet, can stop reading here and follow this link.

What do the studies say?

The problem comes when we see that all these studies are short term2,3,4,5,6, with none passing the 6 months mark.

Obviously, this methodology is not valid, as some observational studies show that people begin to “falter” with the diet from mid-year onwards (just when the trials mentioned above are over).

When we look at studies with a duration of more than 6 months, we see that there is no difference in weight loss between a high carbohydrate or a high fat3.7 diet, as we can see in the following image:

Graphic 1-1

From 6 months onwards, most people on low-carb diets begin to regain weight.

Knowing that time on diets is a key factor, the role of calories now needs to be looked at.

Of course, to lose weight you need to have a calorie deficit (eat less calories than you spend), or in other words, any diet will make you lose weight if you eat less calories.

This means we can consume SUGARS and FATS along with protein and still lose weight.

Fat loss

As we see in the graph above, if our calories are adequate, raising or lowering carbohydrates results in the same amount of fat loss.

Are carbohydrates to blame?

Although many try to base their reasoning on the fact that carbohydrates prevent fat loss by raising insulin, the reality is somewhat different.

It’s true that when insulin rises, the oxidation of “fats” by the cell decreases. That is, every time we put glucose into our body, our cells will use more glucose and less fat.

However, this is only maintained for a few hours (depending on the amount of carbohydrates we consume). After these few hours, our body uses fat without any problem, as the following graph shows:

Evolution

Source: http://www.fitnessreal.es/

From a metabolic point of view, carbohydrate intake raises metabolism 3 times more than fat (Almind & Kahn, 2004).

In fact, it has been observed (in rats) that injecting insulin increases their metabolism and their calorie intake is less8.

The reason this doesn’t happen is those with obesity is because they have a resistance to insulin, or, put another way, the brain doesn’t detect the insulin signal and therefore metabolism is K.O and their sense of satiety is low, but as I repeat, this is only in people who are obese or overweight.

What happens in athletes?

In a person doing weight training, it’s very unlikely that such resistance will occur (unless they are in the triggered volume phase and increases their fat % sharply).

Carbohydrates and palatability

The problem with high-carb diets is their elevated palatability.

In other words, they’re tasty foods, so it becomes very easy to go overboard on calories (especially in those foods with a higher glycemic index and load). On the other hand, we live in an era where food portions have increased, especially for children9.

This combination of factors results in the following

Palatability

It’s not that carbohydrates prevent you from losing fat, but that you’re eating more calories than you need.

Calories VS Carbohydrates

If we look at it this way, we can see that the important factor is the calories and not the amount of carbohydrates we consume (assuming that we have an adequate intake of protein).

In my opinion, and speaking from experience of losing fat, the ideal to to do loads and unloads of fats, a topic that I talk about in almost all my articles and in my fat loss protocol that you can read here.

A high intake of carbohydrates in a timely manner (in people who train), does not result in an increase in our percentage of fat, because most of it will be stored at the muscular and hepatic level, and the possible excess is oxidised by our cells.

Food

Our body is not interested in storing fat because it would make us inefficient, so it increases levels of T3, the sympathetic system and leptin to use calories more easily, or what is the same, our body burns more calories at rest.

This fact is of great importance when it comes to losing fat, because, as I mentioned above, when we do a low-calorie diet, our metabolism slows down and as a consequence our diet stops working..

Diet and REFEEDs

If we compare a common diet of cutting calories and carbohydrates versus a diet with REFEEDs or high carbohydrate days, we get the following:

Diet in time

The REFEED-based diet (red line) kept the metabolism at almost the same levels as when the diet was started, which did not happen when maintaining a low calorie intake.

Conclusions

The type of carbohydrate is going to influence the feeling of satiety in the long run.

The introduction of refined foods (protocol IIFYM, you can see here) can cause us to run out of calories, or even when we get our calorie intake, our mental state can take its toll, making us feel worse, more obsessed with food, or hungry.

In conclusion, we can see how having a moderate carbohydrate intake can lead to the same fat loss as when on a low-carb diet, even when we talk about fat percentages lower than 10%.

So, if it’s more comfortable for you and you feel better to following a moderate carbohydrate diet, go ahead with it, and put the myths aside.

A big hug! S.Espinar

Bibliographic Sources

  1. Popular Diets: A Scientific Review. Marjorie R. Freedman, Janet King, and Eileen Kennedy
  2. A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. Brehm BJ1, Seeley RJ, Daniels SR, D’Alessio DA.
  3. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. Foster GD1, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, McGuckin BG, Brill C, Mohammed BS, Szapary PO, Rader DJ, Edman JS, Klein S.
  4. A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity. Frederick F. Samah
  5. Effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor in overweight adolescents. Sondike SB
  6. Dietary determinants of energy intake and weight regulation in healthy adults. McCrory MA1, Fuss PJ, Saltzman E, Roberts SB.
  7. Effects of central injection of glucose on thermogenesis in normal, VMH-lesioned and genetically obese rats. Le Feuvre RA1, Woods AJ, Stock MJ, Rothwell NJ.
  8. Children’s bite size and intake of an entrée are greater with large portions than with age-appropriate or self-selected. Orlet Fisher J1, Rolls BJ, Birch LL.

Related Entries

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Review of Losing Fat Eating Carbohydrates

Importance of calories - 100%

Carbohydrates aren't to blame - 100%

Studies - 100%

Conclusions - 100%

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About Sergio Espinar
Sergio Espinar
Sergio Espinar is a sport nutritionist, specialized in fat loss and health in women. Coach, professor and speaker in the HSN Fitness School.
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