Should I Count Calories or Carbs and Fat to Lose Weight
So what’s more important? They’re both important.
However, the over- riding factor for whether you gain, lose or maintain weight is calories in vs. calories out.
Plain and simple, if you eat more calories than you burn in a day/ week/ month/ year, you’re going to gain weight no matter what combination of macronutrients (protein/ fat/ carbs) you eat.
If you eat less calories than you burn over the same period of time, you’re going to lose weight.
If you’re a beginner, this is the number 1 principle you need to know. It really is that simple to get started. (Pssst. Start a food journal, it’s the most important tool in your arsenal and it’ll help you keep track of your calories)
As you progress in your dieting journey, (as you get closer to your ideal weight) macronutrient ratio comes into play.
For example, lets say you’re a month into your weight loss program. You’re following a solid exercise program and you’re on a 1,800 calorie per day diet. Where the 1,800 calories will make a difference.
The macronutrients; protein, fat and carbohydrate have different physiological effects on the body. Meaning, when and how much of each that you eat can make a difference in your body composition (fat loss).
For simplicity’s sake, lets take 2 different macronutrient ratios:
A. 1,800 Total Calories
40% of total calories from Protein
30% of total calories from Fat
30% of total calories from Carbohydrate
B. 1,800 Total Calories
20% of total calories from Protein
10% of total calories from Fat
70% of total calories from Carbohydrate
As you can see, the total calories exactly the same. However, for someone trying to lose body fat, choice A will be more effective than choice B.
This is due to how your body reacts to and assimilates the macronutrients (Protein, fat and carbs). Lets take a look at how they affect your body composition:
Carbohydrate metabolism. The amount and type of carbohydrate (70% of total calories vs. 30%) will make a huge difference in fat storage, and fat utilization for fuel.
Fat intake. Dietary fat has gotten a bad rap over the years, and it seems like the powers that be are finally waking up to the facts. Eating fat does not make you fat. On the contrary, it can be your biggest asset in losing body fat.
So how does eating fat help you LOSE body fat?
Eating fat can help you in several ways. First of all, it satiates you. This means a meal with a higher amount of fat and a lower amount of carbohydrate will stave off feeling hungry for a longer period of time. Fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrate.
Fat also stabilizes insulin levels, whereas a higher carbohydrate meal will raise insulin levels quickly, and then soon after, your blood sugar levels plummet.
This is that phenomena where you feel like you’ve just eaten not too long ago, but damnit, you’re hungry! The truth is, your body has enough fuel, but the high carb meal threw your system out of whack and you think it’s time to eat again.
Think of the fuel gauge in your car. Lets say you just filled the tank and you’re hitting the road. An hour into your trip, the fuel tank is on empty. You know there’s fuel in the tank, but the gauge is telling you otherwise. If you go to fill the tank up again, fuel can spill out and go to waste.
The body is smarter than that. Mistakenly sensing your body’s fuel tank is empty, you go to fuel up again by eating. The body doesn’t actually need the fuel, so it’s going to store it for future use. What may that storage area be? Body fat.
By lowering your carbs and increasing your fat intake at each meal, you avoid this fat storage scenario.
So what about protein?
Protein is the Golden Boy. Every cell in your body is made of protein. Every biochemical process that happens in your body needs protein. That how important it is.
As far as it’s effect on your body composition, it has a huge impact.
A) Protein is needed to make muscle fiber. Muscle fiber is your body’s natural Fat Burning Furnace. For this reason alone, protein is king.
B) Protein satiates you– in combination with fat, it works wonders when you’re dieting. Protein also takes longer than carbohydrate to digest, leaving you feeling fuller, longer.
C) Protein has a high TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) rating, meaning the body burns many calories simply in the process of breaking down the protein foods you eat- adding to your caloric deficit
D) Protein is comprised of amino acids, which are used as the building blocks for your hormones and neurotransmitters. What’s this got to do with fat loss? Well, having a healthy hormonal and neurotransmitter profile affects your mood in many good ways, which include keeping you in a balanced state of mind while dieting (less cravings). They also keep your tolerance high, which means they bolster your “stick to it- ness”.
Protein should be eaten with every meal (with a bulk of your total protein intake being consumed in a liquid form surrounding the workout).
To wrap up the key points regarding “Should I Count Calories or Carbs and Fat to Lose Weight?”
1) They’re both important, but as a beginner, keep it simple and focus on taking in less calories than you’re burning each day.
2) Once you’re more familiar with proper eating for fat loss, start manipulating your carbohydrate and fat intake while keeping an eye on calorie count.
3) Eat protein at every meal!