Is that possible to lose weight with carbohydrates?
While it used to be the fats you had to avoid to lose weight, nowadays carbohydrates are often seen as the main culprit. Many diets claim that you automatically lose fat if you cut all carbohydrates from your menu. And vice versa, if you keep eating carbohydrates, you would be more likely to develop cancer and all sorts of other nasty diseases. Not surprising, so, if you now look with a little suspicion at your familiar brown sandwich! But can you really only lose weight without carbohydrates? Or is weight loss also possible if you continue to eat bread, pasta, fruit and legumes?
How do you lose weight?
To answer that question, let’s first look at the basics. How does that actually work, losing weight? Contrary to popular belief today, it’s all about calories in the end. If you eat more than you consume, your body stores the surplus as fat. If you eat less, those fat reserves will be used and you will lose weight. In principle, it makes little difference where those calories come from.
That may seem strange, because many popular weight loss programs never actually mention those dreaded calories. Instead, your food gets ‘points’, for example, or certain products are even completely banned. But there, too, the goal is ultimately to prevent energy surpluses! For example, point diets always give higher scores to foods with more calories. And ‘detox diets’ usually revolve around extremely high amounts of fruit and vegetables – products that contain so few calories that you almost automatically end up with a deficiency.
A low-carbohydrate diet also usually claims that you can lose weight without paying attention to your calories. In fact, it is often said that you can eat as much as you want – as long as it is without carbohydrates. So how is it possible that these types of diets sometimes work, when those calories are so important for weight loss?
Why would a low-carb diet work?
Food with a lot of proteins and fats is often quite saturated. So if you mainly eat products with these nutrients, you will soon not be so hungry. The result is that you automatically eat less. That is the reason that some people do indeed achieve results with a low-carbohydrate diet.
It is also often said that carbohydrates cause you to store fat. It works like this: when you eat carbohydrates, your body produces insulin. Insulin is, as it were, the ‘key’ to your fat cells: the hormone ensures that your body can store excess calories as fat.
However, that does not mean that you cannot store calories without carbohydrates! Proteins also simply stimulate the production of insulin. So it is nonsense that you could not gain weight on a low-carbohydrate diet for this reason.
The disadvantages of a low-carbohydrate diet
Anyway, it is true that proteins and fats are very saturated. So why not lose weight with a diet without carbohydrates, even if the insulin theory turns out to be a fairytale?
Well, unfortunately, such a diet also has drawbacks. Carbohydrates are a central nutrient for a reason. For example, you need them to provide energy, especially during physical exertion. You do need some carbohydrates for muscle growth. Your brain also runs best on carbohydrates. Most people quickly feel tired and lethargic if they cut it from their diet.
In addition, carbohydrate-rich products such as legumes and whole grains are essential sources of fiber. They keep your intestines healthy, among other things. Certain vitamins and minerals are also found mainly in these foods; you also quickly run the risk of deficiencies if you eat low carbohydrates.
That doesn’t mean a low-carb diet is a bad idea for everyone. Some people function just fine on it, and that’s great – assuming you keep paying attention to your nutrients. But there are also quite a few people for whom it is simply not recommended.
Are carbohydrates fattening?
But, you may say now, what about that? You read everywhere nowadays that carbohydrates are fattening? Then losing weight with a diet with carbohydrates is automatically next to impossible?
Fortunately, that is a bit more nuanced. There are a few reasons why carbohydrates are fattening. The first is that some carbohydrates – like regular sugar – make you feel more hungry. When you eat carbohydrates, it causes a spike in your blood sugar. This is followed by a valley. You then need energy quickly and thus get hungry again, which makes it easy to overeat.
The second reason is that many people simply eat way too many carbohydrates. That means that the unnecessary calories that you put on usually come largely from carbohydrates. For example, all sugary soft drinks, candies and cookies fall into this category.
However, this does not mean that all carbohydrates make it impossible for you to lose weight! There are different types of carbohydrates, which also have very different effects on your body. And that is often ignored by creators of low-carbohydrate diets.
Different types of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are not one homogeneous category. We can roughly distinguish between two types: fast carbohydrates and slow carbohydrates. If you want to lose weight and still eat carbohydrates, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
The fast carbohydrates are the type generally considered to be fattening. This includes all simple sugars, but also, for example, white, non-wholemeal flours. So, white bread, white pasta, white rice and other white grains are fast carbohydrates.
They got their name because they cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. That means that they cause a high peak, with a deep trough and a serious hunger attack. It is also these types of sugars that cause your body to make a lot more insulin, to the point where it can cause diabetes.
Slow carbohydrates, on the other hand, have a completely different effect. These are carbohydrates that consist of longer chains of particles. Your body therefore needs more time to break them down and absorb them, with the result that your blood sugar rises much more gradually, stays high longer and falls again much more slowly. No sugar trough, therefore, and therefore no sudden binge eating, nor a sky-high increase in insulin.
Slow carbohydrates, such as whole grains, starchy vegetables and legumes, are certainly not fattening. And they do provide the fiber, vitamins and minerals you need in a healthy diet.
Lose weight with carbohydrates
That also means that you can lose weight with a diet in which you just keep eating carbohydrates, as long as you opt for slow carbohydrates as much as possible! Fortunately, that is very easy in most cases. Products such as bread, pasta, rice, noodles, wraps and crackers are now almost always available in a whole grain variety.
It is also wise to make sure that you eliminate products with fast sugars from your diet as much as possible. After all, they are not very satisfying and can cause binge eating. Obvious problem products are candy, ice cream, cookies, and soda. But did you know that there are also unexpectedly many fast sugars in other products?
For example, it is better not to drink fruit juice, because that is actually just sugar water. Fresh fruit is then much better: it still contains a lot of fiber. Sugar is also often added to savory ready-to-eat products. Always read the label carefully for soups, sauces and spice mixes.
Furthermore, you must of course ensure that you do not consume too many calories in total; it is therefore important to properly coordinate the amount of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Because, as mentioned, many people eat far too many carbohydrates, this can still mean in practice that you have to cut back a little. But the extent to which this is necessary differs from person to person.
How many carbohydrates to lose weight
How do you know how many carbohydrates you need? The most convenient method is: first calculate how many calories you need and how many proteins and fats you want to eat per day. What is left, you fill up with carbohydrates.
In previous blogs you can read how to calculate how many calories you need to lose weight. You can then use the following rules of thumb:
- Eat 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight. Every gram of fat provides 9 kcal.
- Eat 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, depending on your sports activities. Every gram of protein provides 4 kcal.
How many calories do you have left? You get it from carbohydrates! Each gram of carbohydrates provides 4 kcal; this way you calculate how many grams of carbohydrates you want to eat per day.
The outcome can vary considerably from person to person. For example, if you are small and you want to lose weight, the amount of carbohydrates per day will probably be very low. On the other hand, if you want to build muscle mass, you may need a lot more to reach your energy goals. In that case you eat a lot more carbohydrates.
Do you not feel like calculating how many calories and carbohydrates you need to lose weight? You can also fill in the calculation tool on the website, then you will receive your calorie requirement and nutrients immediately.
Please note that any calculation can of course always be slightly off. After all, every body is different. So keep a close eye on how your body reacts to the nutritional schedule that you put together with this amount of calories and carbohydrates. If you lose weight too quickly, or not fast enough, adjust the amount of calories by, for example, 100 kcal up or down.
Losing weight with carbohydrates: everything at a glance
What is the moral of this whole story? Are you a fan of pasta or a tasty sandwich, but do you also want to lose some weight? Then you can just keep eating carbohydrates. In fact, for many people this is healthier than a low-carbohydrate diet. You will only have to pay attention to two things: type of carbohydrates and amount.
As far as species is concerned, it is always wise to choose slow carbohydrates whenever possible, and cut out fast carbohydrates whenever possible. So choose whole-grain variants, and avoid snacks and ready-made meals with a lot of sugar, for example.
The amount of carbohydrates differs per person. You can calculate by hand how many carbohydrates you should eat to lose weight, or you can use the free calculator, with which you will be ready within two minutes. Then you can adjust the intake a bit, depending on the results you see!