A young lady subscriber to my email newsletter asked me an interesting question the other day; she asked whether she should count calories or carbs? My reply was multi-faceted and I will share with you the basis of the email I sent back in this post as I believe it is valuable information which can help you with your weight loss goals. It is time to learn which whether it’s best to count calories or carbs…
There is reams and reams of scientific research to support the belief that a calorie deficit is essential in order to lose weight. In fact, as far as I’m aware there is NO scientific research to the contrary. So what does this say about the counting calories theory? Well, simply put it means that no matter how accurately you count your calories, if you eat too many you won’t lose weight!
Of course calorie counting can be an extremely helpful tool to aid your weight loss journey – you will learn much about which foods are best for your body and which provide little nutritional value – you may well be extremely surprised at how many poor food choices you’ve been making and how many excess calories you are eating! Calorie counting is seen by many weight loss experts as the most effective way of planning and tracking your weight loss and helping you with weight maintenance.
If you are going to count calories it is essential you find out your daily maintenance level, in other words calculate how many calories your body requires to function properly each day. You can use the GDA (guideline daily amounts) as a guide but be aware that this will vary from person to person – people who are more active will need more calories whereas more sedentary individuals will require less. For optimal weight loss you need to be precise with this calculation if you are to use the calorie counting method.
Counting carbs obviously differs to calorie counting in that you are only counting how much carbohydrate you are consuming rather than the complete spectrum of food. Carb counting is especially useful for people with diabetes as it will aid the individuals ability to assess the effect each meal has on blood sugar levels making it far easier to balance food with insulin or exercise. By knowing exactly how much carbohydrate there is in the food we eat we can control the natural responses our bodies have to it.
Carb counting in its most basic form is simply counting how many grams of carbohydrate you are consuming daily but a more advanced and effective form of carb counting worth mentioning here uses the glycemic index or GI of food. On the glycemic index, glucose (blood sugar) ranks at an arbitrary figure of 100. Any food ranking higher than 60 on the GI is considered a high glycemic index food and can have a detrimental effect as far as weight loss is concerned.
After consuming high GI carbs blood sugar levels are increased significantly which in turn results in the release of insulin from the pancreas which moderates the increase in glucose levels – it is this insulin response that can hamper weight loss. Insulin is responsible for the storage of all the foods we eat, in some people the body releases too much and this causes the sugars to be pushed by the insulin into every cell, including fat cells.
If you are regularly consuming too many high GI foods your body develops a condition known as insulin resistance which means normal amounts of insulin are inadequate to produce the normal insulin response from fat, muscle and liver cells. This condition affects your weight and can cause diabetes.
So which should you count calories or carbs? The real answer is – if you can, do both! They both have great benefits and will help you learn about your body, your diet and how the two can be optimized for maximum weight loss.
Here are 3 small tips to help you achieve your weight loss goals based on some of the things we’ve been talking about;
1. Calculate your individual maintenance level and create a calorie deficit of around 10-15% each day – count those calories!
2. Eat a balanced diet, don’t completely cut out any of the macro nutrients – fat, carbs and protein. Just make sure you get the very best!
3. Make sure carbohydrates with a low GI are chosen over carbs with a higher GI.
So there you have it – don’t completely rule out either of these two methods for weight loss, then you’ll have not one but two tools to fight the flab and you’ll reach that target weight twice as quick! Count calories or carbs or both!