The main reason that nutrition is so confusing nowadays is the variety of diets based on opposing ideas. The biggest argument of all – carbohydrates. There are many different forms of diets based around the idea that carbohydrates should be as low as humanly possible if you want to lose weight. And then there are those that focus on a lower-fat, calorie-counting approach?
So, which is right? What is the key to weight loss? Low-carbohydrate, low-fat, or calorie counting?
Before proceeding, please know that I am no expert. I feel that I can have an open discussion about this topic because I have experimented with both diets enough to have a good understanding of what works for me and have researched multiple experts on both sides of the coin.
From my research, here is where the experts side on this…
The experts that mainly focus on longevity like Dr. Cate Shanahan, Dr. Steven Gundry, and Ben Greenfield state that low-carbohydrate diets are what matters. The statements they make against carbohydrates are along the lines of, “Carbohydrates are just complex sugars and end up being equivalent to simple sugars after being broken down as glucose in the body.” They explain how crucial healthy fats are in your diet and that cholesterol is wrongly accused of heart problems and instead label processed foods, vegetable oils, and sugars as the culprits.
The experts that mainly focus on muscle-building like Mike Matthews and Greg Nuckols state that calories are what matters when it comes to weight loss/gain. They do not disagree with the importance of eating natural foods and state that if you go to the gym, it is even more important to eat natural foods. Outside of your total calorie count, they explain the importance of eating enough protein and prescribe a more balanced diet between carbohydrates, fats, and protein. For instance, Mike Matthews prescribes 45%, 25%, and 30% respectively (this specifically is for maintaining muscle), while also suggesting 80% of your diet comes from fresh, natural foods at a minimum.
From my experience, this is where I stand…
Personally, I enjoy using a low-carbohydrate diet when I need to cut weight. I aim to eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day and 90% of the time can hit that goal. I do not think there’s any solid proof that this is any better than a low-fat diet but for me, I like it because it essentially forces me to mainly eat natural foods and fat is much more satiating so I really never feel hungry, even if I decide to fast for most of the day.
When I need to build muscle, I eat more carbohydrates and I don’t worry about it. As long as I hit my goals for calories and protein and am still eating natural foods for the most part, I feel I am on the right track. I’m progressing in my workouts, adding weight, and feel great overall.
At the end of the day, you need to find the diet that works best for you. Find a diet you’re interested in and buy a couple cookbooks to make sure it is something you will enjoy. The best diet (and exercise program) is the one that you will adhere to and implement consistently.
If a diet (or exercise program) has worked for hundreds of thousands of people, it obviously works for some. Ultimately, you should never take a diet or exercise program as gospel. Experiment and make tweaks so that you enjoy it but are still making progress.
Side Note: I do not mean to discount any experts. I respect all experts I have done deep research on; they've done great work to influence hundreds of thousands of people, have taught me a ton, and have made an enormous positive impact on my life.
You are more than welcome to add to the discussion or ask questions in the comments below!
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