Updated: Jan 29, 2020
Many health and fitness professionals have had different views on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to losing weight and being healthy. What's best to reduce between carbs and fat? We need to understand what these two macronutrients are and what they do before reducing either of them in our diet. Let’s settle this once and for all!
First, what are carbohydrates? They are one of the three macronutrients that help provide energy to your body. In fact, carbs are the primary source of energy to function. There are three forms of carbs (fiber, sugar and starches). You need all three forms for your body to function properly. Fiber can be found in whole grains, some fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Natural sugar can be found in nutrient rich foods like fruits and some dairy products like milk. Starches can also be found in whole grains, some vegetables and beans. All three forms are also found in processed foods, candy, soda, refined grains and even heavy syrups, but you should limit the consumption of these. Those items may provide excessive amounts of fiber, sugar or starches but will lack in vitamins and minerals which will always contribute to weight gain and serious health issues.
The second macronutrient is fat, and it also helps provide energy to your body. The forms of fat that most people have heard of are trans-fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) and cholesterol. Cholesterol can be found in our food (eggs, butter, or whole fat dairy products, etc.) and in our blood. Saturated fat can be found in dairy products, animal meats (beef, pork, etc.), cake and of course deep-fried foods. Trans fats are just processed unsaturated fats which then act as saturated fats. Trans fat is found in many processed and packaged foods including butter. Unsaturated fats (also known as the good fat) can be found in foods like fish (polyunsaturated only). The cool thing is some oils and nuts contain unsaturated fat and are considered both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.
With that said, there are also downsides to fat and carbohydrates. If you consume too much fat daily (especially the bad stuff), you run the risk of not only gaining weight but increasing the chance of having heart disease and high cholesterol while decreasing your good cholesterol (HDL). Consuming too many carbs daily (especially the bad stuff) will make you gain excess weight, increase your cholesterol levels and could also reduce the amount of control your body has over its blood glucose levels (usually high) resulting in diabetes.
Which one should you reduce for weight loss? That depends on the individual, their goal(s), body type, energy requirements and other factors. Some characteristics of an individual needing to lose weight are having a slow metabolic rate and having a low tolerance for carbohydrates. Those who typically reduce carbs tend to see it as a better way of cutting down weight and fat. Like I stated earlier, carbohydrates are the primary source of energy especially for those who are at least moderately active, so you should do so carefully. Cutting too much out of your diet will leave you feeling fatigued and can even decrease your performance in the gym. Think about this: 1 gram of carbs contain four calories and 1 gram of fat contains nine calories. Fat may contain more calories per gram, but keep in mind that carbohydrates will get used first since they can’t be stored in quantity. Once those carbohydrates are used, your body will begin to burn the fat cells to keep you going.
Reducing both carbs and fat have their advantages and disadvantages. If you consume more calories than you can burn, your body will continue to store fat. A combination of reducing your daily caloric intake, reducing your carb intake, eating the right foods and moving more will help with weight loss. While you should consume both good carbs and fats, don’t focus entirely on reducing one or the other. Focus on how much you’re putting into your body along with your daily activity and exercise routine.