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Carb Recommendations For Fat Loss

Monday, May 15, 2017 1:56 PM

 
Reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat is a useful tool if your goal is to lose body fat. The great thing about lower carb diets is they reduce appetite so you automatically eat fewer calories. They also improve insulin sensitivity, which is key because high insulin levels inhibit fat loss. 
The big question is how many carbs should you eat daily to lose body fat?
 
The answer will depend on a number of factors including body composition, genetics, goals, training volume, gender, and preferences. To simplify things, here are general guidelines for determining the optimal carb intake:
 
Category A: You’re sedentary and have a lot of weight to lose. 
If you are overweight and sedentary, you probably have a high degree of insulin resistance. Start with less than 50 grams a day of carbs because this will lead to the production of ketones, allowing for significant improvements in insulin sensitivity. 
You’ll need a moderate protein and a fat intake from healthy sources, which should reduce appetite and allow you to avoid getting hungry. 
 
Carbs to eat: 
  • As many leafy green and other low-carb vegetables as you want.
  • Select fruits such as berries or pomegranate.
  • Tiny amount of carbs from nuts, seeds, avocado, beans used as condiments. 
 
Should you go very low carb all at once?  
 
If you have poor eating habits, it can be very challenging to have to transform them while also slashing carbs. Depending on how you adjust to changes, it may work better to focus on removing the unhealthiest carb sources from your diet and eating high-quality meals consistently. 
 
Category B: You work out but are overweight. 
You also probably need to get more insulin sensitive. Try the 50 to 100 grams of carbs a day range. This range can also be useful for sustaining body composition without much struggle once you’ve improved your insulin health. 
 
Carbs to eat: 
  • As many leafy green and other low-carb vegetables as you want.
  • Low-carb fruit and small amounts of carbs from nuts, seeds, and beans.
  • A couple of servings of higher carb fruits or starch-based carbs. For example, a medium potato has about 35 grams of carbs, a sweet potato has about 25 grams, and a half-cup of rice has 22 grams. 
 
Also consider: It’s great you are already working out, and you may benefit from getting more serious with training. A total body higher volume program that is geared to building muscle and creating metabolic stress will dramatically help you improve insulin sensitivity so you can eat more carbs. 
 
Category C: You are active and fairly lean. 
If you’re active and fairly lean but want a way of eating that makes sustaining body composition easier, try 150 – 250 grams a day. You need to be fairly insulin sensitive for this to work, making it most appropriate for people who lift weights intensely or do a decent amount of physical activity throughout the day. 
 
Carbs to eat: 
  • All the vegetables you want.
  • All the low-carb fruit you want.
  • Beans, nuts, seeds, and avocado in reasonable amounts.
  • A few pieces of higher carb fruit and starchy foods. 
 
Category D: You’ve been eating very low-carb for a long time. 
If you’ve been restricting carbs for a while and have either plateaued, or don’t feel great, you may benefit from making a change. Many things are possible:
 
Calories could be too low (but don’t assume this unless you are accurately tracking calories).
 
You could be experiencing some unbalanced hormones (a moderate elevation in insulin triggers satiety and leads to the release of leptin, an appetite reducing hormone). 
 
You could have unhealthy gut bacteria due to lack of indigestible fiber that comes from vegetables, fruit, and resistant starch. 
 
Thyroid hormone, cortisol, or neurotransmitters could be off. 
 
Depending on your physical activity level and body fat percentage, you could try increasing your carb intake to the  100 to 150 gram range or stay on your low-carb diet but cycle in higher carb days in which you eat significantly more carbs (say up to 200 grams, though some people may want to go even higher of they work out). 
 
Category E: You’re a hard charging athlete who wants to strip the fat off. 
You have a lot of options and you need to determine how much pain you want to deal with. Additional considerations are whether you’re in the off-season or need to be at your best to compete. 
 
A low-carb ketogenic diet could get you lean fast (elite male gymnasts tried it in one study and got down to about 5.5 percent body fat in a month). This would require you to push through some challenging workouts due to low glycogen stores. 
 
Carb cycling also yields fast results: Try anywhere between 150 and 300 grams of carbs on hard training days and go below 100 on off /recovery days. This can help maintain training performance quality and avoid the mental struggle of low-fuel stores. 
 
Final Points: When you cut carbs, you obviously need to increase protein and fat. If you’re going for a ketogenic diet that increases the use of fatty acids for energy, you need your fat intake to be high because this will “shift” the body to burn more fat. 
 
For protein, 1.6 g/kg of body weight has been found to preserve lean muscle mass during rapid fat loss in lean, active people. 
 
To do low-carb right, you need to be eating unprocessed foods: vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, some dairy, and select fruits, nuts, beans, and seeds. 
 
 
References 
Loennek, J., Wilson, J., et al. Quality of Protein Intake is Inversely Related with Abdominal Fat. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012. 9(5). 
 
Guldbrand, H., Dizdar, B., et al. In Type 2 Diabetes, Randomization to advice to follow a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Transiently Improves Glycemic Control compared with Advice to Follow a Low-Fat Diet Producing a Similar Weight Loss. Diabetologia.
2012. Published Ahead of Print. 
 
Gardner, C., et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight
Premenopausal Women. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2007. 297(9), 969-977. 
 
McClain, A., et al. Adherence to a Low-Fat versus Low-Carbohydrate Diet
Differs by Insulin Resistance Status. Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism. 2013. 15(1): 87–90. 
 
Westman, E., et al. Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition and Metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007. 86, 276-28. 

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