Are There Good Carbs for Weight Loss?
Some people think there is no such thing as good carbs for weight loss.
When we first sit down with someone it's common to hear “I know I can’t eat carbs and lose weight.”
Most people out there think that carbs are bad for them. A lot of people think that they have almost no control over themselves around carbs. Almost everyone will lose a lot of weight when they take all carbs out of their diet.
Do Low Carb Diets Work?
Yes. Yes, they do. Next topic?
Research has shown that low carb diets are very effective at causing weight loss. I mean you’ve all heard of Atkins and I’m sure you have either been on it or know people that have lost a lot of weight on it.
There are other similar low carb diets like the Dukan Diet. At the end of the day a true low carb diets goal is to get you in a ketogenic state.
These types of diets would have you believe there is no such thing as good carbs for weight loss.
What is Going Keto Mean?
You are getting ketogenic when you consume less carbohydrates than your body would like to function. So, it turns fat stores into something called ketones and uses them in place of carbohydrates.
Symptoms of ketosis include:
- Breath smells (like fruit or nail polish remover)
- Decreased appetite
- Dry mouth or increase thirst
- Fatigue (often flu like symptoms)
- Problems focusing mentally
- Tough time sleeping
- Cold hands & feet
Typically, these symptoms last only through initially adopting a low carb diet. It’s often referred to as “keto flu.”
And then most people have increased energy, better mental clarity and other positive things occurring. One of them being losing typically losing weight quickly. I mean really fast.
Are You Really Eating a Low Carb Diet?
Often people think they’re on a low carb diet when they are not. I have clients tell me all the time that they’ve cut out all carbs. What they actually mean is they’ve stopped eating bread and pasta.
Although they are decreasing how much carbohydrates they eat. Most people are not having a truly low carb diet unless they are following one of the ones mentioned above.
So, I want to be clear when I say low carb diet what I’m talking about is someone eating so little carbohydrates their body goes into ketosis.
Is a Low Carb Diet Right for You?
Maybe, it depends. But, probably not. Almost every diet out there "works." It works by having you burn out more calories than you’re consuming simple as that.
Low carb diets take out carbs to do this
Weight watchers has you count points
The Paleo Diet gets you eating lots of whole foods
And so on and so forth. But, they are all just different strategies to help this along.
It’s not that low carb diets are necessarily bad. However, there are a few negative side effects most people don't know about.
Why I Usually Don't Recommend a Low Carb Diet
At least I don't recommend low carb diets for most people.
The reason why is pretty simple.
Prolonged periods of ketosis have a high chance of giving you metabolic adaptations that will slow your metabolism down.
Typically, I have found low carb diets often lead to people hitting plateaus getting frustrated and then giving up on their diet.
Then, the problem starts. Their metabolism is decreased from prolonged periods of being ketogenic. In addition to this, they feel deprived having avoided a lot of their favourite high carb foods.
The end result, they balloon back up quickly.
At least, that has been my experiencing having coached over a thousand people on how to lose weight over the last 12 years.
Here is What Low Carb Diets Do to Your Body
Here are some of the physiological adaptations your body makes with prolonged low carb dieting:
- Decreased thyroid hormone
- Increased cortisol (stress hormone)
- Decreased testosterone (this isn’t good for females either)
- Muscle breakdown
- Suppressed immune function
Once, I had a client named Brad. Two years before working with us he dropped 60 pounds in just 3 months using a low carb diet.
As well, he had the benefit of working a construction job for those 3 months. Within 2 months of losing all that weight he had gained 50 pounds back. And then another 15 pounds within 3 more months.
Besides feeling deprived are there any benefits to eating carbs? Are there any carbs that are actually good for weight loss?
Wait Are There Good Carbs for Weight Loss
Yes, there are good carbs for weight loss. For the most part, no foods are good or bad. All foods just have pro’s and con’s. Just like all diets have pro’s and con’s.
Your body might not need carbohydrates to survive. But, it sure would like them.
You can lose weight without eating low carb. You don’t have to take them all out.
But, you do need to use some strategies around carbs.
How to Use "Good Carbs" for Weight Loss to Get Results
So, I'd suggest you don't look at their as being good foods and bad foods. However, there are some foods that are superior when it comes to helping you lose weight. Essentially, all foods have pros and cons.
Let’s look at some of their pros and cons with carbs.. These will help you start to learn which carbs are good for weight loss.
First, I want to note something important. There aren't truly any good or bad foods. However, there are foods that make it easier to lose weight.
Specifically, when talking about carbs we sometimes refer to these as good carbs for weight loss. In general, we prefer the term smart carbs. since we’ve established carbs aren’t really good or bad.
Most of the cons are entirely dependent on two things:
- What type of carbs you’re eating
- How much of them you’re eating
You can easily use some strategies and guidelines for carbs and weight loss to get results without cutting them out.
There are numerous different strategies you can use. Some of these you can use on their own. Some of these you can use in conjunction with each other.
2 Strategies to Make Carbs Help You Lose Weight
1) Focus on eating more smart carbs
Wait, what exactly are smart carbs? They're sources of carbohydrates that are more likely to keep you satisfied on less calories.
Generally speaking, whole foods or minimally processed foods will keep you satisfied on less. You have to eat a larger quantity of highly processed foods to stay satisfied. (what most people think of as good carbs for weight loss).
Most people like things being black and white. Either it's a good carb for weight loss or a bad carb for weight loss. In reality, it’s a spectrum from whole foods to highly processed.
Most people spend their time between the middle and bottom of that spectrum. The more often you spend near the top of that spectrum the better.
The food at the top of the spectrum typically has more fiber which helps to keep satisfied. Also, generally speaking whole foods actually take more energy to digest compared to processed foods.
For example, one study compared a meal that consisted of whole foods and one that consisted of processed foods.
Despite having the same amount of calories in the meal the meal with whole foods took an average of an extra 64 calories to digest.
Most people don’t realize that your body has to use energy to digest food. Some foods take more energy to digest than others.
The general rule of thumb is that whole foods take more energy to digest compared to processed foods.
2) Focus on eating better serving sizes of carbs
This is the other big problem. People aren’t becoming overweight from having proper serving sizes of carbs. People are having too large of serving sizes.
A lot of this has to do with point #1 the sources of carbs that they’re eating the majority of the time.
The better you’re doing on the first point the easier this strategy is. Here is a great starting point for most people:
For females focus on having 1 scooped out handful of carbs as a serving size.
For males focus on having 2 scooped out handfuls of carbs as a serving size.
Males generally speaking burn out more calories. So, they have larger serving sizes.
The Mistake Most People Make with Carbs & Weight Loss
Essentially, it’s summed it with those two issues.
- People eat too many carbs in a sitting
- Most of the time the carbs are from the wrong sources.
Weight loss doesn’t have to be complicated it can be simple.
The problem with carbs is that most people are either all in or all out. They either take them out completely or overindulge in them.
Basically, you need moderation. Something that is much easier said than done.
What if You Over Indulge in Carbs?
So, this is going to happen. That’s part of life. Everybody does this sometimes. The bigger problem when someone is trying to lose weight is that once they overindulge they get into the mentality that they’ve “ruined” everything.
This causes them to get farther and farther off track. Instead, what I’d suggest is having some tools in your tool box to help manage over indulging instead of feeling like you’ve ruined all your progress.
If you’ve been working hard at genuinely making changes in your life and you get off track for a meal. Or a night. Or a weekend. You can’t ruin all the weight loss progress that you’ve made.
Strategies For Weight Loss & Overeating Carbs
Next, I’m going to share a few different strategies that can help you with controlling how much food you’re eating when you over eat on carbs.
But first, I want to stress this. Don’t look at it as a bad thing when you overeat on carbs. Or any other food. That’s part of life and how it goes.
I’ll use a metaphor to hopefully help you understand. Look at it this way.
Is it a bad thing if you spend more than your typical monthly budget around Christmas time? No, not necessarily.
But you should make changes to your other spending in December or January to balance out your increased spending for Christmas.
If you don't then you're just piling up more and more debt.
Sometimes you want to spend more money (or in other words sometimes you’ll want to eat a lot more carbs).
The strategies I’ll share with you are to help you adjust the “budget” so to speak.
First there are typically 2 ways people over indulge:
- They know beforehand that they will have a meal that they’ll be over indulging in
- They have not planned and then have a meal that they over indulge in.
I mention this simply to point out that different strategies are often more beneficial depending on if you’re in scenario A or B.
4 Strategies to Overeating Carbs & Lose Weight
1) If you know you are going to be overeating try to have a higher intensity workout in the 1-3 hours before that meal. When you perform higher intensity exercises your body relies on stores of carbohydrates for energy.
If you perform higher intensity exercises before the meal you’ll have more empty storage space in your muscles and liver to store carbs.
2) Get in an extra workout the day of or morning after you over indulge. This can help to balance things out if you’re overindulging. The morning after won’t take advantage of point #1, but will still help. And remember it’s an extra workout over your usual routine.
3) Cut back on how much carbs you eat throughout the day of or after you overindulge. Focus more on eating sources of protein and vegetables throughout the day.
4) If you really overindulge the next morning skip breakfast and wait to eat lunch until you’re really good and hungry. Often when people really overindulge they can use this technique and not get hungry until after 1:00 PM the next day. It helps to balance out the surplus of calories. Again, this is more typically when you really overindulge.
There are four strategies that our clients use to make weight loss work in the real world. Instead of feeling like you’ve ruined everything enjoy yourself when you’re eating carbs. If you overindulge that’s okay.
You won’t ruin all your progress. You just have to make some adjustments along the way.
Good Carbs for Weight Loss Wrap Up
Carbs aren’t good or bad. Try to move away from the idea of there being good carbs for weight loss. It leaves only two options.
If you start looking at it in terms of the smart carb spectrum it will make life much easier than the over simplified good carbs for weight loss and bad carbs for weight loss.
Instead of taking them all out of your diet learn how to make them a part of your weight loss plan. Don’t over complicate things. Don’t eliminate things.
Stick to the KISS method (keep it super simple……okay I tweaked that a little to be more positive). Here is an infographic we made to give you examples of your best options for smart carbs.