Although carbs don’t have the best reputation among some dieting communities, you don’t have to avoid carbs to successfully shed pounds. In fact, getting too few carbs can drain your energy – and therefore hinder your weight-loss efforts. Following general carb recommendations, while reducing your overall calorie intake, is the key to safely dropping weight.
Some low-carb weight-loss diets contain as few as 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, at least initially. However, meeting your carbohydrate recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, gives your body the fuel it needs to function properly -- and helps you avoid negative side effects associated with low-carb diets, such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness and headaches. The Institute of Medicine reports that the carbohydrate RDA is 130 grams daily for adult men and non-pregnant, non-nursing women.
Effective weight loss often requires reducing your current intake by 500 to 1,000 calories daily, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended overall calorie intakes for weight loss range from 1,000 to 1,600 calories daily for women and 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day for many men, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Individualized calorie needs for weight loss vary based on your initial body weight and activity level. Burning an extra 500 to 1,000 calories a day means you may not have to reduce your calorie intake to shed pounds.
Eat More Protein
One reason some low-carb, high-protein diets work for weight loss is because of elevated protein intakes, according to a study published in 2012 in “Physiology & Behavior.” Protein is a key component of weight loss because it increases satiety and energy expenditure, report researchers who conducted a study published in 2009 in “The Journal of Nutrition.” Though protein-rich foods – such as lean meats, egg whites and soy products – are helpful for reducing your calorie intake for successful weight loss, meeting your minimum carb requirements of 130 grams daily is also important to prevent nutrient deficiencies and fatigue.
Though it’s fine to cut out unhealthy carbs – such as added sugars, sweets, candy, sodas and other sugary drinks – many carb-containing foods are packed with essential nutrients your body requires on a day-to-day basis. Examples include fiber-rich nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and vegetables. Fiber is a type of carb that boosts satiety and isn’t entirely absorbed by your body. Low-fat milk is another source of healthy carbs, protein and calcium.
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: How Are Overweight and Obesity Treated?
- Physiology & Behavior: Relatively High-Protein or "Low-Carb" Energy-Restricted Diets for Body Weight Loss and Body Weight Maintenance?
- The Journal of Nutrition: Single-Protein Casein and Gelatin Diets Affect Energy Expenditure Similarly but Substrate Balance and Appetite Differently in Adults