There's no way to know exactly how much weight you'll lose by partially or completely cutting carbs from your diet. Cutting carbs is one strategy that may help you eat less -- and the extent to which this occurs determines how much weight you'll lose. It isn't a good idea to eliminate all carbs, however, as some types of carbs have been shown to be beneficial for weight loss and they also have other potential health benefits.
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Types of Carbs and Recommended Intake
Carbohydrates include starches, sugars and fiber. Low-carb diets usually limit starches and sugars, but not fiber. Fiber is important for good health and helps prevent constipation; aim to get 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends consuming at least 130 grams of carbs per day, with 45 to 65 percent of your calories coming from carbohydrates. Diets that contain a smaller percentage of carbohydrates are usually considered low-carb diets.
Low-Carb Diets and Weight Loss
In the short term, high-protein, very-low-carb ketogenic diet may help reduce appetite and increase weight loss better than a high-protein, medium-carb diet, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008. Each of these diets consisted of 30 percent protein and were followed for four weeks. Study participants lost about 4 pounds more on the ketogenic diet than they did during the same period on the diet with higher carbs. Protein is particularly filling, so replacing quickly digested carbohydrate-rich foods -- such as those made with refined grains or lots of sugar -- with protein can make it easier to cut calories and lose weight. Cutting carbs severely may not be worth it, however, considering the relatively small increase in weight loss it provided, and how it works over the long-term may be different.
Benefits of Adding Exercise for Weight Loss
If you want to lose weight, increase the amount of time you exercise and make dietary changes as well. Both cardio and strength-training exercises can be beneficial. The cardio helps you burn more calories for weight loss, while strength-training exercises help you build muscle and also limit muscle loss during weight loss. Increasing muscle mass helps speed up your metabolism a bit. Aim for at least 300 minutes of cardio per week, along with at least two strength-training sessions. These sessions should include about 10 repetitions of 10 different exercises to target the various muscles in your body. A study published in Diabetes Care in 2010 found that adding resistance training to a low-calorie, high-protein diet was beneficial for improving body composition and weight loss. A combination of increased dietary protein, low carbs and exercise helped improve body composition of women during weight loss, according to another study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2005.
Choosing the Right Carbs for Weight Loss
Foods with naturally occurring sugars -- such as fruits and nonstarchy vegetables -- include fiber and other nutrients, so are healthy and nutritious carb-containing foods for a weight-loss diet. Examples of nonstarchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, celery and bell peppers. It's best to limit foods with added sugars though -- such as soda, candy, baked goods and many processed foods -- because they're high in calories and carbs with few beneficial nutrients.
When it comes to weight loss, a big debate is whether starches are good or bad. Starchy foods, such as beans and whole grains, may be beneficial, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2011, whereas refined grains and quickly-digested starchy vegetables -- such as potatoes -- may be better avoided, when trying to lose weight.
Following a diet containing no starchy foods but high in saturated fat appears to be helpful for weight loss and doesn't seem to adversely affect cholesterol levels, according to a small study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2003. However, additional research where more people are studied is needed.
Other Beneficial Dietary Changes for Weight Loss
For the best weight-loss results, choose lean sources of protein, such as eggs, fish and skinless poultry. Start your meals with soups or salads, as these foods take up a lot of room in your stomach but are low-cal, making it easier to eat fewer calories during your meal. Both fiber and protein help with satiety, so try to include both in every meal and snack. For example, have chicken breast with broccoli or salmon with a spinach salad. For a snack, try a hard-boiled egg and bell pepper strips. Stick to non-caloric beverages, such as water, black coffee or green tea.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Effect of a High Saturated Fat and No-Starch Diet on Serum Lipid Subfractions in Patients With Documented Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease
- American Diabetes Association: Types of Carbohydrates
- The New England Journal of Medicine: Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of a High-Protein Ketogenic Diet on Hunger, Appetite, and Weight Loss in Obese Men Feeding Ad Libitum
- WomensHealth.gov: Physical Activity (Exercise) Fact Sheet
- American Council on Exercise: What Are the Guidelines for Percentage of Body Fat Loss?
- Diabetes Care: A High-Protein Diet With Resistance Exercise Training Improves Weight Loss and Body Composition in Overweight and Obese Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
- The Journal of Nutrition: Dietary Protein and Exercise Have Additive Effects on Body Composition During Weight Loss in Adult Women
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism Is Modifiable With the Right Lifestyle Changes