Low Carb Or Low Fat?

Before you start a diet, you have to ask yourself what exactly you want to do to lose weight. Do you want to count calories, follow the low-glycemic diet or just eat half of everything you ate before?

Two of the most common diets nowadays are the two opposing diets called "low carb diet" and "low fat diet". They focus on leaving one nutritive substance out or keeping it low, either carbohydrates or fats.

They question arises: Which of these diets is actually better, and why? I asked myself the same question and later went on to lose a lot of weight, as did my brother. Here is what you need to know.

1. What does a low fat diet do and does it make sense?

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The idea of low fat seems to make sense: You want to lose weight, and the areas of your body you feel uncomfortable with are made of fat. So, it makes sense to eat less fat, because fat is what's stored in your body, right?

That's the theory of any beginner, and it's the way I used to think. But first of all, you need to know that there are different types of fat and that the body does not process fat the way we think it would.

Different types of fat

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Fat is a science of its own. There are saturated fats, unsaturated fats, trans fats, omega fats, and so on. You could write books about the topic, and books certainly have been written. It's enough for us to understand some things only:

-some fats are good and needed by the body, also for weight loss
-some fats are bad and not good for your health

-good fats are in fish, nuts, plants
-bad fats are in meat (with some exceptions) and processed foods

One disadvantage of a low fat diet is that you might just give up on fat altogether. Plus, you act as if fat is bad, which it isn't in general. But let's look at some other things.

What does the body do with fat?

Your body does not treat fat from food like fat from your body. The body does not take the fat and place it right at your hips and butt. This is not how the chemistry works.

Strangely enough, fat is actually not the desired energy source for your body. Your body does not like to use fat. It likes to use sugars, or carbohydrates (carbs). This is the reason many people can't get rid of their fat. 

When you go for a low fat diet, your body will gratefully accept the carbs you give to it. And the carbs will be all it needs. It won't have to burn any fat. While it is true that there won't be new fat coming in, the carbs will be overflooding your body, giving it a lot of energy. If you eat too many carbs, these carbs will then be transformed into fat. If you eat not much, but still mainly carbs, then it still won't help much because the body can just burn the carbs instead of the fat you want to get rid of!

Why does "low fat" work for some people?

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Keep in mind what I just mentioned: You give the body carbs, and the body will use the carbs only. Fat in your body is not even touched.

Here is where some people lose weight and others don't. Some people have a good physical chemistry in their body where fat is burned because the body is used to it. Maybe that's the case because these people only eat a couple of times a day, or they are very physically active. So they don't always have carbs available. Maybe they are also on a solid diet where they actually don't eat too much!

Other people are less fortunate. They even go jogging every day, they try so hard, and when they come home, they "reward" themselves with a banana and a glass of grape juice. I did exactly that and then got frustrated when I didn't lose weight.

A low fat diet works for some people if they have already been eating okay, but not too much. Then it actually helps. But in my opinion, a low fat diet is unreliable and ineffective.

2. How does a low carb diet work and does it make sense?

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At first, you might wonder: Why would I eat less sugar if my problem is the fat I'm carrying around?

The question is legitimate. Fat is the problem. It doesn't seem to make sense to eat less sugar. But this is where the truth comes out.

Sugar is the preferred source of energy

There are two energetic facilities in your body. You could call them fuel tanks. One is for carbs, one for fats.

The thing is: You can't see the one for carbs. It's hidden inside your body. The tank for fat, it's visible, and it can be all around your body. It's the fat itself.

When it comes to these two tanks, your body will go for the carbs first. That means sugars, in general. So when you eat noodles, bread, rice, potatoes, your body will fill that tank until the maximum amount of what can be saved. From there on, no fat will be burned.

You can never, ever lose fat if your carbs tank is full. It can't work. You have two options at this point. You wait until you don't have any carbs left in your tank, or you exercise very hard to burn all the sugar so that your body can finally access fat.... no wait. Until it has to access fat.

No sugar around - the body changes to fat burning mode

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When your body has no carbs (no sugar) left, it has to burn fat, because there is nothing else to do. Your body can't just collapse and give up. It learns to adapt. The best way to teach your body to burn fat is to go for a low carb diet. In this diet, you don't eat carbs any more, or at least so few that your body will run out of carbs at some point every day, every couple of hours.

Now, a small miracle occurs. With the fuel tank for carbs empty, suddenly your body fat goes down. But there is one more condition: You can't eat too much fat, either. Let's say you go for a low carb diet, but only eat cheese, nuts, butter etc...which is all fine because of very few carbs.... but don't eat too much fat either!

When you do things right, you will see the results quickly. Check your weight only once a week, always at the same time of that day. Remember that the first week might be a great success and later weeks might be less effective. That's normal.

One more thing: A low carb diet can be tiring at the beginning? Why? Your body has to learn how to make energy from fat. It requires some enzymes to be built, and some adaption processes. From my experience, the first two days are worst, you feel tired all the time. So I encourage you to start your low carb diet on a friday afternoon, if that's when your weekend starts. After about two weeks, you will feel great.

If you feel like a low carb diet might be your thing (and I totally think so), then please read my other posts since they are all about this kind of diet.

By the way, if you are wondering whether low carb is unhealthy or even dangerous, read this.
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