If you’re trying to lose weight, then you are undoubtedly curious about the underlying principles. What should you eat? What should you avoid? Which properties and ingredients will be most helpful to your progress, and which will be most harmful? In particular, the carbs vs calories debate is on that seems to be raging on at full force. We hear a lot about these two units of measurement. Different diets take specific focuses on these distinct items. If you’re going to aim to reduce your intake of one, which is better? Are some of the common conceptions about calories and carbs myths? Let’s take a closer look at the relationship.
The most basic measurement of food’s energy content, calories are a relatively simple construct to understand. These days, you can find the caloric content of virtually every food and drink plainly on the label. Health movements over the past few decades have led to much greater transparency with regards to this information. You probably know the great truism of weight loss — calories in, calories out — and it’s certainly accurate. That is the fundamental key to losing weight. However, strictly focusing on calories is not necessarily the best idea. We use these units for energy and in many cases they can be beneficial. Getting too few calories can lead to problems and can actually inhibit weight loss.
These molecules come in two different forms: complex carbs and simple carbs. The former is a starch that we come across in foods like bread, pasta and cereal. The latter is the worse kind, found in sugar and sweets. Obviously simple carbs are worse, but there is some evidence that both can greatly hinder weight management. Carbs are more difficult to utilize and turn into energy than fat, which is why many new diets are putting a strong emphasis on limiting them. The Atkins Diet popularized this approach. More recently, the keto diet takes an even stronger stance, cutting out carbohydrates almost entirely while providing considerable flexibility for consuming fat.
Carbs vs Calories: Which Should I Count?
There are good arguments to be made both ways when it comes to carbs vs calories. On the one hand, there is strong evidence for carbs deterring weight loss to an extent that we should be more adamant about staying away from them. In particular, simple carbohydrates are problematic. On the other hand, many foods that are low in carbs can contain a whole lot of calories. For instance, if you eat a big juicy steak smothered in butter, you’re not receiving many carbs but the calorie and fat content is extreme. On the basis of that tried-and-true cals in/cals out metric, this will make it difficult to move the needle in the right direction.
In the age old calories vs carbs question, there are no easy answers. By following the right guidelines, you can certainly lose weight with both approaches. From a general wellness standpoint, it makes more sense to target carbs, especially simple carbs. Calories are not inherently unhealthy. But keeping them in check is definitely a staple of weight management.