High Carb VS Low Carb
The truth of which is best.
As anyone who has researched how to improve their health has probably seen, there are lot of different recommendations about which is right and which is wrong.
I recently wrote an article about weight loss and a gentleman who also has interest in weight loss commented on it.
I don’t want to say we got into an argument but at the very least it was a passionate discussion.
Let’s dive into the discussion and dissect what is actually important.
For background information you can read the article here.
I didn’t actually say anything about high or low carb or keto or any type of diet.
Here is his original comment to my article…
“It doesn't make weight loss easier when you give advice that will lead to weight gain... The advice you give is the same advice you would give someone who wanted to be sure to bring a good appetite to a cookout. How anyone believes that the advice for building a strong appetite is the perfect way to lose body fat is beyond me.
For a simple approach to weight loss, look at why people get fat. And to answer that, you need to look at how and why the fat cells in a person store fat, and under which conditions they release fat.
If you did that research, you would have found out that the advice you give, after a few weeks of weight loss, leads to weight gain.”
My response was,
“Can you explain what advice I gave that leads to weight gain??”
“Basically, your "Activity — Energy = Weight Loss" equation... While the equation itself makes no sense as written, it seems you intended it to mean if you use more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. While this will lead to weight loss for a few weeks, it will not last long-term. That is, you will regain the weight--even if you keep up the extra activity. This article explains the details:
A link to an article he wrote about how the eat less move more philosophy is wrong.
Which I agree with and mention here,
“Thanks for sharing.
I actually agree with you and this was my very next article I wrote…
It’s also why I mention that once weight loss is achieved you need to recalculate the equation, because metabolism has slowed with reduced calorie intake and decreased body weight.
Curious to hear your opinion about research showing that, with protein and calories equal between diets, high carb and high fat diet produce the same weight loss results.
I’ve gone down the insulin rabbit hole, I have the same opinion as you, but I’ve also been proved wrong.”
With a link to my very next article about why restricting calories is not the best way to lose weight.
“You are missing the point here... There is no equation. If you are eating in a way that makes your metabolism slow down, you will only lose weight in the short term.
If you have excess fat due to insulin resistance, you need a way for your body to increase its metabolism--and a very-low-carb diet does just that. Check this out for details:
As for research showing a low-carb diet is no better than a low-fat diet, this article covers why we often see this in the published literature:
Two more articles he wrote about keto being the answer.
And my response,
“I don't believe I am missing the point.
Mr original message was change one thing while keeping everything else the same.
That means you can continue doing everything you're currently doing and add exercise, OR decrease calories.
This will lead to weight loss and then you will reach a point of maintenance, at which you need to reevaluate the variables.
High carb and high fat diets can both work.
They can also both fail.
Some people do better with one over the other.
It sounds like you're trying to say people can't gain weight while eating a high fat diet.
This is not true.”
“It will only lead to short-term weight loss--at best. Research shows that exercise is not an effective strategy for weight loss. Why? Because your body just slows you down the rest of the day to balance out the extra activity you did at the gym--or it makes you inclined to eat more to balance the calories.
If you "eat less" your body will do the same thing--make you hungrier and then, if you don't eat more, it will slow down your metabolism. That's why "eat less/move more" doesn't work long-term.”
This one triggered me a little 😂
“That's why I didn't say eat less move more I said do one or the other while keeping everything else the same. But that's beside the point.
Exercise increases metabolism.
Are you trying to say that increasing muscle mass isn't going to help you burn fat?
Are you trying to say that exercise is going to "slow people down" by improving their cardiorespiratory fitness?
Do you not believe in maintenance?
It is very possible to eat enough calories to satisfy hunger and energy requirements while exercising and not gain or lose weight.
If I have a low metabolism, don't exercise, and eat a low carb or high carb diet, I will gain weight. “[If calories are over maintenance levels]
To which he says,
“What you fail to understand is that to the human body, a deficit caused by moving more is interpreted the same as one caused by eating less.
Exercise increases metabolism while you are exercising. Then afterward, if you don't eat enough to account for the energy used, your metabolism will slow down so you have no net energy loss.
The same goes for if you only eat less in terms of your body's reaction--it will try to get you to eat more or it will sow down your metabolism.
The error of your approach is that you think the energy you expend is independent from the amount of energy that goes in. But it's not.
You seem to have a very basic and simplistic (and mostly incorrect) idea of how the body metabolizes nutrients. For example, while increasing muscle mass will increase your metabolism (relative to if you had the same weight with less muscle and more fat). But if you don't balance that increased metabolism with increased energy intake (i.e., if you don't eat extra calories to match the energy use), your body will down-regulate your metabolism.
Seriously, read the article I linked a few responses earlier. Then, if you want to learn how you can trigger a deficit the body won't defend, read this:
“I have read both of your articles and I'm not really interested in reading explanations of your opinions that you're treating as scientific literature.
Once again you have skirted around my most important questions...
Do you believe it is impossible to gain weight on a high fat low carb diet?
Do you not believe people can eat calories at a level that maintains their body weight?
If you gain muscle, which increases your metabolism (we both agreed on this), then do not increase calorie intake, your metabolism will slow down and then you will gain weight.
That is what you said.
How will you gain body fat from gaining muscle?”
He finally answers my questions with,
“The articles are not opinion pieces--they are based on facts...
Yes--it is possible to gain weight on a low-carb/high-fat diet. You need to eat a lot over your maintenance-level calories to do so, but it is possible. When I was losing weight on a LCHF diet, I could eat 300 - 600 calories over maintenance level and still lose body fat. So it's very difficult to gain weight when you have excess body fat to lose. But when you lose that excess fat, it becomes easier to gain on a LCHF diet.
What I didn’t ask is how he accounted for maintenance calories. Also, did he account for a change in thermic effect of food with a change in macro nutrient intake? Switching to a high fat low carb diet also often increase protein intake, because of the increase in animal products. Protein has the highest thermic effect of food out of all macros.
Protein also increases satiety, big time. These are two issues when it comes to this type of discussion. It’s hard to account for the change in thermic effect of food and satiety decreasing calorie intake.
He continues with,
And sure, it's possible to eat at a level where weight is neither gained nor lost day-to-day. Of course, the daily cycle includes weight (fat) gain and loss--but if one is metabolically healthy the net delta will be zero.
Correct--if you don't eat enough calories to support your metabolic needs, your body will slow down its metabolism--because in the absence of the special condition of excess body fat and a LCHF diet, the body will act to balance energy output with energy input.
Your final question doesn't make sense as written. You are trying to take one aspect of the body in isolation and link it to another aspect of the body that is not directly related. One doesn't always gain body fat from gaining muscle.
This is in reference to when I said, “How will I gain body fat from gaining muscle?” Which is essentially what he said happens from gaining muscle.
Again--the body doesn't measure, monitor or manage weight; the body measures, monitors and manages energy. If you gain muscle and feed the body the extra energy it needs to maintain normal metabolism within the body, you won't gain fat.
But the big exception here is that if you are insulin resistant and you eat a high-carb diet while gaining muscle, you can still gain body fat, because insulin drives fat storage and inhibits the use of fat for energy.
If you still don't understand, consider buying my book--I go into a lot more detail and there are 4 pages of references you can review.”
I’m not trying to discredit his transformation, or the fact that what he says works, but he is invested in this way of thinking. That’s dangerous.
I changed tactics by saying,
“Do you know who Dr. Benjamin Bikman is?
You've referenced insulin frequently so I assume you do.
His first recommendation to combat insulin resistance and become more sensitive is to weight train and put on muscle.”
I was right with my assumption because he said,
“If you read his book, Why We Get Sick, you’ll see his first recommendation is to cut way back on carbs…”
The king of ellipses.
But anyways I don’t really care about what Dr. Bikman wrote in his book, what I care about are his ideas of exercise. Dr. Bikman is a fellow low carb guy so I wanted to see his response to this,
“Okay, well here is an interview after his book came out where he speaks about the importance of exercise and muscle.
Anyways, it was great talking to you, even though you seemed to be condescending at times, and it sounds like we both have similar goals of helping people.
Once again I never disagreed with you, I just said there is more than one right way.
It is scary when people have an all or nothing approach to their opinions and it only spreads more and more confusion.”
I’ll let you form you own opinion about Dr. Bikman. You can watch that video above to hear his side of things, or this video below to hear someone going against his side of things.
Anyways, I tried to end the conversation but he replied,
“Sure--I never said exercise wasn't important. I've been pointing out that your equation makes no sense and that creating an energy deficit by not eating all the calories your body needs only results in short-term weight loss.
So, yes--you have disagreed with me. Not sure why you can't see that. You say that creating a deficit by either eating less OR moving more works for long-term fat loss, and it simply doesn't. That's not an all-or-nothing approach, that's knowing how the body works (or, in the case of your approach, how it doesn't).”
See what I mean by condescending?
His all or nothing approach is keto, high fat low carb or it doesn’t work, that sounds like all or nothing.
My last response because I have had enough,
“So these people weren't successful in achieving long term weight loss because they didn't do it via keto??
These are interviews I’ve done with people who’ve had amazing body transformations. None of which via keto.
I agree with you that insulin is important and can play a role.
I disagree with what you say about muscle and exercise.
My original message was about how you don't have to count calories, you don't have to learn nutrition science, you don't have to completely overhaul your diet, you can change just one habit at a time and be successful.
All of those people above would agree with me and they have had great success with long term weight loss.”
My original article was literally entitled “Simplifying Weight Loss”. You know what isn’t simple?
Overhauling your entire diet.
And his reply,
“I don't know if they were or weren't successful... And as I've acknowledged, eating a very-low-carb diet isn't the only way to lose weight. If you are eating a significant amount of calories above your maintenance level on a consistent basis, and have gained weight because of it, then cutting back to maintenance-level will result in weight loss. But that's not "eating at a deficit." Eating at a deficit is eating below maintenance-level.
What have I said about muscle and exercise that you disagree with? I pointed to Bikman, who details how exercise can indirectly help with weight loss in that it allows muscle tissue to uptake glucose without the need of insulin--thus, potentially helping with insulin sensitivity. But even in the video you linked to he points out that you need to be active for this to help. Just having muscle tissue isn't enough. What he doesn't say in the video (but does in his book) is that the timing of the exercise is critical--you need to do the exercise (and even walking is enough) before insulin is secreted to manage the glucose in your system. This typically means 20 minutes or so after you finish eating a meal.”
I’m not saying he is wrong. I’m not saying I am right.
In fact I encourage you to buy his book, he has had an amazing transformation, so he obviously did something right!
Does that mean the 3 people I interviewed and the millions of other people who have had successful transformations without keto diets are wrong??
Science and theory are one thing. They might find an ideal method.
But what about practical?
In the end people probably don’t care about how they get to their goals. If it’s easy for them to go keto, go keto! So long as you don’t go over on your calories, just like every other diet…
The point of my writing this is not to say something is right or wrong but to say there is more than one way to get the result and instead of arguing about which way is right let’s spend time helping people make the changes they are able to make. I have heard a lot of people say they do not want to give up bread or pasta, does that mean they are doomed?