Should I Count Calories or Carbs to Lose Weight?

What Matters Most When Weight Loss Is Your Goal

calories or carbs for weight loss
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What is the best way to lose weight? Dieters often get confused about whether they should count calories or carbs to slim down. Much of confusion is the result of the calories vs. sugar debate. Does calorie count matter more or should you reduce sugary carbs for weight loss? And what about fat? To get the answer, it's important to sort through the nutrition facts.

Should You Calories or Carbs to Lose Weight?

To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit.

That means you need to burn more calories than you consume. In very simple terms, it means that most of us need to eat less and move more. We can burn more calories through exercise or increased daily activity (for example, by boosting your step count) You can also create a deficit if you consume fewer calories each day.  So calories do count. 

But your intake of fat, sugar and carbohydrates can affect the total number of calories you consume each day. That means you should pay attention to those numbers as well.

Calories vs Carbs vs Fat: How Each Affects Your Diet

Here is a brief explanation of how consuming calories in the form of  fat, sugar and carbohydrates can affect your total caloric intake:

  • Fat.  A single gram of fat provides nine calories of energy. A single gram of carbohydrate or protein only provides four calories. If you eat foods high in fat, your total caloric intake can increase quickly because the calorie cost is so high. But eating a reasonable amount of healthy fat can be smart for your diet.
    Fat helps you to feel full and satiated. If you eat a small amount of fatty food, you may feel satisfied sooner and eat less overall. For that reason, foods that contain healthy fats like certain types of fish, nuts or avocado can be a smart addition to your weight loss diet.
     
  • Sugar.  Sugar itself isn’t necessarily bad for you. But many of us consume way too much sugar without even knowing it. Sugar is added to many of the processed foods we eat.  Foods like ketchup, salsa or canned soups may contain added sugar even though they aren’t sweet.  And many of the drinks we consume are loaded with sugar. Increased sugar consumption has been linked to serious health consequences such as an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity.
    Aside from the health consequences of consuming too much added sugar, there are diet drawbacks as well. Many experts feel that the more sugar we eat, the more sugar we crave.  So if you can reduce your sugar intake, you may be able to reduce your total caloric intake and lose weight.
     

Calories or Carbs: The Bottom Line

To create a calorie deficit and lose weight, most people find it easiest to count calories. The calorie count is easy to find for most foods and easy to tally with a weight loss app or tracker. Also, your calorie count is what matters in the end if you want to lose weight.

However, as you count calories, it is helpful to look at your balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. If you keep your carb intake within recommended guidelines (50-65% of your total calorie intake) that leaves enough room to eat a healthy amount of protein and fat. By consuming a healthy, balanced diet, you are more likely to provide your body with the fuel it needs to stay active.

 

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