read Low-fat vs Low-carb Diet: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

Low-fat vs Low-carb Diet: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

girl thinking about low carb or low fat diet

Whether you wish to follow a nutritious diet or incorporate exercise in your daily schedule, it is important to understand the science behind the strategy. Understanding the why before the how will help you achieve your fitness goals with precision.

So, if your goal is to lose weight, which diet should you follow? Low-fat or low-carb? We have researched and shared a low-carb vs low-fat diet comparison to help you make an informed decision.

What is a low-fat diet?

A low-fat diet is a meal plan that typically involves limiting foods that are high in fat. Think ghee, butter, and oils, among others. If you are following such a diet, you would need to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and skimmed milk. 

When you are on a low-fat diet, the intake of calories from fat decreases. This is because 1g of fat is equivalent to 9kcal, which is more than 1g of carbohydrates and protein, which are equal to 4kcal. This lowered calorie intake may eventually lead to weight loss.

A low-fat diet typically contains about 20%-35% of its calories from fat, which equates to about 30g-50g daily if you consume 2,000kcal per day.

Advantages of following a low-fat diet

A major pro of a low-fat diet is reduced calorie consumption. So, if you have been struggling with weight gain due to an increased calorie intake, this diet can be useful for you.

A low-fat diet can be nutritious and may help you lose unwanted weight as long as it is balanced with healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, pulses, and fruits; unsaturated fats, such as fatty fish, nuts, and oilseeds; and protein-rich foods like egg and lean meat. A low-fat diet also helps you reduce your risk for heart disease, hypertension, and certain cancers due to a lowered intake of saturated and trans fat.

Drawbacks of consuming a low-fat diet

The disadvantages of a low-fat diet can be attributed to the lack of flavor and food variety in your day-to-day eatables, which may make the meals feel monotonous and less filling after a while. Fat is more satiating in comparison to carbohydrates. So, a low-fat diet may make you crave for more, ultimately leading to overeating.

Moreover, unsaturated fat is necessary for brain health and has been shown to protect against depression. So, a diet low in fat may put an individual’s mental health at risk.

The lack of fat also makes it harder for the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, which may result in deficiencies.

What is a low-carb diet?

A low-carb diet minimizes the consumption of carbohydrates (carbs). In such a diet, your carb intake from overall calories gets restricted to only 30% or less. So, if you consume 2,000kcal per day, your ideal daily carb intake may range between 100g-150g. In a low-carb diet, carbs are replaced with proteins and fats. 

While following this diet, you may experience water loss due to low glycogen levels in the body. Glycogen is the storage form of carbs (glucose) in your body, and it holds onto water. 1g of glycogen holds 3 molecules of water. Usually, this water loss is temporary because the body will reach a new state of balance with increased production of ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fat.

Carbs are the primary source of energy for the body. Without this macronutrient, the body starts breaking down the stored fat stores for energy. So, when your carb intake is minimum, the body will start to use stored fat as its main source of fuel, leading to weight loss.

Benefits of consuming a low-carb diet

Lowering carbs in your diet can lead to weight loss by triggering weight loss pathways in the body. This may reduce fat storage and promote fat burning.

It’s generally believed that following a low-carb diet and increasing protein consumption can give you a feeling of greater satiety (fullness). People on a low-carb, high-protein diet tend to eat less because they feel satisfied more quickly. This is because their diet includes high amounts of fat and protein, which are more satiating than carbs.

As the body uses fat as its energy when you are on a low-carb diet, studies show that this may lead to improved insulin sensitivity and protection against type-2 diabetes due to controlled blood sugar. 

Disadvantages of following a low-carb diet

The brain prefers to use carbs (glucose) as the primary source of energy. So, lack of carbohydrates may lead to mental confusion and irritability in the initial phase of the diet. It is because the body takes time to start using fats as its primary source of energy.

Since fruits and vegetables contain a good amount of carbs, you may consume a limited quantity of these items when on a low-carb diet. This may lead to a lack of essential micronutrients and fiber in the diet. The deficiency of fiber may hinder the growth of good bacteria, which may contribute to digestive issues, such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Additionally, it may result in mood swings and diminished immunity against bacterial or viral infections.

Also Watch: Carbs to Eat for Weight Loss

Which diet is better for weight loss?

Studies have shown that both these diets are equally effective for weight loss. Weight loss happens when you consume fewer calories than you burn, and both these diets help create a calorie deficit, which can ultimately lead to weight loss. So, you may opt for a diet plan according to your preference and sustainability.  

Although more research is needed, early studies depict that there are no long-term health risks associated with low-carb diets. However, studies indicate that a diet that is too low in fat can result in a decreased HDL cholesterol level. This is counterproductive because optimal HDL levels protect against heart disease. So, if you are planning to follow a low-fat diet, keep this point in mind. 

You can achieve weight loss as well as overall wellness by following a consistent eating pattern. However, it does not have to mean going completely low-carb or low-fat. 

Also Read: Healthy Eating Habits: How to Get Them Right

Everyone’s physiology and lifestyle are different. There are various styles of eating to help you accomplish your weight loss goals. All you need to do is identify an eating pattern that suits your goals, dietary preference, and lifestyle, so you can sustain your efforts to lose and maintain your weight.

References
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3. Fernández-Elías VE, Ortega JF, Nelson RK, et al. Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 2015; 115: 1919-26.
4. Xing MY, Xu SZ, Shen P. Effect of a low-fat diet on breast cancer survival: a meta-analysis. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2014; 15: 1141-4.
5. Bazzano LA, Green T, Harrison TN, et al. Dietary approaches to prevent hypertension. Curr Hypertens Rep 2013; 15: 694-702. 
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7. Sánchez-Villegas A, Verberne L, De Irala J, et al. Dietary fat intake and the risk of depression: the SUN Project. PLoS One 2011; 6: e16268. 
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