Low carbohydrate diets have proven to be quite effective for fat loss. However, there is more to designing an optimal plan than just cutting out bread and sweets. To achieve successful long-term results, dieters should be consuming the right kind of carbohydrates in the right amounts. Below are some guidelines to help you create a low carbohydrate diet strategy that will get you the results you desire.
An Important Distinction
There is a substantial difference between low-carb dieting and no-carb or “very low carbohydrate” dieting (VLCD). The basic low carb approach is much easier to follow and provides better, more sustainable results, so that is what will be discussed here. It involves reducing intake by cutting out most starches and sugars, but does allow fruit, fibrous vegetables, nuts and some grains to be consumed. Adjusting to this way of eating is challenging, but it is much more practical than cutting out carbs altogether as some of the more extreme plans recommend.
People often assume that the no-carb approach produces faster weight loss, but this conclusion is not supported by data or anecdotal accounts. As long as intake is low enough to control insulin release and the other diet parameters are in their respective ranges, fat loss will be achieved.
So how many carbohydrates should be consumed for optimal weight loss? This is a rather subjective question, but the general ranges are as follows.
- Smaller Females (<100lbs to 120lbs ideal body weight): 50 to70 grams per day
- Larger Females (125lbs to 160lbs ideal body weight): 70 to 90 grams per day
- Smaller Males (125lbs to 160lbs ideal body weight): 100-120 grams per day
- Medium-Sized Males (165lbs to 190lbs ideal body weight): 120-150 grams per day
- Larger Males (>200lbs ideal body weight): 150-175 grams per day
These are ideal ranges to start with, but some individuals may find that intake must be lower for optimal results. A bit of trial and error is sometimes required to find your personal “sweet spot.” Overall calories should be approximately 20 percent below maintenance intake.
Dietary fiber does not get counted in the above listed totals, as it is not processed like other carbohydrates. Simply subtract the dietary fiber from the listed total to get the adjusted amount. For foods without labels, an online calories counting website such as Calorie King can be used to determine carb content.
Studies show that 90 percent compliance to a low carbohydrate diet plan produces the same result as 100 percent compliance, so including a “cheat meal” once per week will not hinder your results. Some studies even suggest that eating a high carbohydrate meal on occasion will prevent the weight loss plateaus that occur when the body goes into starvation mode. Use this meal to eat the starchy or sugary foods you have been craving during the week, but do not go overboard and have a full blown carb frenzy. Limit yourself to one meal per week (not one day), and limit the meal time to two hours. Thus will prevent you from cancelling out all of the hard work you have done on previous days.