Which diet is better- High carb-low fat diets vs High Fat-low carb diet?
Obesity is a widely misunderstood subject with a lot of confusion and controversy. But the truth is, the solution is ‘calories-in vs calories-out’. Is it really that simple? In summary, yes, yes, it is. But can our body play tricks on us? Despite the fact that the main driver of weight loss is calories-in vs calories-out, our body can obstruct weight loss or assist with fat storage based on our diet, health and hormones. Depending on what you eat, your body will react by secreting substances or releasing hormones that may affect the whole balance between calories-in vs calories-out.
A good example would be women who have reached menopause. When you reach menopause, your estrogen levels (a hormone) become low. Estrogen is one of the hormones that regulates your metabolism as well as your weight. So, if your body runs low on estrogen levels, your body may struggle in regulating your metabolism and your weight thus, placing you at a higher risk of gaining weight (Galan and Nwadike (2018).
What is the difference between High Carb and High fat diets?
The High-Carb_low_fat diet is just as the name suggests high in carbohydrate and low in fat compared to the High-Fat-Low-Carb diet where most calories come from fats and only a little amount from carbs.
How do we burn fat?
1) Lipolysis – This is a process by which our body fat stores are broken down and released into our blood stream as free fatty acids
2) Fat oxidation – This is a process by which our body will use those pre-released fatty acids to fuel your exercise. During that exercise, we will breathe out those fatty acids.
You need to know the stages of fat burning as these are mentioned throughout this article.
What are Carbohydrates and what do they do within our body?
Carbohydrates are one of the macro-nutrients whereby 1g of carbohydrates provide 4 calories. Without getting into the science side of things and the parts that make up carbohydrates, let’s skip to the digestion part. When you ingest carbohydrates, your blood sugar will spike up because carbohydrates get broken down into glucose (sugars). In response, it will release a hormone called insulin to lower and regulate your blood sugar levels after the carbohydrates are consumed (Baker and Norton, 2019). High levels of blood sugar levels can be toxic to our blood vessels and body cells. The way insulin works is by pushing the blood sugars into body tissues.
How do carbohydrates affect weight loss?
Insulin is a hormone that increases the uptake of sugars, amino acids (protein) and fats into body tissues. So essentially, you could say that it helps our body accumulate body fat by pushing the consumed calories to be stored in our muscles or as body fat, insulin will inhibit Lipolysis and fat oxidation.
Don’t jump to conclusions and say you will never eat carbohydrates again! Under normal circumstances, this whole process of how carbohydrates limit your ability to lose weight comes in very small fractions and unless you eat carbs like a maniac its not going to cause weight gain.
What are Fats and what do they do within our body?
Fats are also one of the macro-nutrients whereby 1g of Fats provide 9 calories. Again, we will try to simplify things as much as we can. Fats have many functions within our body, including, but not limited to, being part of our body fat layer, which helps to keep our skin hydrated and helps to keep heat in, and also, helps to transport the fat-soluble vitamins around the body (Baker and Norton, 2019). Fat- soluble vitamins include A, D, E, K and these can only be transported in fats whereas other vitamins can be transported around our body via blood. Fats provide almost double the number of calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein (1g = 4 calories).
There are different types of fats, saturated and unsaturated. Regarding unsaturated fats, these can also be categorized into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond whereas polyunsaturated fats contain multiple double bonds. The more bonds fats have, the more ‘kinks’ they create. The more kinks there are, the more stubborn the fat becomes.
Fats also support testosterone in men, research shows that if you lower fats to as much as 20% of your total daily calories your testosterone can drop (Baker and Norton, 2019). When your testosterone drops, your ability to grow muscles or maintain lean muscles decreases significantly. Maintaining or growing muscle mass is vital in minimizing the risks of fat gain thanks to their ability to speed up your metabolism.
High carb-low fat diets vs High Fat-low carb diets.
With all the information provided, let’s discuss what you have all been waiting for.
If you consume a high carbohydrate – low fat diet, insulin will get released and inhibit lipolysis and fat oxidation to spare your body fat and instead burn sugars. On the contrary, if you consume high fat-low carb diet, your insulin levels will remain fairly low therefore increasing lipolysis and fat oxidation. However, if you consume a moderate amount of both, fat and carbs, your body will utilize both sugars and fat.
Do you remember that carbohydrates provide 4 calories per 1g? And fats provide 9 calories per 1g? Taking this into account, eating more fats than carbohydrates will more likely exceed your daily calories as the calories per 1g are a lot higher than calories from carbohydrates.
Therefore, despite what the carbs do within our body, our body still takes the carbohydrates and fats as calories. We burn what we eat, that’s all. Calories-in vs calories-out!
Implications of long term high-fat diet
A high-fat diet is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer including breast cancer. In addition to this, fitness performance and outcomes may be impaired because fat is not a great source of fuel for muscle and high intensity exercise.
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Galan, N. and Nwadike, V. (2018). Estrogen and weight gain: What to know and how to manage it. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321837.php [Accessed 14 Oct. 2019].
Norton, L. and Baker, P. (2019). Fat loss forever. 1st ed