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Will Cutting Carbs Help Burn More Fat?

Carbs are getting a bad rep these days, with claims in the fitness community linking carbs to increased fat storage. It's no wonder why cutting carbs is usually the first approach when people try to lean down. It begs the question, should we cut our carbs to burn more fat?


As with all my posts, weight loss is all about the calories consumed rather than the composition of those calories. If you're in a calorie deficit (reducing your calories by more than you take in) through exercise and diet, you will lose weight regardless of if you only eat sticks of butter or fistfuls of marshmallows. However, your calorie composition is more significant if fat loss is your primary goal.


Where Should I Cut My Calories?

When creating a calorie deficit, you must cut calories from somewhere. It can be from fats, carbs, protein, or a combination of two or three macros. The variety you pick will impact your body composition - the actual fat loss vs. muscle loss. Holding onto your muscle mass will make you look tighter and more compact as you steadily lose weight. While stripping all the tissue from your body - including both muscle and fat - will lead to what we call "skinny fat."


Protein

Protein must remain high to spare muscle loss during a caloric deficit. There is a threshold where excess protein does not have any added benefit, but most people need to eat more high-quality protein as it is. So, your best bet is to keep protein as high as possible and cut calories from other sources. Eating 1g of protein per pound of body weight is the gold standard for lean dieters. Heavy-set individuals could get away with less protein since they'll be less likely to strip muscle off their frame. These folks should consume 0.8g of protein per body weight or 1g per pound of skeletal muscle. Protein will have a superior absorption rate if spread throughout the day into four or more meals.


Healthy Proteins:


Carbs

Protein, fats, and carbs can all fuel the body, but carbohydrates are the mac-daddy of the three. Cutting out this macronutrient will decrease your energy output, negatively impacting your workout performance and recovery. Your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) will slow down if your diet has insufficient carbs. Carbs also have muscle-sparing capabilities and promote better sleep. Like most things, there are always outliers. Some people excel on fewer carbs and higher fat in a calorie deficit. However, research shows that most people perform better with higher carbohydrates than fats as their primary fuel source. Experimenting with both low-carb and low-fat diets will help you determine where you fall on the spectrum.


Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do, unrelated to sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise. This kind of energy exertion ranges from walking to work, typing, cleaning, yard work, and even fidgeting.


Healthy Carbohydrates:



Fats

When comparing fats to carbs, fats have fewer benefits than carbs as a fuel source. Therefore, cutting carbs will have more downsides than cutting fats in a caloric deficit. However, fats do have to remain at a certain level for hormone regulation. Fat can be cut sustainably to 30% of your body weight as a good rule of thumb. Extreme dieters like bodybuilders looking to get shredded for a competition can cut their fats below the recommended threshold for a brief period, around 2-3 weeks maximum. Longer durations can negatively impact their health.


Healthy Fats:


For most people, simply cleaning up their diet will do the trick for fat loss. Try cutting calorically dense foods like ice cream, pizza, pasta with heavy sauces and cheese, donuts, pastries, cookies, cakes, fries, candy/chocolate bars at the checkout counter, and the like. Those items are loaded with fats which increases the calories tremendously. As a result, you'll opt for leaner alternatives and slash your caloric intake without even trying too hard!


As always, if you have any comments or want us to cover a specific topic, we'd love to hear from you! Please send us an email at support@michaudmethod.com.


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