The Best Carbs for Fat Loss

May 18th, 2015

Category: Nutrition

The Best Carbs for Fat Loss

Including the words “carbs” and “fat loss” in the same sentence is considered taboo to many trying to lose body fat. The low-carb fad has been well established and a highly promoted form of dieting; media sensationalism would lead us to believe that going low-carb may be your best option for weight loss. But is vilifying and eliminating an entire food group really necessary to achieve your weight loss goals?
Here’s what you need to know about carbs, why they may (or may not) be important for fat loss, and why you can eat them while still losing weight.
*Note: I will be using the terms weight loss and fat loss synonymously
What Are Carbs?
Carbs is short for carbohydrates, the technical term for all sugars, both simple (like table sugar) and complex carbs that contain starch and fiber (like potatoes and rice). Carbs are a preferred fuel source for the body and brain and are important for higher intensity sports, like sprinting and weight training, yet are not essential for daily body function. In other words, the body can survive without carbs by relying solely on fats and proteins.
Carbs are found in everything plant derived, including fruits and veggies, grains and legumes, as well as more processed foods and beverages, like bread and fruit juice. Carbohydrates containing more fiber and natural sugars, like vegetables and whole grains will be absorbed into the bloodstream slower (low glycemic index) than those with minimal fiber and more processing (high glycemic index); think baked potato with the skin vs. French fries.
Carbs, regardless of the source, shouldn’t be seen as either good or bad, rather, consuming certain types of carbs, in certain amounts, at certain times, can have a significant impact on blood sugar. High glycemic index carb sources, like bread and soda, especially when consumed in high quantities, stimulate the secretion of insulin, which can trigger weight gain.
Why Would You Want to Eat “Low-Carb”?
Let me be very clear about this – in order to lose weight, one needs to create some level of caloric restriction. Period.
Low-carb diets or simply eating low-carb, by virtue of restricting breads, pastas, sweets and even fruits, can create a caloric deficit that can help people lose weight, at least in the initial stages of implementation due to a decrease in water retention.
With longer-term implementation, there have been some well-recognized health benefits associated, including lower blood sugar, blood pressure and triglycerides as well as improvement in HDL and LDL numbers.
How does eating low carb work?
Simply stick to mostly lean meats, fish, eggs and veggies, healthy fats, full-fat dairy, and some nuts and seeds. There’s no clear cut definition about what constitutes “low-carb” and therefore, will vary from person to person based on physical activity, body type, age, gender, and general health.
However, for those who want to have their cake (and eat it too), the low carb craze can be quite the conundrum.
So is it possible to eat carbs and still lose weight?
How Many Carbs Should You Be Eating?
A good rule of thumb for most people looking to lose some body fat is to strictly avoid (at least 90% of the time) the unhealthiest sources of carbs, including:
*Baked goods; e.g., cookies and cakes
*Sugary beverages, e.g., fruit juice and soda
Here are some common foods and their carbohydrate loads:

Carbohydrate Source

Carbohydrate Source
Carbohydrate (grams)
1 Cup pasta or rice
1 12 oz soda or glass of fruit juice
1 Medium potato or 1 cup of steel cut oats
1 Slice of bread or ½ English muffin
1 Small fruit/1 cup berries
1.5 cups veggies (broccoli, greens beans)
1 Cup milk
Just to put things into perspective here, a 12-oz can of Coca-Cola is roughly 40g of carbohydrate. A couple of these per day, coupled with a bag of pretzels or morning bagel can throw you far above your caloric needs with very little nutritional value…if any.
Remember, weight loss is about creating some level of caloric restriction, which means being aware of your portion sizes, including fats and proteins.


Liberal Consumption (200+ grams per day)
This is a good range for those that are more physically active and already lean or looking to build muscle mass.
*Unlimited low starch veggies (think colorful veggies)
*A few pieces of fruit per day
*Starchy/fibrous sources of carbs, like potatoes, rice, and whole grains (those that need to be slow cooked and are chewier, like steel cut oats). 3-4+ cups per day
*Sports drinks or gels


Moderate Carb Consumption (150+ grams per day)
This range may be more appropriate for those that are physically active and are choosing to eat a little less on a daily basis for the purpose of weight loss.
Sources: Similar to liberal, but focus on consciously eating just a little less.


Minimal Carb Consumption (<100 grams per day)
This would be a great starting point for those looking to get a jump on their weight loss plan by sticking mainly to lean protein and veggies, healthy fats (like olive oil and avocado) and minimal fruit.


Take Home Message
A good starting point for most people would be to aim for 1 gram of carbohydrate per pound of ideal body weight. Adjust up or down based on progress, but don’t forget to pay attention to your protein and fats as well.
Carbs should have a place in any person’s daily nutrition despite the claims that they are promoted as some sort of evil, insulin spiking, fat-loss nemesis. As mentioned, the key to any kind of weight loss is to be aware of what and how much is being consumed on a daily basis and adjust accordingly. And if and when you can master this, you most certainly can have your cake (and eat it too).