Should you cut carbs if you’re trying to lose weight? Here’s what studies say

Low carbohydrate diets can be very effective for weight loss, according to research

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If you're trying to lose weight, chances are you’ve considered a low-carb diet. Perhaps you’ve already tried one of the best personal trainer and fitness apps to track your food intake? The good news is low carbohydrate diets can be very effective for weight loss. Eating low-carb has been linked to higher weight loss than a low-fat or Mediterranean diet, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the two-year trial, 322 moderately obese participants were assigned to one of three diets: low-fat, restricted-calorie; Mediterranean, restricted-calorie; or low-carbohydrate, non–restricted-calorie. The mean weight loss was 2.9 kg for the low-fat group, 4.4 kg for the Mediterranean-diet group, and 4.7 kg for the low-carbohydrate group.

The low-carbohydrate diet aimed to provide 20g of carbohydrates per day for an initial two-month phase, with a gradual increase to a maximum of 120g per day to maintain the weight loss. The intakes of total calories, protein, and fat were not limited.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, carbs should make up 45-65% of your daily calorie intake. But if you want to follow a low-carb diet, a Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases study says you need to aim for less than 45% of your calories from carbs. 

Rather than jumping straight into a very low-carb diet to lose weight, start by cutting down on processed carbs, reducing portion sizes, and increasing the amounts of non-starchy vegetables you’re eating. Combined with the best exercises for weight loss, you should see the pounds drop off in no time. 

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Are all carbs the same? 

It’s important to remember that ideal carb intake varies from person to person since factors such as age, gender, and level of physical activity all impact the number of carbs you should eat to promote weight loss. There is no universal daily carb consumption figure for best weight loss results.

It’s not just the number, but the type of carbohydrates you eat that’s important. Simple carbs like those found in soda and white bread can spike blood sugar, so consider reducing those before cutting complex carbs. Complex carbs are the kind found in whole grains and vegetables that give you slow-release energy throughout the day. 

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Catherine Renton

Catherine is a freelance journalist writing across titles such as Verywell Health, Healthline, The Daily Telegraph, Refinery29, Elle, and Vogue. She specializes in content covering health, fitness, wellness, and culture. A once reluctant runner, Catherine has competed in 30 running events in the past five years and looks forward to one day running the London Marathon.