There is endless debate on the pro’s and con’s of a low carbohydrate diet.
My personal belief is that you can’t go wrong with the balance diet:
40% carbs/30% protein/30% fat.
I tweek this depending on how active I am and what I am training for.
How do I know my macronutrient balance? I use myfitnesspal and look at pie chart.
This article from Christian Finn of Muscle Evo is a great overview.
“Many people believe that avoiding carbs completely is the fastest
and best way to get rid of fat.
You may have heard claims like “there is no such thing as an
essential carbohydrate”. Which is true.
Open a nutrition textbook and you will read about essential fatty
acids, essential amino acids and essential micronutrients. But you
won’t find anything about essential carbohydrate.
Your body will continue to function just as long as you’re
supplying it with essential fats, essential amino acids, vitamins,
minerals and water.
However, the fact that it’s possible to live off fat and protein
doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to do so.
There is a big difference between the type of diet you can survive
on and the type of diet you will thrive on.
Rather than follow a “one size fits all” approach to nutrition,
it’s far better to adjust your carbohydrate intake based on how
active you are, as well as the type of activity you’re doing.
Let’s take the example of someone who is obese and just wants a
simple way to lose weight without tracking their macros, weighing
food or spending time in the gym.
In this case, restricting their intake of carbohydrate has a number
First, the foods that are typically consumed on a low-carbohydrate
diet tend to be rich in protein. Protein is the most satiating
nutrient out there, and fills you up faster than carbohydrate or
fat. There is also some research to show that a ketogenic diet
reduces appetite independently of protein intake.
Some people also find that certain carbohydrate-rich foods trigger
cravings and the start of a junk food binge that can last anywhere
from a few hours to a few days. Avoiding these trigger foods can
make it a lot easier to stick to a diet.
In other words, when they make the shift to a low-carbohydrate
diet, a lot of people lose weight simply because they eat fewer
But even then, cutting back on carbs doesn’t mean that you need to
cut them out completely. Provided it puts you in an energy deficit,
a ketogenic diet – one that is high in fat and protein but contains
little carbohydrate – works just fine for fat loss.
But it’s no better than a non-ketogenic low-carbohydrate diet where
you get 30-40% of your total calories from carbs.
In one study, researchers from Arizona State University compared
two different diets over a 6-week period.
Diet one was a ketogenic diet, with less than 10% of total calories
coming from carbohydrate. The second diet was higher in
carbohydrate (40% of total calories) and lower in fat (30% of total
calories). Protein intake was almost identical in both groups.
Subjects in both groups lost fat. But there was no significant
difference in the amount of fat lost.
When setting up your diet, you also need to factor in the type and
amount of training you do. That’s because carbohydrate plays an
important part in both the preparation for and recovery from
It’s possible to survive quite happily on a ketogenic diet. And if
your workouts are of the low intensity variety, you won’t notice
too much of a difference in your performance.
But if you do a lot of intense exercise, the quality of your
workouts is going to suffer.
Even Dr Jeff Volek, a former Indiana state champion in powerlifting
and one of America’s leading low-carb diet and research experts,
accepts that a ketogenic diet can have an adverse effect on your
performance in the gym.
“If you are trying to gain weight, my experience is that it is very
difficult to prevent weight loss, let alone gain weight, on a
strict ketogenic diet,” says Volek.
“When you start doing higher repetitions like bodybuilders do, at
least during some phases of their training, I do think there’s
probably going to be some compromise in your ability to do those
If your main goal is to lose fat, then cutting back on your
carbohydrate intake is a step in the right direction. But there’s
no reason to avoid it completely.
Like a good suit, your carbohydrate intake should be tailored in
such a way that it’s the right fit for you.”
Christian Finn, M.Sc.
Founder of Muscle Evo