The Truth About The Low Carb Diet And Weight Loss

If weight loss is your goal, you’re probably familiar with the low carb diet.

In fact, you may be using some form of this diet plan right now or are maybe thinking about trying it out to see if it lives up to the hype.

In either case, you’re going to want to stop and read this article, because I’m going to reveal the “secrets” behind the low carb diet and how it really works.

Let’s begin…

Does The Low Carb Diet Work?

Let’s start with the first question you probably have: does the low carb diet actually work for weight loss?

The answer is YES.

Absolutely, positively, without question, no doubt about it. This type of diet plan can work.

This is a fact that has been confirmed numerous times in studies as well as in the real world by the countless people who have used it successfully.

So yes, the low carb diet is 100% capable of making weight loss happen.

But, Here’s The Thing…

Now for the fun part.

You see, whether or not the low carb diet works isn’t really the question we need to be asking here.

Because, honestly, all kinds of diets can “work.”

Low calorie, low fat, low carb, keto, Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, intermittent fasting, clean eating, Weight Watchers, The Zone, Mediterranean, South Beach, and on and on and on.

There is a seemingly never-ending list of weight loss diets that are capable of “working.” In fact, virtually every single diet in existence – no matter how weird, crazy, dangerous, or stupid it is – has plenty of people who have successfully lost weight while using it.

So, the fact that the low carb diet “works” isn’t really all that special or important.

What IS important, however, is why it works, how it works, and whether eating low carb is even remotely necessary at all for someone who wants to lose weight.

Because, when you start to truthfully answer these questions, you quickly realize that:

  1. The low carb diet is not at all what it seems to be.
  2. The biggest proponents of it are either wrong or lying to you.
  3. The effectiveness of low carb diets has nothing to do with carbs.

Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.


Yes, the low carb diet can (and does) work for weight loss. But then again, the same is true of virtually every diet known to man. What’s really important here is why it works, how it works, and whether the “low carb” aspect of it is responsible for its effectiveness. As you’re about to see, it’s not.

The Truth About Weight Loss: It Has Nothing To Do With Carbs

(Note To The Low Carb Dieters Who Are Reading This: This next section will contain an “argument” you’ve probably heard before, and I know you’re going to disagree with it. That’s fine. All I ask is that you please stick with me anyway, because the sections that come after it are going to contain the things you need to hear. If it helps, you’re more than welcome to curse me and call me names while reading this section. Deal? Awesome.)

Weight loss and weight gain (or really, fat loss and fat gain) come down to calories in vs calories out.

Yes, many other aspects of your diet (and workout, and lifestyle) still definitely matter and will play many important roles. But, above all else… it comes down to calories.

Here’s the really short version of how it works…

  • Caloric Surplus
    If you consistently eat more calories than your body burns, you end up in a “caloric surplus.” Because you took in more calories than your body needed to use for energy, the leftover calories that weren’t burned got stored in your body for later use, primarily in the form of body fat. This, right here, is the only scenario in which fat is ever gained.
  • Caloric Deficit
    If you consistently eat fewer calories than your body needs to burn for energy, you end up in a “caloric deficit.” Because you took in fewer calories than your body needed, your body was forced to dip into the backup fuel source that it has previously stored in itself for this very purpose – your body fat – and burn that instead. This, right here, is the only scenario in which fat is ever lost.

(For additional details, check out How To Lose Fat and How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight)

Which is all to say that in order for ANY weight loss diet to EVER work, it HAS to involve eating fewer calories so that a caloric deficit is consistently present.

When this happens, the diet works.

When it doesn’t, the diet fails.

This is ALWAYS true… 100% of the time… regardless of what kind of diet it is.

A caloric deficit is the sole cause of fat loss and the sole requirement of an effective weight loss diet.

With me so far? Cool.

What About Carbs?

We’ve now reached the point where you’re probably realizing that low carb diets work (hell, I even said so myself), yet they have nothing to do with calories.

No counting calories. No eating fewer calories. And certainly no caloric deficits.

Instead, low carb diets are all about carbs.

That’s the REAL “thing” you need to eat less of in order to lose weight… or so the proponents of this diet will claim. Not calories.

In fact, as long as you eat low carb, you can supposedly eat as many calories as you want and still lose weight just fine.

Why? Because this whole “calorie thing” is supposedly just a stupid, flawed, outdated myth/lie/scam, and carbs are the true determining factor of weight loss and weight gain.

After all, I said at the beginning of this article that low carb diets definitely DO work for weight loss. I stated this as a fact that has been confirmed in studies as well as in the real world… countless times over.

Therefore, what I’m saying about calories has to be false, right?

Well, let’s see about that…


A caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss. “Calories in vs calories out” is indeed the primary determining factor of weight loss and weight gain. Low carb diets dispute this and claim it is in fact carbs – not calories – that are the real key.

The 7 Real Reasons Why Low Carb Diets Work

It’s time to reveal the big secrets behind how the low carb diet really works for weight loss.

It’s primarily a combination of 7 evidence-based reasons…

Reason #1: You Lose Water Weight

The carbs we eat are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. For every gram of glycogen being stored, about 3 grams of water are stored along with it (source).

This is why people who start a low carb diet almost immediately lose a few pounds.

Many of these people will think “Wow, low carb really does work! It’s only been a week and I’ve already lost a bunch of fat!”

Only, they didn’t.

What they lost is some meaningless water weight, all of which would be gained right back as soon as they start eating more carbs.

(Side Note: This is also the biggest reason why people who overeat one day will often wake up the next day and see that they’ve gained a few pounds overnight. They’ll then proceed to freak out thinking it’s body fat when it’s largely just water retention caused by the extra carbs they consumed. A few days back to their usual calorie/carb intake will make that water retention subside. Additional details here: The 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain)

Now, am I saying that ALL of the weight people lose while on a low carb diet is just water weight, not fat?

Absolutely not.

I’m just pointing out that most (if not all) of the weight people lose during their initial week or so is indeed just water.

But, I will gladly admit that after this initial period, the weight being lost is body fat. Let’s take a look at the real reasons for how and why it happens…


Most, if not all, of the initial weight loss seen during the first 1-2 weeks on a low carb diet plan is due to a loss of water weight, not body fat.

Reason #2: Eating More Protein Keeps You Fuller

In addition to eating fewer carbs, low carb diets also involve eating more protein.

Sometimes this occurs directly, where the diet will literally say “eat more protein” or “eat this much protein” or “eat the foods on this special list” (and the list contains high protein foods), or something similar.

Other times, it occurs a bit more indirectly, simply as a result of the fact that if you greatly restrict an entire macronutrient (in this case, carbs) from a person’s diet, they’re going to kinda have to start eating a lot more of something else (protein and fat) to compensate and… you know… not starve to death.

Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

For this reason, low carb diets can more accurately be described as being low carb, higher protein diets.

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because protein is the macronutrient playing the largest role in controlling hunger.

In fact, protein’s role in hunger control is among the most significant of all dietary factors (sources: here, here, here, here, and here).

Now guess what happens when you start eating more of something that helps you stay fuller, longer?

That’s right… you end up eating fewer total calories because you’re not as hungry.

And when fewer total calories are eaten, you become more likely to end up being in a caloric deficit.

And when a caloric deficit exists, fat loss happens because it’s calories – NOT carbs – that dictate fat loss and fat gain.

But wait… there’s more!


Low carb diets always involve eating significantly more protein, and protein plays a major beneficial role in hunger control. This indirectly leads to fewer calories being eaten (because people naturally eat less when they aren’t as hungry), which increases the potential for a caloric deficit to exist.

Reason #3: Eating More Protein Increases Metabolic Rate

In addition to protein’s hunger-controlling qualities, it’s also the macronutrient that has the largest thermic effect.

This means it will cause a person’s Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) to increase the most, which is defined as the calories your body burns digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing the foods you eat.

Basically, the higher your TEF is, the more calories your body naturally burns each day. With carbs, TEF is about 5-10%. With fat, it’s about 0-3%. But with protein, TEF is 20-30%. [source]

So, for example, if a food contains 100 calories from protein, 20-30 of those calories will be burned to process that food. With fat or carbs, you would likely only burn 0-10 calories.

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because not only will a higher protein intake lead to fewer total calories being eaten each day thanks to its hunger-controlling benefits, but it will also lead to more calories being burned each day… which is yet another factor (TEF accounts for about 10% of a person’s overall metabolic rate) that contributes to the presence of a caloric deficit (sources: here, here, here, and here).

But wait, there’s even more!


Since protein has a much higher thermic effect than other macronutrients, and since low carb diets involve eating more protein, a person on this type of diet plan will often end up with an higher metabolic rate due to their higher protein intake, thus increasing the potential for a caloric deficit to exist.

Reason #4: Eating More Protein Preserves Muscle

As if hunger control and increased TEF weren’t enough, here’s another fun fact about protein: it’s the dietary factor playing the largest role in preventing muscle loss while in a caloric deficit (sources: herehereherehereherehere, and here).

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because a higher protein intake during a period of weight loss will ensure that more of the weight being lost is body fat rather than lean muscle mass. This, in turn, will help to keep a person’s metabolic rate comparatively higher as they lose weight because the body burns more calories maintaining muscle than it does maintaining fat.


  • One pound of fat burns about 2 calories per day at rest.
  • One pound of muscle burns about 6 calories per day at rest.


Which means, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will naturally burn each day (both at rest and during activity)… which is yet another factor that contributes to the presence of a caloric deficit.  


A higher protein intake helps to preserve muscle tissue while body fat is lost. And since muscle is three times more metabolically active than fat, a person’s metabolic rate will stay some degree higher during a period of fat loss, thus increasing the potential for a caloric deficit to exist.

Reason #5: Eating More Vegetables And Fiber Keeps You Fuller

Just like with protein, low carb diets also directly or indirectly involve an increase in vegetable consumption, which leads to an increase in fiber intake.

Again, this either happens because the diet specifically says to eat more vegetables and/or a certain amount of fiber, or because vegetables appear near the very top of a low carb diet’s list of “low carb foods you’re allowed to eat.” Or both.

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because fiber is another nutrient that plays a beneficial roll in controlling hunger (sources: here, here, here, here, and here). 

It provides “bulk” within your stomach, which increases how physically full your stomach is (which, in turn, increases how physically full you feel). Fiber also helps to slow the digestion of the foods and meals we eat, which increases how long we stay full after eating them.

In addition to being an excellent source of fiber, vegetables also happen to be relatively high in water content, which is yet another nutritional quality known for promoting fullness (sources: here, here, here, here, and here).

Which is all to say that when you eat more vegetables/fiber, you’re going to get a meaningful amount of hunger-controlling benefits.

And guess what happens when you start getting these hunger-controlling benefits? That’s right… you end up eating fewer total calories because you’re less hungry.


Low carb diets typically involve eating more vegetables/fiber, which plays a major role in hunger control. Just like with protein, this indirectly leads to fewer calories being eaten (because people naturally eat less when they aren’t as hungry), which increases the potential for a caloric deficit to exist.

Reason #6: Eating More Fat Keeps You Fuller

Low carb diets also directly or indirectly involve eating more fat.

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because, like protein and fiber, fat is another nutrient playing a beneficial role in hunger control thanks to its ability to slow the digestion of a food/meal and the absorption of glucose into the blood stream (sources here and here)… which yet again leads to fewer total calories being eaten because you’re less hungry.


Low carb diets involve eating more dietary fat, which plays positive roles in hunger control. Just like with protein and fiber, this increases the potential for a caloric deficit to exist because people naturally eat fewer calories when they aren’t as hungry.

Reason #7: Eating Fewer Carbs = Eating Fewer Calories

It’s now time for the biggest reason why the low carb diet works. This is the most top secret secret of all the secrets.

Are you ready?

Here goes…

Low carb diets are built around one very obvious fundamental principle: eating fewer carbs.

Sometimes the diet is very low in carbs, sometimes it’s extremely low in carbs, and sometimes it’s a straight up “no carb” diet.

Why am I pointing out something so obvious, you ask?

Because carbs just so happen to be the macronutrient/food group that comprises the majority of a typical person’s diet. It also happens to be the macronutrient/food group that encompasses the majority of the foods that people tend to overeat the most.

You know… foods like:

  • bread
  • rice
  • pasta
  • potatoes
  • cereal
  • chips
  • cookies
  • sugary foods
  • snack foods
  • junk foods
  • soda
  • juice
  • sports drinks
  • and on and on and on.

These are the kinds of foods that you’re not allowed to eat on a low carb diet.

Now guess what happens when you greatly restrict or completely eliminate all of these foods? Guess what happens when you remove a ton of carbs (which contain 4 calories per gram) from a person’s diet?

You end up removing a ton of calories, too. 

And thus, fewer total calories end up being eaten.

And it’s this, above all else, that makes low carb diets “work.”

In fact, it’s this, above all else, that makes EVERY diet work. Let me explain…

Direct Deficit Diets vs Indirect Deficit Diets

In my book, Superior Fat Loss, I go into detail about what I like to call “direct deficit diets” and “indirect deficit diets.” Here’s the short version:

  • Direct Deficit Diets
    These are diets built around DIRECTLY creating your required caloric deficit, and then designing everything else with that as the foundation of your diet.
  • Indirect Deficit Diets
    These are diets built around placing any number of (often unnecessary) rules and restrictions on what, when, and how you can eat, thereby INDIRECTLY causing your required caloric deficit to exist (often while claiming calories have nothing to do with it).

The low carb diet is a perfect example of an indirect deficit diet.

When it works, it’s because a caloric deficit was indirectly created. The reduction in carb intake – in and of itself – had nothing to do with it.

That’s because weight loss always comes down to calories in vs calories out. Eating fewer carbs is just an indirect means to eating fewer calories.

The same can be said for eating less fat, or less sugar, or less grains, or less “dirty foods,” or less non-Paleo foods, or less “bad foods,” or fasting for significant portions of the day, or not eating after 7PM, or any other (unnecessary) dietary method that restricts what you can eat or the manner in which you can eat it.

That’s not to say this sort of stuff can’t work for losing weight. It certainly can. Like I said before, low carb diets DO work.

However, despite what the proponents of these methods might falsely claim or the users of these methods might falsely believe… it’s NEVER these other “restrictions” that are making weight loss happen. It’s always the underlying caloric deficit that they are indirectly causing.

Well, I should say… the underlying caloric deficit that they are hopefully causing.

The Problems With Indirect Deficit Diets Like Low Carb

With all else being equal (adherence, consistency, execution, etc.), direct deficit diets are guaranteed to work.

But indirect deficit diets like low carb? With all else being equal, many of them CAN work. And, like I’ve been saying since the beginning, many often DO work. No doubt about that at all.

The problem, however, is that it’s now less of a guarantee and more of a lucky side effect.

What I mean is, instead of directly doing the one thing that truly needs to be done for weight loss to occur (creating a caloric deficit), these diets ignore calories while placing various unnecessary rules and restrictions on the way that you eat (e.g. foods you can or can’t eat, times you can or can’t eat, etc.), thus indirectly causing you to eat less… thus indirectly causing a deficit to exist.

And that leads to two big problems…

  1. You’re doing stuff you don’t truly NEED to be doing for the purpose of causing the one and only thing you NEED to be doing… and these non-essential things are not always guaranteed to be enough to make it happen.
    Meaning, regardless of the type of non-calorie-based rules and restrictions a diet employs, it’s always going to be possible for a person to out-eat them. So while greatly restricting or completely eliminating carbs should hypothetically make it harder for someone to eat too many calories, it certainly doesn’t make it impossible (i.e. removing the “bad” foods isn’t guaranteed to prevent a person from simply overeating “good” foods instead). Which, of course, is why so many of the people on these types of diets still fail to reach their weight loss goals despite following all of their unnecessary rules. Speaking of which…
  2. The various unnecessary and often excessive rules and restrictions these diets entail typically force you to eat in a manner that doesn’t suit your personal preferences (or just flat out annoys the crap out of you).
    And doing things that go against your own personal preferences – like avoiding carbs even though you enjoy eating them and want to continue doing so (plus the added fun of the Ironic Process Theory: the more you try to avoid carbs, the more you’re going to obsess over them) – is the #1 way to create problems with diet adherence and long-term sustainability. This, probably even more so than the first problem, is why people on these types of diets either fail to lose weight in the first place, or fail to keep that weight off after losing it.

This is something I bring up for the people who say things like: “If the low carb diet can work, who cares why it works? Even if we know it’s just making us eat fewer calories? As long as it’s working, who really cares? Counting calories seems annoying anyway, so I’d rather just stop eating carbs because it seems simpler. So why not just do that?”

Well, these two potential problems would be my response to those questions.


When you eat fewer carbs, you eat fewer calories. Plain and simple. 1 gram of carbs contains 4 calories. It tends to be the macronutrient that comprises the majority of most people’s diets and the foods people are most likely to overeat. Therefore, when you greatly restrict or completely remove such a significant part of a person’s overall diet, you also end up removing a significant amount of calories. And when that happens, a caloric deficit becomes a lot more likely to (indirectly) exist.

“More Proof! I Want Even More Proof!”

What’s that you say?

All of the facts, logic, and evidence I’ve provided so far isn’t enough, and you want more?

No problem.

Here’s more…

Examples Of HIGH Carb Diets Working Well For Weight Loss

Here now is a handful of perfect real-world examples where people went on crazy/extreme diets that were very high in carbs and yet still lost weight just fine.

Why did these people go on these crazy diets, you ask?

In some (but not all) cases, they did it to help prove the very same points I’ve been making throughout this article, the most notable of which is that it’s calories and not carbs (or anything else) that determines fat loss and fat gain.

Here’s a breakdown of exactly what happened…

(Note: I am not recommending any of these diets. Like I said, they are all crazy, extreme, and obviously far from ideal. However, they’re still useful for showing how unnecessary a low carb diet is for losing weight.)

  • The Twinkie Diet
    Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, went on a 10-week diet comprised largely of snack foods that are super high in carbs/sugar (e.g. Twinkies, Little Debbie cakes, Doritos, Oreos, brownies, sugary cereals, etc.). However, he also created a caloric deficit. Guess what happened? He lost 27 lbs in 2 months and reduced his body fat percentage from 33.4% to 24.9%. He also reduced his “bad” cholesterol (LDL) by 20%, increased his “good” cholesterol (HDL) 20%, and reduced triglycerides by 39%. (source)
  • The Fast Food Diet
    John Cisna, a high school science teacher from Iowa, went on a McDonald’s-only diet for 3 straight months comprised primarily of foods like Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, McMuffins, various desserts (such as sundaes and ice cream), and other typical fast food items. However, he also created a caloric deficit. Guess what happened? He lost 37 lbs during those 90 days. (source)
  • The Potato Diet (Version 1)
    Chris Voigt, the head of the Washington State Potato Commission (yup, apparently that’s a thing), went on a diet where he ate nothing but potatoes for 60 days. However, he also unintentionally created a caloric deficit (partially because he was so full from all of the fiber the potatoes contained and he simply couldn’t eat as much as he intended to). Guess what happened? He lost 21 lbs during those 60 days. (source)
  • The Potato Diet (Version 2)
    Andrew Flinders Taylor, who appears to just be some random dude from Australia, went on a potato-only diet of his own, this time doing it for nearly 1 full year. However, a caloric deficit also existed. Guess what happened? He lost 117 pounds in a year. (source)

There are actually more examples like this where people went on equally crazy diets that involved eating everything from only pizza (source) to only ice cream (source) and, in every single case, they all still lost weight just fine.

The key question is, why is this? And the answer is very simple.

Because weight loss and weight gain are dictated by calorie intake, not by carb intake. Even when you eat tons and tons of carbs – and even when they are the really bad, high sugar, high glycemic kind – fat will still be lost as long as a caloric deficit exists.


There are many real-world examples of people going on extreme diets that consist almost entirely of foods that are very high in carbs and/or sugar – the exact same foods that low carb diets say must be avoided in order to lose weight – and all of those people lost weight just fine thanks to the presence of a caloric deficit.

A List Of Relevant Studies

If real-world evidence isn’t your thing, and you happen to be the kind of person who requires a long list of relevant studies that support a point before you’d even consider accepting that point as truth… then this next section is for you.

Here now is a collection of just some of the studies that support the fact that A) a caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss, B) whether carb intake is low, moderate, or high, fat loss still happens just the same as long a deficit exists, and C) when total calorie and protein intake are controlled for, it makes little to no difference whatsoever how many grams of carbs you eat.

Feel free to check out each study when you have a few hours to kill…


But wait… hang on… I bet I know what you’re thinking now.

“Where Are All Of The Studies That Support Low Carb Diets?!?”

If you’re a low carb dieter or thinking about becoming one, chances are you’ve heard about other studies that support the usage of this type of diet plan.

You know… the studies that support the claim that is it indeed carbs (not calories) that truly dictate fat loss and fat gain. The studies that support the claim that low carb diets are superior to other types of diets. The studies that every well-known low carb guru uses to back up the recommendations they give, the claims they make, and the products they sell.

Where, exactly, are all of those studies?

Am I ignoring them, or insinuating that they don’t exist?

Nope, not at all. These studies absolutely DO exist.

Guess what else? They all happen to have one minor detail in common…

They All Have Serious Design Flaws

Basically, the studies that support the usage of low carb diets for weight loss are flawed to a degree that makes their conclusions inconclusive at best. And at worst? It makes them useless misleading horseshit.

Usually, it’s the latter.

But the low carb world LOVES to cite these kinds of studies. And, well… they kinda have to. Why? Because flawed studies are the only studies where the benefits of low carb diets are ever seen.

Take away those flaws and recreate the same circumstances in a better designed study (like many of the ones on the list from before), and guess what happens? Suddenly, those benefits no longer exist.

So, what kind of design flaws am I talking about here? These are the two biggest…

1. Protein Is Not Controlled For

In studies where a comparison is being done between low carb vs high carb (or low carb vs anything, for that matter), and low carb comes out as the clear winner, it almost always just so happens to be that the low carb group had a much higher protein intake than the other group(s) did.

In fact, the protein intake of the higher carb groups in these types of studies is often below the RDA’s recommendation for protein intake, and damn near everyone in the nutrition field would agree that the RDA’s recommendation is already significantly lower than what’s ideal for someone trying to lose weight (for comparison, the protein intake of the low carb group is typically well above the RDA).

Why is this important, you ask?

Because, as I mentioned earlier, protein plays huge roles in…

  • Hunger control (more protein = less hunger = fewer calories eaten = more likelihood of a deficit existing).
  • Thermic effect (more protein = more calories burned per day = more likelihood of a deficit existing).
  • Preserving muscle (more protein = more muscle = higher metabolic rate = more likelihood of a deficit existing).

Which means, in order to truly tell if it’s the difference in carb intake that is making one diet more effective than the other, you MUST ensure that both groups are eating EXACTLY the same amount of protein. But yet…

In These Types Of Misleading Studies, Protein Is NEVER Kept Constant

Instead, the low carb group always eats significantly more protein than the group(s) it is being compared to. And magically… the low carb diet somehow comes out on top.

Wow, what a surprise!

From there, various low carb gurus find this study and cling to it as proof of their false claims without ever mentioning a word about the differences in protein intake between the diets that were compared, which just so happens to be a design flaw that invalidates the conclusion they are coming to.

Really, if these studies tell us anything useful, it’s that high protein is better for weight loss than low protein. To which everyone already aware of protein’s benefits would say “yeah, no shit.”

What About When Protein IS Kept Constant?

Oh, and if you’re wondering what happens in studies that compare low carb diets to higher carb diets AND ACTUALLY DO keep protein intake the same between groups (like many of the studies I listed earlier), then here’s a little spoiler for you…

In studies that control for both protein and calories (more about that in a second), every group ends up losing the same amount of weight. No benefit is seen with lower carb diets vs higher carb diets. No meaningful difference whatsoever is found between groups despite having higher or lower carb intakes. Basically, with protein and calories being equal, your ratio of carbs and fat doesn’t really matter much, if at all.

Fun times.


Studies that show any benefit or superiority to a low carb diet plan over a moderate or higher carb diet plan usually fail to keep protein constant. And since we already know that higher protein intakes provide a variety of weight loss related benefits, we know that whichever group is eating sufficient amounts of protein is going to come out on top of the group that isn’t. In these flawed studies, the low carb group just so happens to be the one that’s eating the most protein. Which means it isn’t the low carb aspect itself that’s doing anything special in these studies, it’s the high protein aspect. In the studies that DO keep protein intake constant between groups, no benefits are seen with lower carb diets.

2. Calories Are Not Controlled For

Now take everything we just talked about regarding protein intake not being kept the same between groups, and then replace the word “protein” with the word “calories.”

Because that right there is yet another wonderful flaw commonly seen in studies that show any benefit to low carb diets.

See, if we’re trying to determine if it’s calories or carbs that are the true cause of weight loss, or if lower carb diets provide any benefits over higher carb diets… the only way to accurately do that would be by having two groups eating the SAME amount of calories, and then have one group eat lower carbs and the other eat higher carbs.

This way, carb intake would be different, but total calories would remain constant.

Then, if the low carb group ended up losing more fat (or losing fat any better or faster) than the other group, then holy crap… we’d actually have something useful and conclusive!!

Unfortunately, This NEVER Happens In The Studies Touted By The Low Carb World

Instead, it’s just a lower carb diet vs a higher carb diet with little to no attention being paid at all to how many calories the different groups are eating.

Why does this matter so much, you ask?

Well, do you remember earlier when I explained how low carb diets always directly or indirectly involve making other dietary changes (more protein, more fiber/vegetables, more fat) that have significant hunger-controlling benefits? The kind of benefits that lead to fewer calories being eaten?

And how when you remove a ton of carbs from a person’s diet, you also end up removing a ton of calories as well?

Well, if Group A is doing a much better job of controlling hunger than Group B… and Group A has restricted an entire food group that Group B is still allowed to eat… and Group A is therefore going to be eating significantly fewer calories than Group B is…  then guess which group is going to end up losing more weight and doing so better/faster/easier?


And as it turns out, the low carb group is always “Group A” in these studies.

So again what will happen is that various low carb gurus will find these studies and hold them up high as proof of their false claims without ever mentioning a word about the differences in total calories eaten between the groups that were compared, which just so happens to be a design flaw that invalidates the conclusion they are coming to.

Really, if these studies tell us anything useful, it’s that eating fewer calories and adjusting your diet to better control your hunger is more effective for weight loss than doing the opposite. Once again…. no shit.

What About When Calories ARE Kept Constant?

And if you’re wondering what happens in studies that DO keep calorie intake the same between groups (like many of the studies I listed earlier), then here’s that same little spoiler for you from before…

In studies that control for both protein and calories, every group ends up losing the same amount of weight. No benefit is seen with lower carb diets vs higher carb diets. No meaningful difference whatsoever is found between groups despite having higher or lower carb intakes. Basically, with protein and calories being equal, your ratio of carbs and fat doesn’t really matter much, if at all.


Studies that show any benefit or superiority to a low carb diet plan over a moderate or higher carb diet plan fail to keep calories constant. And since we already know that it’s total calories that dictate weight loss and weight gain, we know that whichever diet leads to fewer calories being consumed is going to end up coming out on top. In these flawed studies, the low carb group just so happens to be the one that’s eating the fewest calories. Which means it isn’t the low carb aspect itself that’s doing anything special, it’s the lower calorie aspect. In studies that DO keep calorie intake constant, no benefit is seen in the low carb group.

So, How Do Low Carb Diets Work?

It’s actually pretty simple.

Low carb diets work by indirectly causing a caloric deficit to exist.

This occurs due to a combination of:

  1. Removing a ton of calories from your diet by removing a ton of carbs from your diet, and…
  2. Directly or indirectly getting you to make other dietary adjustments (more protein, more fiber, more vegetables, more fat) that just so happen to lead to significantly less hunger and thus fewer total calories being eaten. (And, in the case of protein, an increased metabolic rate and thus more total calories being burned.)

Or, to put that another way: low carb diets work by getting you to be in a caloric deficit while claiming it has nothing to do with being in a caloric deficit.

You know… just like every other seemingly non-calorie-based diet does.

The End.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Now let’s cover a few remaining questions/comments some people may have…

Q: I don’t care what you say or what evidence you have, the low carb diet works for me!!

That’s fantastic, but it appears you’ve missed the entire point of the article.

Q: I disagree with all of this!! My favorite low carb guru disagrees with all of this, too!!

Wow, I’m so completely and utterly shocked to hear this. I would have thought for sure that you would have immediately changed your opinions, beliefs, and recommendations. The fact that you didn’t is truly hard for me to believe. I don’t know what to make of this. How will I ever find the strength to go on.

Q: What about Gary Taubes and his popular books?

Yeah… about those books… I’d recommend checking out these breakdowns of Gary Taubes’ “work” right here, here, and here.

Q: What about insulin? I always hear the low carb people talking about insulin?

I’d recommend checking out James Krieger’s series of articles about insulin starting here.

Q: What about the “type” of carbs we eat? Doesn’t that matter?

Strictly in terms of fat loss and fat gain? And with all else (e.g. calorie intake, protein intake, fat intake, dietary adherence, etc.) being equal? Nope. There’s no meaningful difference. You’ll lose or gain the same amount of body fat regardless of whether the carbs you eat are “good” or “bad” or “simple” or “complex” or “high glycemic” or “low glycemic” or whatever else. (I cover this topic in detail in my comparison of Brown Rice vs White Rice.)

In terms of things like overall health, micronutrient intake, hunger control, and so on, then yes, there’s obviously some degree of difference between eating sugary garbage and eating some kind of higher quality, nutrient-dense carb source.

This is why I recommend comprising the majority of your diet (e.g. 80-90%) with higher quality, minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods, while keeping the fun, lower quality stuff to a small yet still enjoyable and sustainable minimum (e.g. 10-20%).

Q: What if I prefer to use a low carb diet, but not because of any supposed magic of carbs, but because it suits my personal needs and preferences and I find it easier to sustain than other diets? What if I simply don’t care that it’s really just a means of getting me to eat fewer calories? What if I just happen to like it best?

That’s totally fine by me.

Q: I tried this “caloric deficit” thing before and it didn’t work for me. The only thing that ever worked was low carb. Therefore… it IS all about carbs, not calories.

Cool… here’s two reasons for why you’ve come to this incorrect conclusion:

  1. First, if the “caloric deficit” thing didn’t work for you, it’s guaranteed proof that you weren’t actually in a caloric deficit. At least, not consistently enough for it to work. This scenario – where a person thinks they are in a deficit when they aren’t – is extremely common and occurs most often due to issues in the tracking of calories consumed and/or calories burned which results in the person unknowingly eating more and/or burning less than they think they are/claim to be… and thus no deficit actually exists. This happens ALL THE TIME (sources: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). So why did low carb work for you instead? Because it allowed you to finally end up in the deficit you unknowingly failed to be in before.
  2. Second, maybe you did legitimately get into a caloric deficit. But, the rest of your diet was poorly designed, and that made it too hard for you to sustain. Meaning, you were probably consuming an insufficient amount of protein, fiber, vegetables, and/or fat… all of which are things that would have helped you better control your hunger and sustain your deficit. And it wasn’t until you went low carb that you finally started to consume ideal amounts of these other beneficial things, thus making everything better and easier for you. So it wasn’t the low carb aspect of the diet itself that worked for you, it was the other dietary adjustments that came along with it which you could have (and SHOULD HAVE) just as easily made on the previous diet you were using.

Q: But I’m on a low carb diet now and I’m eating TONS of calories from protein and fat. TONS OF CALORIES!! There are literally no limits on the amount of calories I can eat, so there’s no way in hell that I’m in a caloric deficit. I’m eating an unlimited amount of calories and I’m still losing weight just fine. Hooray for low carb!

Yeah, here’s the thing about that. You may not have a literal written limit on how many calories you can eat. On paper, you can seemingly eat unlimited amounts. However, in reality, you’re doing a bunch of things within your diet that will naturally limit how many calories you end up eating.

What I mean is, by greatly restricting/completely eliminating an entire food group – which happens to be the food group that people overeat the most – while simultaneously making other adjustments that keep you significantly fuller for a significantly longer period of time… guess what’s going to naturally happen?

The amount you’re capable of eating WILL be limited whether you realize it or not.

That’s just what’s bound to happen when you’re much less hungry overall and not allowed to eat the most popular food group. So yeah, sure, low carb diets may claim you can eat an unlimited amount of calories. But, at the same time, it’s a diet that is designed to greatly limit how many calories you end up eating.

Q: I’ve decided that I’m going to ignore 100% of the logic, facts, and evidence you’ve presented here. If you continue to try to reason with me in a civilized manner, I’ll literally close my eyes, cover my ears, and yell “LA LA LA LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU, LA LA LA LA LA LA!!” Instead, I’m going to cling to a few highly flawed cherry-picked studies that don’t control for calories and/or protein (while again ignoring the studies that do). Then I’m going to appeal to authority by mentioning names like Taubes, Fung, Ludwig, Noakes, Harcombe, and other such people who are widely regarded as a joke by the actual scientific community. Then I’m going to say words like “hormones” and “insulin” and “metabolic advantage” even though, in all honesty, I don’t have a clue wtf they even mean.

From there, my next logical fallacy of choice will be “strawman” at which point I’ll say something like “so you think eating 2000 calories from nothing but sugar is a healthy way to lose weight?!?” or “so you think 2000 calories from cookies is exactly the same as 2000 calories from broccoli and chicken breast?”

After that, I’ll spout some batshit crazy nonsense about government conspiracies, followed by getting really angry and calling you names because I’ve formed an emotional attachment to bad information and I simply don’t know how else to respond at this point. Then I’m going to run back to the safety of my little low carb echo chamber/cult where other people who are just as misinformed as I am will confirm my preexisting biases and make me feel okay again. As an added bonus, I might also tell a few dozen of them to come here and send you angry messages on social media.

Wow. I sooooo didn’t see that coming. Quite frankly, I’m stunned.

Q: What kind of diet do you recommend for losing weight?

It’s pretty simple…

  1. First, create a moderate caloric deficit. 20% below your maintenance level is a good place to start. Full details here: How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?
  2. Second, get a sufficient amount of protein. 0.8-1g of protein per pound of your current body weight is a good place to start (use your goal body weight for this calculation if you are very overweight). Full details here: How Much Protein Should I Eat A Day?
  3. Third, fill in your remaining daily calories with whatever amounts of fat and carbs you happen to like best so that a) neither nutrient is excessively low or excessively high, and b) your diet is as Preferable, Enjoyable, Convenient, and Sustainable for you as possible (aka The PECS Method). Additional details here: How To Calculate Your Macros
  4. Fourth, get the majority of those nutrients from higher quality, nutrient-dense food sources (while still keeping the yummy fun stuff around as a small part of your overall diet).
  5. Fifth, put everything else (meal frequency, timing, scheduling, food combinations, etc.) together in whatever the hell way you like best so that, yet again, your diet is as #PECS for you as possible.

That’s it. That’s everything.

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

64 thoughts on “The Truth About The Low Carb Diet And Weight Loss”


  1. I’m in the camp of one of your Q&A’s, “What if I don’t care about the magic of carbs, it’s just something that works for me personally?” I haven’t been on Keto very long, but so far I’ve been feeling very full from a low amount of food. I’m a snacker, so I eat all day and usually it’s not healthy things. My problem hasn’t been weightloss itself–I followed your caloric deficit advice and lost a ton of weight–my problem is that my natural tendency towards grains and sweets makes me slowly but surely gain weight back over time. So I’ve been looking for something that is sustainable for my own self, something I can use as a diet lifestyle instead of a temporary thing. Paleo was pretty good, but I was still overeating. I’m hoping Keto will do the trick. If ketosis provides all the benefits they claim, that’s gravy, but I’m still tracking calories to make sure. I can’t seem to limit my grains and sweets on my own, I always overeat. Having rules and guidelines helps me a lot. I did notice that my first day on Keto, trying to hit the fat and protein markers, I ate several hundred more calories more than necessary. I would hate to think what would happen if I wasn’t paying attention to that.

    • First, sure… if low carb/keto suits your personal needs and preferences for whatever reason and is therefore the most sustainable option for you… then by all means, feel free to use that type of diet.

      Second, you said “If ketosis provides all the benefits they claim” and you should probably know that keto definitely does NOT provide most (or any) of its claimed benefits. The research is pretty consistent on that. With calories/protein being equal, there’s nothing remotely special or beneficial about it compared to moderate/higher carb diets. If anything, it’s been shown to be the inferior option when it comes to building or maintaining muscle, or any form of athletic performance.

  2. Not trolling here but how do you explain competitive eaters. These guys eat 10k+ calories in a single sitting, on a weekly basis, and yet the vast majority of them are not overweight.

    Also – beer bellies. It’s clear that over-consumption of beer results in an enlarged belly. Drunks with skinny bodies elsewhere have enormous guts. Anyone who has been around their neighborhood bar full of “regulars” sees this. How is that possible if hormones is not a major factor?

    • 1. Competitive eaters don’t eat that way on a daily basis. I honestly have no clue what’s involved in the training for that sort of thing, but I’d bet they eat very little leading up to a competition (and/or very little in the day(s) that follow). Meaning, it all balances out in the long term so that no meaningful caloric surplus exists… at least not on a consistent enough basis for significant weight gain to occur or persist.

      2. The “beer belly” you speak of isn’t a “beer belly” at all. It’s a stomach with an excess of body fat on it just like any other. Did beer cause it? Or, much more likely, contribute to it in conjunction with a poor overall diet? Maybe. Like any other drink that contains calories, it’s pretty damn easy to end up in a caloric surplus when you’re drinking your calories. And the “skinny body but big gut” thing is fairly normal for a lot of people (especially men), because that tends to be the first place body fat is stored (and the last place it is lost).

    • In regard to the competitive eaters, according to the “always informed” youtube comment section they just throw up all the food after the videos/competitions.

      • I was wondering about this for a long time and this is the only logical conclusion I could reach too.
        Some of them are doing 8000-20000 cal challenges consistently every week and so to balance that out they would have to consistently eat virtually nothing every other non-challenge/competition day or exercise almost all day every non-challenge/competition day which doesn’t sound very feasible.
        Puking it all up afterwards is the far more likely option especially since from what I’ve seen, a lot of them already do that as training to ‘stretch their stomach’ by drinking and regurgitating litres of water.

    • “How is that possible if hormones is not a major factor?”

      If those bar regulars are average-gened, non-exercising over-40s, low testosterone levels (which themselves can be further reduced by excess bodyfat) MAY contribute somewhat to a guy gaining visceral (belly) fat.

      But even in that scenario, the solution is same as AW’s been explaining: CALORIE CONTROL. Untreated low testosterone (or other hormonal dysfunctions) might require a man intake even fewer calories to cause bodyfat loss, but, ultimately, the metabolic issue is “calories in/calories out.” No calorie deficit, no bodyfat loss.

  3. Great article Jay. Probably the best critique of the low carb craze I have seen.

    Question: When it comes to weight training and building muscle, is there any advantage to high carb vs ketogenic diets? It is generally thought that high carb is necessary to maintain intensity in the gym, but I’ve heard of some individuals who have no problem training on a high fat, low carb diet. What are your thoughts/experience?

    • Yup, there are certainly people who perform well on low carb. But of course, there is an even larger number of people who don’t.

      So it’s not that it can’t work or won’t work or whatever… it’s that it’s simply not optimal, and the research is pretty consistent on keto being inferior for performance.

  4. Loved reading it!! What coincidence that i had been thinking about going with LCD. I had done keto diet sometime back. But i couldn’t sustain it. So came back to normal food but in controlled manner(not exactly counting calories , but tried not to overeat). I didn’t gain back much from what i had lost. But now i wanted to get back to reaching my goal losing some more fat, so was meddling with what should i eat that i can sustain and enjoy too. And you article popped up in my mail. Couldn’t resist when i saw LCD mentioned in it. This does help a lot. Will make a sustainable nutrition plan accordingly. Hopefully this time i will reach my goal.
    Wish me luck!!

  5. Great article Jay. I got turned onto Keto by a friend who was very strict, did the whole 20 grams or less of carbs, high fat, all of that, swore by it up and down, lost 50 pounds, and she looked great. I decided to give it a try, did a lot of reading on it, mostly on Reddit (lot of good info/personal experiences there), and through my research and personal experience, decided Keto itself was way too restrictive, especially for myself as a picky eater. I started focusing on reducing carbs whenever possible, still enjoying myself here and there on weekends, and started exercising more. I moved from the “carbs are evil” mentality to ” eat less carbs and I’m not as hungry throughout the day,” which I know is my biggest problem. I basically got to a point where most of the day I did not want to eat at all because I just wasn’t hungry. I lost 18 pounds in 7 weeks, my clothes fit better, felt great. Jumped back on the carb train and gained it all back, but it’s not because carbs were making me fat, it’s because they made me more hungry and my lack of self control made me fat. I’m back on the low carb eating plan, lost 6 pounds in a week (water weight I know), but I’m already reducing my food/calorie input daily.

    Bottom line, the keto community was too hardcore and restrictive (have one beer and your seen as a monster), just reduce your daily carb intake, your hungry will reduce as well, ultimately reducing calories. Calories in vs calories out, low carb is just a great method for me to restrict calories, do what works best for you.

    Keep up the articles Jay!

  6. Great explanation to piggy back onto what you wrote in SFL. For any doubters out there, read Superior Fat Loss, do Superior Fat Loss, get Superior Fat Loss results. Will preach that till the cows come home and I eat said cows for the grams of protein required in my Superior Fat Loss program… #SFL #PECS #DedicateToProcess

  7. So glad you printed this. Low carb works for me. I get so sick of all these diets who tell people, no calorie counting, eat as much as you want! Then people on the keto train can’t understand why they won’t lose weight when they’re snacking on slim Jim’s and pork rinds between meals. You can find success stories on any diet from full blown vegan to all meat. All’s it proves is that the human body is amazingly adaptive. No need to get dogmatic about thinking only one diet is the answer for all. Whatever it takes you get you to put the fork down a little more then kudos to you.

  8. Is your recommendation .8-1 gm of protein per pound (what you wrote) or per kilogram (which I’ve seen elsewhere) of body weight/mass?

    • It’s per pound.

      0.8-1g per kilogram is a recommendation aimed at being the bare minimum needed for sustaining life and proper function.

      0.8-1g per pound is a recommendation aimed at optimizing hunger control and muscle growth/maintenance while losing fat.

      • I am 130 lb and around 1500 kalories / day (sedentary)

        So let’s say I do eat 130 g protein.
        I kind of like having my periouds so let’s add 50-60 g of fat

        Tadaaa I’m on a low-carb (± 70g carbs) diet whether I wanted it or not.

        • With a 1500 calorie diet, you’re pretty much on a low-everything diet. Kinda unavoidable without increasing your activity level.

          Having said that, you could go slightly lower on protein and fat to get carbs slightly higher.

  9. Now way!!!!!!!

    It’s the insulin, the ketones, I can eat as much as I want and never gain weight………..

    With keto I am now eating magic calories that my body doesn’t even process, instead they magically are expelled, and instead my body just burns my fat.

  10. Jay, you had me laughing out loud to that second to last FAQ. It’s amazing how intractable people can become when you challenge their beliefs, Regardless of the objective evidence you have to tell the real story. What a world!

    Anyway, I love your writing style and always helpful, straightforward insights. Many thanks!

  11. I literally spat my food out laughing at the end of this article! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same comments about the same things, with the total refusal to do anything else, despite these same people looking like total garbage due to their biased and misinformed guidelines based on nutritional myths.

  12. Q: What if I prefer to use a low carb diet, but not because of any supposed magic of carbs, but because it suits my personal needs and preferences and I find it easier to sustain than other diets? What if I simply don’t care that it’s really just a means of getting me to eat fewer calories? What if I just happen to like it best?

    A: That’s totally fine by me.

    Ok dude, you nailed it there.

    If I can’t have things my way I’m no wimp of a compromiser to live in a state of inadequecy. If I can’t chow down on a box of Oreos I don’t want any paltry 4 or 5 that will fit in a calorie limit teasing me. I want a loaf of bread like a mans man or none at all. I don’t want to work for someone else.. I’m the boss or I”m out.

    Eating keto… I play the game the way I win. I eat a huge meal once a day… get good and full. Eat a bowl of salad and coldcuts for the second smaller meal. If I happen to get hungry, which I don’t if I’m not on a sugar high and low cycle (which we can agree to disagree on if it exists but really the slow burn of fat adaption is different than running on sugar bursts), I can just think happily of the next big meal I’ll get to eat with full relish the next day.

    Be a king! Eat Keto ! not a peon cico never satisfied, always timid small portion normal guy.

    • So what you’re saying is, low carb suits your personal dietary needs and preferences? Cool. I know it suits a lot of other people’s as well.

      BUT… it’s doesn’t suit the vast majority, and it’s not even remotely necessary for losing fat. And it’s these two points that most proponents of low carb would claim to be false. They’d be wrong.

  13. Exactly right. Same thing I’ve been preaching.

    I find indirect (caloric deficit) diets work very well initially for most people because few people are willing to accurately count calories. Problem is what to do when you hit that inevitable plateau. Then the indirect methods stop working.

    I’m always suspicious when people tell me a low calorie diet didn’t work. After questioning, they always admit they didn’t keep a log and didn’t measure or weigh their food (and you need to do both). Then I tell them they need to run 2 miles to burn off their “only one cookie.”

    If it touches your lips it needs to be weighed, measured, and logged.

    • Yup. 100% of the people who claim calorie counting didn’t work for them either A) failed to actually be in a deficit, or B) created a deficit, but failed to do so in a way that was actually sustainable.

  14. I used to believe I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I cut carbs and never lost weight. I kept thinking I was doing something wrong or needed to do something more extreme like Slow Carb or the Ketogenic Diet. I finally decided to experiment with Calories In/Calories Out and within a couple of weeks I was down 10 lbs.

    I cannot tell you how nice it is to be able to eat sandwiches and tacos again. I still can’t believe I tortured myself like this for so long.

    And for all the nay-sayers, don’t forget that protein is insulin sensitive too. People tend to forget.

    And read Diet Cults. Great book to complement this article.

  15. But what about sugar spike and if you are insulin resistant? In that case the theory calories in and out doesnt work?

  16. I am attempting to do two things at once with my diet- lose weight and lower total cholesterol. I am on a nearly vegetarian diet and at this point I am assuming that my cholesterol is better but I am not losing weight. Your article(s) will be a great help in the weight loss area- thank you.

    I am sure I am nowhere near the recommended protein intake. Even given that, vegetable protein mix is breaking the bank. Can you offer any advice in this area?

  17. Amazing article. I was swimming in a sea of confusion…. trying the low carb diet, trying all different types of fasting, trying all different types of keto nonsense and all the other stupid diet fads….. Coming to the truth of calorie deficit is like enduring a long winter of confusion and lies, and then the sun breaks through and shines on your face.

    I’m so happy to be in control of my body and to understand how to pull the levers that adjust body weight. I learned the calorie surplus/deficit concepts here and I thank you for your articles!

    I wish this information would become mainstream and blow away all these fitness gurus and fake natty deusch bags on youtube who are obviously juicing and they are pretending the keto diet gave them 22 inch biceps……

  18. I loved the article. As usual, your knowledge, lack of BS and wit keep me coming back. Thanks! Several years ago, I did follow Keto for few months. It was great for that moment, I felt great to be honest…but, eventually, it was just not sustainable for me. Life got in the way yada yada (you know how that goes). Anyhow, I do prefer flexible dieting/eating and it works for many reasons and is definitely sustainable & it works. In fact, Christmas week was great.

    Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of “nutritional keto” vs. “medicinal keto” and I am honestly confused like wtf really? It makes me laugh. I have seen some folks are a huge proponents of it and then they go — oh you cannot eat willy nilly, I count calories, no eating all you can eat fat, weigh my food etc….keto diet is the best, so healthy, tons of research out there for its benefits and I lost x lbs etc. etc.— (you can imagine the speech) and I want to #facepalm seriously. I mean if you’re doing ALL that then really you could eat carbs and lose fat. I just shake my head and laugh. I need entertainment cuz I have 6 yr old twins…life is brutal with them. Anyhow, not sure if you had heard about this keto differentiation or not, lol.

    • At this point, I think my brain has evolved to ignore most of the keto nonsense I come across, so who knows. 😉

      But I can certainly believe it. It’s like when different versions of paleo started popping up, some of which include one or more of the supposedly “bad” foods that other versions of paleo said must be avoided. Fun times.

  19. I agree that caloric deficit is the key factor in losing weight. However, I’m surprised you didn’t mention “Keto diet”, which is the extreme approach of low carb diet with very high fat intake. People who promote such diet approaches, specifically Keto, claim that there are several benefits, including preserving muscle, maintaining (or increasing) metabolism rate and improving brain function. Therefore, I assumed that regular approach for caloric deficit results in reduction in muscle mass and base metabolism (aka entering survival mode), both of which I don’t want to happen to my body. Can you clarify if I’m wrong/correct?

    • 100% of what you see in this article applies to keto just the same. It has no benefits.

      In fact, all research done on keto diets compared to higher carb diets show equal weight loss when total calories and protein are the same. The only difference seen in these studies is that people on the keto diet ended up losing more muscle.

  20. Another brilliant article! I’m getting kinda tired of the Carb Haters at the moment. I’m glad you spoke out about it.

    I also love my milk whole….ideally straight from the cow’s teat, just how Luke Skywalker drinks it.

  21. LOL…it’s not all in vain, AW.
    My wife and I are married almost thirty-eight years, so, although she has never, ever shared my passion for bodybuilding, she’s been around to listen to me talk (or, as she calls it, “rant”, lol) about bodyfat, calorie-control, nutrients, and foods through almost all of my forty-five years being a bodybuilder. Consequently, if you ask her, “Why does Joe use a low-carb menu for nine months of each year?” she’ll automatically reply, with a jaded expression, “Because low-carb ultimately means lower calories.”

    • I am curious about one thing : in all your 45 years of body building … did you ever got any problems on your bones or muscles from a particular exercise and you had to stop lifting or doing that exercise ? Excluding accidents or injuries …

      Can you say that at your age now you can lift the same weight like you did when you were let’s say 30 years old ? Recently heard that no matter how young you start to do a sport and even if you practice it every week … as you get older your joints give up and it gets harder and harder … is it true for you with body building or you have the same energy and physical power to lift as when you were younger ?

      • 1) Absolutely true that, at least for myself and every bodybuilder/weight trainer I know, aging does take a toll on your joints (which will inevitably wear due to decades of use as anyone ages, regardless of whether they exercise or not). Compounding the normal joint wear are joint injuries I incurred working as a self-employed roofer/builder.
        Consequently, YES, in the past twelve years especially, I’ve had to exclude certain exercises entirely (I can no longer do any barbell pressing, whether overhead, inclined, flat, or declined)…and, I’ve had to limit some exercises to partial instead of full range-of-motion (I can no longer do to-parallel barbell squat sets with more than 315 lbs anymore, due to a facet-joint bone-on-bone job-incurred-injury issue in my low back, so, I compensate by using very heavy 20 to 40 rep partial squat sets above my 315 limit).
        But, consequently, no, I cannot use the same poundages I did when I was in my twenties in some exercises.
        2) Recovery time lengthens with aging; meaning, while I could work a muscle group hard n’ heavy twice in every seven days when I was in my twenties, I can only work once in four or five days now; and, I require deloads and extra recovery days more often now. Some of that occurs anyway, once a person reaches their natural genetic hypertrophy and strength ceilings, but, aging definitely reduced my recover capacity.
        3) So, although I’ve followed proper training/eating/recovery protocols for decades, my lean mass has ebbed from what I had when I was “in my prime”, since maximizing one’s lean mass depends upon exercise intensity (reduced for me by those joint debilitations) and upon capacity of the body to recover and rebuild.

        But, despite the decline…well, as someone who was born with below-average potential for building lean mass anyway, within the first three years of bodybuilding I’d decided that “a half-full glass” or even “a quarter-full glass” is better than an empty glass of muscle. As with any bodybuilder who ages, I can’t be what I could in my prime. But, I’m still in relatively better health than most of my non-bodybuilding peers — I’m on zero medications with a 32″ washboard at 5’8″ and 157lbs, and often get unsolicited compliments from women and men about my musculature.
        The advantages of lifelong natural (non-PED) bodybuilding are that I can do it solo, that the calorie-controlling keeps bodyfat off me as well now as at age twenty-two, and that I can easily adjust any exercise program and exercise resistance to accommodate the declines in my strength and recovery.

        • Thank you for the detailed responses … red it all. I was particularly interesting in how well you get at advanced age compared especially with guys of the same age who dont exercise or they just do some moderate exercise like a little walking or a little jogging. The fact that you dont use medication at all is also reasuring.
          I also want to reach advanced age and remaine in shape without reaching hospitals or other illnesses that force me to stay in bed like a vegetable .. that is probably my worse nightmare when I think of it. I rather be dead than be a vegetable.

          I feel so sorry for guys of my age – 27 … that think : I only have one life to live… why would I take care of my health … I can die at 50 .. who cares … and my response to them is : “thats the thing …. unless you get in an accident .. you wont die peacefully … you will probably get multiple illnesses before you die and suffer for years while thinking what a fool you were when you were young”

          • Heh…y’know…I suspect that most guys in their twenties of all past generations probably thought, “I only have one life to live… why would I take care of my health … I can die at 50 .. who cares.” So did I when I was that age. I began bodybuilding at age 16 not for health benefits but for vanity’s sake: hoping it would make me more attractive to girls!

            It’s only in hindsight, after I reached about age forty-five, that I experientially realized how beneficial my choice to lifelong non-PED bodybuild had been. Since most guys WON’T , die before 50, what you say is typically true — aging past 50 ( which will involve physical deterioration even for the most health-and-fitness conscious guy) is likely fraught with avoidable health problems, additional limitations, and unnecessary pain unless a guy has been giving intelligent attention to food and exercise throughout his life.

            With your consideration of your future health and quality of life, you’re wiser than most twenty-somethings, from what I’ve observed through my lifetime, including myself!

  22. Brilliant, well written article, I have always believed in lowering calories for weight loss but your information on the protein aspect of the diet was very informative.

    Thank you for your sound advice.

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