Is it Better to Count Calories or Carbs?

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While counting calories is a time-tested method to losing weight, some people find it tiresome. Low-carb diets allow dieters to eat as much as they want of certain foods, so long as they limit the number of carbohydrates they eat. Both diets work in the short term, but it’s important to choose a diet that will work for you long term.

How They Work

Your body requires a certain amount of energy–calories–to function throughout the day. This includes energy you would need for basic functions, like breathing and pumping blood, as well as the exercise that you do. When you eat more calories than you use, you gain weight. On a calorie-counting diet, you monitor the number of calories that you eat in an attempt to eat fewer calories than you burn, resulting in weight loss.

When your body uses energy, carbohydrates are its preferred energy source. Proponents of low-carb diets suggest that by limiting the amount of carbohydrates you eat, your body must turn to its fat stores for energy, causing weight loss.

Types

Many commercial diet plans are calorie-counting plans, aimed at making it easy to count calories. For example, the Weight Watchers Points plan has you counting “points” of foods, which is a way to count calories. Programs like NutriSystem and Jenny Craig are also calorie-counting diets, but they attempt to make things easy by delivering the food for you in portioned, calorie-controlled amounts.

Atkins is probably one of the most famous low-carb diets. Other low-carb diets include Protein Power and the South Beach Diet.

Long-Term Results

Neither low-carb diets nor calorie-counting diets are a long-term solution. When you’ve reached your weight loss goal, you’ll be able to eat more calories or more carbs, but you can never go back to eating everything that you want. Keeping the weight off requires lifestyle changes, which you can do through either diet.

Theories/Speculation

Some experts, such as the Mayo Clinic, suggest that low-carb diets actually work by limiting the amount of overall calories that you eat. By eating more protein and fat, you may stay full longer, causing you to eat less.

Which Diet Is Best?

The diet that’s best for you is the one that you are going to stick to for the long term. Calorie-counting diets offer you the opportunity to eat any food you want, so long as you stay within your daily calorie range. This means you can still enjoy pizza, chips or chocolate. You are also able to make up for bouts of overeating by eating less at other meals or by exercising more. However, if you don’t make the right food choices, you could end up hungry. The low-carb diets are more restrictive–there are definite foods that you can’t eat, like pastas, breads and sweet treats. However, you are able to eat as much as you want of the foods that are allowed, which means that you never have to feel hungry.

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