Carb controlled diets are a very successful technique for fat loss. Learn which is best for you: keto, low-carb, medium-carb, carb-cyling, or fat-carb cycling. Science of the last decade has shown us that dietary fat is not the enemy of obesity, simple processed carbs are. A strategy for controlling carbs is essential for getting lean and staying lean. Lets look at the options for successful carb control and fat loss.
Diet and fat loss 101
Before we go on, there is no magic diet. There is nothing that melts fat. There is nothing that boosts your metabolism except strenuous cardio. To lose fat you have to be at a consistent caloric deficit, its that simple. The only “trick” is coming up with a strategy that lets you stick to your diet day after day, week after week, month after month and hunger management is key. If you dont feel deprived and are never hungry then the diet is really easy to stick to … and you lose weight!
Dangerous diet generalizations
It is important to note that you cannot make any blanket statements about keto, low-carb, carb-cycling, or fat-carb cycling being healthy/unhealthy or good for muscle building or not. The reason is that the devil is in the details and restricting the carbs is only one small part. The following are both keto meals but could not be more different than night and day in terms of health and muscle building ability:
- Bacon and Velveeta
- Grilled free range chicken, avocado, and boiled spinach.
Pros and cons of various types of carb controlled diets
|keto||Definition: Keto diets, (very low carb diets) are diets under 50g of net carbs per day.
Pros: Definitely allows you to be hunger free while at a caloric deficit if done properly. Eliminates cravings for sweets and carbs in even the most hard carb junkie after about 3 weeks. Good for cutting bodybuilders because of their high protein.
Cons: Very challenging, but possible, to have healthy nutrition with keto.There are almost no alloted calories for carbs which means that the only vegetables allowed are leafy greens like spinach and kale. Very difficult for health reasons to stay on for extended periods. Requires incredible nutritional discipline because one slip up and you have to start all over. Going out to dinner, parties, and all social occasions become tests of willpower and troublesome. Many people find they have low energy for cardio and weight lifting, especially in the first 3 weeks.
|medium-carb||Definition: medium-carb diets are basically diets where you get plenty of carbs but no simple carbs. Many people would just call this “eating healthy” because anything with sugar or refined flour or corn is eliminated.
Pros: This is the easiest of all carb controlled diets to stick to, basically because carbs are not really controlled but limited to healthy complex carbs. This is the easiest and best way for most people to lose weight. Its also easy make a lifestyle because medium carb meals are easy to make healthy because there is no restriction on fresh vegetables and fruit.
Cons: Not optimal for performance athletes and bodybuilders because it is hard to get sufficient protein when cutting when carbs are not limited.
|low-carb||Definition: Low-carb diets are under 100g of net carbs per day
Pros: Definitely allows you to be hunger free while at a caloric deficit if done properly. Eliminates cravings for sweets and carbs in even the most hard carb junkie after about 3 weeks. Good for cutting bodybuilders because of their high protein. Because of the moderate carb limit, its easy to get sufficient vegetables for a very healthy nutritional plan that can be become part of a lifestyle.
Cons: Requires incredible nutritional discipline because one slip up and you have to start all over. Going out to dinner, parties, and all social occasions become tests of willpower and troublesome. Many people find they have low energy for cardio and weight lifting.
|carb-cycling||Definition: Carb-cycling diet means to vary carbs on a daily basic in a repeating 3 day cycle: day 1 is under 50g net carbs, day 2 is under 100g net carbs, day 3 is under 200g net carbs.
Pros: The science here is pretty murky honestly but the thing is, it works for a lot of people. You basically get a cheat day every third day so you never really feel deprived and its easy to stick to. Its also easy to deal with social occasions, you just have to plan it so that they coincide with your high carb day. Good for cutting bodybuilders because of their high protein.
Cons: Many people report that on days 1 and 2 which are very carb restricted that they are low in energy and have trouble working out.
|FCC fat-carb cycling||Definition: Fat-carb cycling (FCC) means that each day you get plenty of fat and plenty of carbs but never at the same time. You alternate meals that have protein-fat with meals that have protein-carbs.
Pros: This nutritional plan is very easy to stick to as there are very few foods you cannot have. Its easy to work around social occasions and restaurant meals. No energy problems for working out even when at a caloric deficit. Perfect for bodybuilders cutting because you get plenty of protein and complex carbs for workout energy.
Cons: This might just be the holy grail of diets, remains to be seen.
Is FCC (fat-carb cycling) the holy grail of diets?
Now that you have seen the pros and cons of the various carb controlled diets, lets examine FCC (fat-carb cycling) because it is a totally new concept. Lets look at the characteristics of the perfect cutting diet for bodybuilders:
- Muscle Mass: Plenty of protein to help maintain muscle mass during the cut.
- Energy: Plenty of carbs for energy to have intense workouts.
- Hunger: Prevents hunger even when at 25% caloric deficits.
- Health: Plenty of vegetables and fruit so it can be maintained for 8-16 weeks of cutting.
For me personally, I find that low-carb and carb-cycling fulfill all four requirements and I have no trouble doing 4 hour intense bike rides. As I mention above though, a lot of people report low energy levels with these types of nutritional plans.
Lets look at why fat-carb cycling (FCC) might be the holy grail of carb controlled diets. FCC means that each day you get plenty of fat and plenty of carbs but never at the same time. You alternate meals that have protein-fat with meals that have protein-carbs. Lets rate the FCC diet by looking at how it rates on each of the above four characteristics:
- Muscle Mass: Its easy to get 1g/lb of protein with FCC so maintaining muscle mass during cut is not a problem.
- Energy: FCC allows lots of carbs so there is no issues with running out of gas during an intense workout. Just make sure to time your meals so the one before your workout is a protein-carb meal and not a protein-fat meal.
- Hunger: This is the big question, does FCC prevent hunger even when at a caloric deficit? See below section on the science behind hunger prevention in the FCC diet.
- Health: Because you are basically alternating protein-fat meals with protein-carb meals, its easy to get plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits into every other meal. Because its so healthy, its easy to make part of a lifestyle.
Science behind hunger elimination in the fat-carb cycling diet
Supra-Additive Effects of Combining Fat and Carbohydrate on Food Reward: This research suggests that the combination of fat and carbs together in foods causes the consumption of more calories. This indicates that it should be possible to keep from being hungry while at a caloric deficit by simply avoiding eating carbs and fat in the same meal.
A satiety index of common foods: This research basically tested how hungry people were 2 hours after eating 240 calories worth of various foods. White bread was defined to be 100%, here are some of the top hunger satisfying foods according to the paper – most of these foods satisfy hunger 2-3 times better than white bread does:
- Potatoes 323%
- Fish 225%
- Oatmeal 209%
- Oranges 202%
- Apples 197%
- Beef 176%
- Beans 168%
- Eggs 150%
- Cheese 146%
This research is really no surprise. For years now people have known that its not carbs that are bad per se but highly processed carbs that are the problem. Complex carbs have lots of fiber so that one feels a lot more full with the same number of calories. Also, since the fiber slows digestion, the carbs are slowly released over hours rather than the spike and crash caused by simple carbs.
What the FCC diet does is cleverly combine these two findings. We avoid simple carbs which is nothing new but then we also avoid having carbs and fat in the same meal. Does it work? No idea yet, I thought this up on June 16, 2018 and today (June 22, 2018) am on my first day of my FCC diet at a 25% caloric reduction. I will let you know how it rates in terms of energy levels, hunger control, and muscle maintenance during the cut