Can You Really Lose Weight on a High-Carb Diet?

If you come from a ketogenic or low carb background, you might be hesitant to embrace the high-carb diet that will naturally arise when you switch to plant-based foods.

Do you want plant-based foods high in protein? More often than not, they also come with a fair bit of carbohydrates.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s possible to eat low carb and plant-based at the same time. Heck, some people even do vegan keto, where the carbs are typically restricted to fewer than 25 grams per day. 

However, if you don’t genuinely go out of your way to make it happen, your plant-based diet will likely include in the range of 200-400 carbohydrates per day.

To keto dieters, that will appear to be an insane amount. Many of them will adopt a simplified view of weight loss that is solely focused on insulin. “Release more insulin and you’ll gain weight. Release less insulin and you’ll lose weight.”

An overly simplistic model of weight loss

Insulin is an important hormone and it plays a key role in the biological process of gaining or losing weight. It is by no means the only hormone and certainly not the only factor, however.

In fact, the number one factor is caloric intake. If you eat less than your body consumes, you will lose weight, regardless of how many carbs you eat. 

In other words, managing how many carbohydrates you eat is a micro-optimization. Something you can do when you’ve already optimized everything else and have been able to consistently stick to your food plan.

When you give up carbs, even on a plant-based diet, it’s quite easy to introduce micronutrient deficiencies. Vitamins and minerals abound in carb-rich, plant-based foods.

It’s also worth noting that plant-based dieters often eat the “right kind” of carbohydrates. They are not stuffing themselves with junk food or fast food all day. They are having grains, beans, vegetables, fruit. These carbs hit your digestive system along with generous portions of other macronutrients, micronutrients, and fiber.

The insulin response to such meals (i.e., their combined glycemic load) is much more controlled. You won’t get a “sugar crash” as you do with sugary chocolate bars, candy, and soda.

You won’t feel as hungry either, given that the amount of insulin released by your body will not lower your blood glucose level enough to signal to your brain that sweet things must be acquired immediately.

So, as surprising as it is to some, you can absolutely lose weight on a high-carb diet where 65-75% of your calories come from carbohydrates. You simply have to ensure that you are not overeating your calories in general.

But aren’t carbs bad? Unhealthy? 

The Okinawan people are well known for their longevity and relative lack of metabolic diseases like heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. Traditionally, their diet consisted of a whopping 85% of carbohydrates, 9% protein, and little fat.

In fact, populations living in the so-called blue zones (regions of the world where people tend to live longer than average) share a focus on plant-heavy, “carby” diets.

Do not be afraid of carbs. Be active and reduce your total caloric intake to within healthy levels, so that you introduce a daily caloric deficit. 

Focus on high-density, low-calorie foods, and weight loss will happen for you.

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