Do you count calories on low carb? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean calories cease to exist entirely. Here’s what you need to know about when to count calories on low carb!
- If you’re just starting low carb or are successfully losing on low carb, you probably DON’T need to count calories.
- If you are stalled, plateaued, or unable to lose the last few pounds to reach your goal, you MAY need to track calories.
- If you’re eating very little and having trouble losing weight, you MAY need to track calories–to make sure you’re getting enough of them! Too few can cause your metabolism to slow down.
- If you’re following a ketogenic plan and tracking your macro nutrients, you WILL need to count calories to figure what percentages are coming from carbs, fats and proteins.
- If you’re a tracking nerd and you like to know all your nutritional stats, you CAN track calories!
We’ve heard the “calories in versus calories out” mantra for years, so when we think of losing weight, we think of counting calories. While some maintain that low carb works by limiting the number of calories we eat, that’s not entirely accurate.
Studies have demonstrated people are able to consume more calories on a low carb diet than other eating plans and still lose weight. That’s possible because the mechanisms in our body that regulate metabolism and weight are not nearly as simplistic as popular wisdom would suggest. But then again, what is as simplistic as popular wisdom suggests?
Additionally, all calories are not created equal. People who keep carbs low enough to remain ketogenic (in dietary ketosis–for most people, under about 30 net carbs a day) will primarily be using fats to fuel their body, not glucose. The small amount of glucose the body actually requires, it can produce itself. That’s why most low carb plans are described as low carb, high fat (LCHF).
This doesn’t mean a free-for-all binge fest on low-carb-but-high-calorie foods will still result in weight loss, however. Too much of those calorically dense foods–like nuts, heavy cream or cheese–will stall weight loss efforts.
Think of calories as one factor in the overall picture, not the ONLY factor and you’ll be on the right track. If you’d like a better understanding of how weight loss works (or doesn’t), I recommend the book “Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.”
So the answer to the question, “Do I count calories on low carb?” is simple: Count calories if you want to or are having trouble losing weight without counting them. If you don’t want to and all is well otherwise, no need!
Do you count calories on your low carb plan? Why or why not?