Can You Eat Refined Carbohydrates and Lose Fat?
Cereal, white rice, white pasta, white bread, bagels, donuts, candy etc.
Can you eat all of this and lose fat, as long as you stay in a calorie deficit?
If you’re the type of person who’s never been overweight and always naturally stays kind of lean, yes.
Even if you’re not, the answer is still technically yes.
But is it advisable? Is including refined carbohydrates in your diet the easiest thing to do when losing fat?
Well, you have to find out for yourself, but the answer is probably no.
The problems with refined carbohydrate consumption on a fat loss diet
1. Hunger, Satiety & Energy Levels
Refined carbohydrates spike blood sugar more than other foods. They break down into sugar in the blood quickly, meaning you see a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, followed by a sharp fall when insulin brings the blood sugar levels back down. Diabetic and insulin resistant people will want to avoid spiking blood sugar, as they lack the ability to easily bring blood sugar levels back down. However, if you’re metabolically healthy this isn’t a concern.
The reason why it’s still not advised for most people on a fat loss diet is that this cycle of blood sugar spikes and drops can result in a lot of hunger, feeling sluggish and feeling tired. Insulin brings energy into cells for storage (as glycogen – stored energy for quick access in muscles and the liver, or as fat) but you can still lose fat on a diet that results in more frequently elevated insulin levels. This is because you can’t store fat in a calorie deficit, you can only store fat in a calorie surplus.
So, you can get ripped just by hitting the minimum levels for protein, then filling up the rest of your calories with ice cream and donuts, but hunger is going to be a major issue – as these foods drive hunger. They’re tend to be more calorically dense, so the same amount of food is usually more calories if you include refined carbohydrates. If you can deal with this, you can lose fat, but it won’t be a lot of fun. Eating lots of food, feeling full and still losing fat is more fun.
2. Less nutritious
Refined carbohydrates are usually pretty nutritionally empty. It’s harder to get good amounts of all the vitamins and minerals that your body requires. Most of them come from complex carb sources, meat, eggs and fish.
Carry on with a diet that doesn’t nourish you and you may be able to get ripped if your macros are on point, but eventually you’ll have nutritional deficiencies that will impact recovery, sleep, energy levels, training, immune system etc. that you’ll end up having poorer health and performing sub-optimally. This WILL affect your body composition.
3. Lower thermic effect
The thermic effect of feeding refers to the amount of energy you burn digesting the food you are eating. You never get all of the calories that are in foods as you burn some of them off as you digest them. You can think of this as a “discount” on the caloric value of the foods you’re eating. Some foods get a bigger discount than others.
Protein, for example, gets the biggest discount – 15-30%. Fat gets 0-3% and carbohydates get 5-10%.
As well as that, processing of foods lowers their thermic effect. If you eat a diet high in processed foods, which refined carbs have to be by default, then you benefit less from the thermic effect of feeding. Half as much, in fact.
What’s an easier way to lose fat?
Here’s a very simple fat loss nutrition plan:
- Figure out how many calories you should be eating to lose fat at a sustainable rate.
- Figure out how much protein you should be eating to maintain muscle, or even build it, while you lose fat.
- Track the foods you eat, track calories and macros and hit the targets you set out in steps 1 and 2.
- Eat only from whole food, unprocessed sources. Things that had very minimal stuff done to them after they were slaughtered or grown. That, combined with the high protein goal you’ve set yourself, will ensure you benefit as much as possible from the thermic effect of feeding.
- Find the eating schedule that works for you. You don’t have to eat breakfast, but you can and it doesn’t matter.
- Expending more energy by being active, walking more etc. will help speed things up
- Resistance train 3x per week or more to maintain muscle while you lose fat.
Do you need ideas on what to eat to lose fat on “easy mode”?
I’ve written up over 30 of my favourite recipes that are high protein, will keep you full and have a high thermic effect with ZERO artificial or toxic ingredients and packaged them in a beautifully designed ebook.
It comes with:
- Over 30 real food, high protein recipes
- Calorie and macronutrient breakdowns
- Guidance on diet for being healthy and lean
- Sample shopping list you can use
- Lists of recommended kitchen equipment and pantry supplies