Yes, You Can Eat Carbs and Lose Weight

One of the most important messages that I try to impart to my clients is that weight loss without keto is possible.

In fact, it’s not only possible, but your results will probably be better if you don’t severely cut carbs!

If you download my free 28-Day Meal Prep Guide (nutrition fact included), you’ll see that the recipes and snacks that I suggest are “carb-friendly.” In one week, you’ll eat meals with beans, rice, tortillas, and (gasp!) potatoes, and for snacks I suggest things like fruit, rice cakes, and even popcorn!

My approach runs counter to the current trends. So why do I advise my clients to make friends with the most vilified macro?

So many reasons!

Here goes…

Weight Loss Without Keto: Why a Moderate-Carb Diet is Superior for Fat Loss

Carbs help you sleep better.

And when you sleep better, you tend to make better decisions all day long – including eating decisions. It becomes a positive cycle that keeps you trending in the right direction with your healthy habits. So I advise my clients: don’t cut carbs at dinner! If you need to stay under a certain “carb goal” for the day (like 150 grams), keep carbs at dinner and in your bedtime snack for wonderful sleep. Because wonderful sleep makes a happier you!

But sleep isn’t the only thing that can make you happier…

Carbs boost your mood.

Your brain releases serotonin when you eat carbohydrates. The best choice is to pair a carbohydrate with a protein – this helps your body use the glucose more gradually, instead of delivering a blood sugar spike-and-crash. This will allow you to enjoy the real mood boost that you get from eating carbohydrates!

There’s something else about carbs that helps prevent that blood sugar roller coaster…

Carbs are high in fiber.

There is a huge difference in fiber intake when you eat a low-carb vs. a moderate-carb diet. Whole grains, beans, fruit, and starchy vegetables keep your digestion moving, slow the absorption of carbohydrates (thereby making blood sugar more stable), and help to protect your heart health. It’s hard to get the same amount of fiber eating only non-starchy vegetables (although those should definitely be a part of your diet, too!).

But wait there’s more…

Carbohydrates make exercise more enjoyable (and more effective).

I generally don’t let my private coaching clients work only on nutrition – my coaching philosophy is that we start with exercise, and then we let your exercise dictate your nutrition. And when it comes to exercise (particularly endurance cardio and heavy strength training, which are my two loves), we want simple, easy-to-digest carbs to use for fuel.

When I am in a heavier strength training phase (like I am now), I eat almost 300 grams of carbohydrates a day. When I am training seriously for 5K’s and 10K’s, I eat a lot of bread, bagels, and bananas.

Why so much?

When you eat carbohydrates and protein in conjunction with vigorous exercise, you provide your body with the building blocks to create and maintain muscle – which not only makes you fitter and stronger, but also really changes your physique. And after nine months of pregnancy and five months of having a new baby, it was time to put on some muscle again!

Another fun fact: your body stores carbohydrates in your muscles as glycogen, to use as energy for exercise. Each gram of glycogen has three grams of water attached to it. This is why when people go low-carb, they seem to lose weight so quickly and immediately – they’re not only losing fat, but they’re also shedding a lot of glycogen storage, and thus water. The problem is that this isn’t “bad” water weight or water retention or bloating – this is important energy storage and we replenish it when we eat carbohydrates.

So when someone is on a weight loss journey and seems inclined to a super-low carbohydrate diet, I ask them, “Do you want to lose 5 pounds of water weight this week, or do you want to lose 5 pounds of fat this month?”

(hint: it’s the second option that creates a real difference in health, performance and physique)

Carbs are not something to fear. They are simply fuel for our brains and for our bodies, and we have to match our energy output with the right fuel.

This leads me to my final point…

Carbohydrates are… just food.

The danger of diets like the ketogenic diet is that people learn to vilify a particular food group, and develop a love-hate relationship with it. In fact, I should probably call it: a love-hate-shame relationship.

I have seen many clients go through the keto lifecycle, sometimes multiple times. They decide that what they need to do is cut carbs (even though I’m encouraging them to include carbs and sugar in the right way that fits their lifestyles). They enthusiastically go super-low carb…. until they overeat at a party/dinner/holiday. They feel physically terrible – not because they’ve eaten carbs, but because they’re overeaten and have gotten way out of balance. They feel emotional regret because they’ve let themselves down.

But they think it’s the carbs. So they cut carbs again. And they mess up again. And the cycle continues.

What many people don’t realize is that by making a food group off-limits and “bad,” they’ve given it power. That’s one of the worst things you can do when you want to build a healthy relationship with food while losing weight. Food has no power – it’s just food. It only has the meaning and the power that we give it. And when people get into a love-hate-shame relationship with foods, they lose their power to live a free, confident, and self-pioneered life with food and exercise.

The result is repeated up-and-down dieting and weight loss journeys, accompanied by lots and lots and lots of cravings.

But you don’t have to go down that road. And if you’re already on that road, you can take the next exit!

If you need guidance, check out my very balanced, sane, and organized approach to meal prepping – the 28-Day Meal Prep Guide. This guide focuses on easy-to-prepare, high-protein, fiber-rich meals that fill you up and beat cravings. My goal was to take the guesswork out of nutrition – I’ve done all the mental heavy lifting, everything is planned out, and all you have to do is execute.

Rachel Trotta

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist, and Women's Fitness Specialist. I live in New Jersey in the NYC metro area, and I coach clients online all over the world. As a trainer and health writer, my mission is to make healthy living sustainable for the average person. I’m also a wife, mom, nature lover, runner, avid cook, weightlifting aficionado, history nerd, travel addict, and obsessive podcast listener. Get in touch!

Free Download

Get My Free 28-Day Meal Prep Guide