Calorie Counting vs Low Carb for Weight Loss – Pros and Cons

Keto Unmasked

Counting calories and a low carb diet are both great for weight loss.  But, which is better for rapid and permanent weight loss?  Which one are you more likely to stick to?  Which one is the lesser pain in the ass?

keto diet, low carb
Experts Say Diets don’t work…Long Term

According to Boston Medical Center, an estimated 45 million Americans will go on a diet each year.  The New York Times says 95% of those will regain the weight.

Most people can lose weight on just about any diet that restricts calories or carbohydrates, at least temporarily.  The problem is they eventually revert back to their poor eating habits.

It seems reasonable to assume that people need to commit to a lifestyle change of healthier eating rather than a diet.  Being mindful of what they are putting into their body and making better decisions will go a long way in helping them to control their weight.

keto diet, low carb
12 to 15 carbs a day should be from vegetables

Low Carb Diet

The goal of a low carb diet is to change your body’s metabolism from burning glucose for energy to burning fat, ideally, to burn STORED fat!

A low carb diet consists of high/moderate protein, high fat and NO sugar.  That means no breads, no pastas, no starchy vegetables or sweets for the first couple of weeks.

It is also important to drink plenty of water.

First 2 weeks

You are allowed 20 – 30 carbs per day.  During this time your body will shed water weight and your metabolism will change.

12 – 15 of those daily carbs should be vegetables.  It is important for our body to get plenty of vitamins and minerals (micro nutrients) from the food we eat.  Extra fiber is also needed due to all the protein you will be ingesting.  You will get that from your vegetables if you are eating the right ones and the recommended amount.

Drink Plenty of Water

TIPS for Low Carbing

  • DRINK WATER!  Helps your body filter out impurities and makes the transition in metabolism smoother.
  • Weigh yourself before you start.  Set a realistic goal for weight loss.  Weigh the same time every day and chart your progress toward your goal.
  • Keep a diary of the foods you eat, carb count and your daily weight.
  • If you hit a stalling point in your weight loss, try fasting for 12 to 16 hours, but remember to drink plenty of water.  This will help jumpstart your body into ketosis.

Low Carb Bread?  WHAT?

3rd/4th Week

When you start week 3, you can increase your carbs to 30 – 40 a day.  You are then able to incorporate sugar free sweets, moderate amounts of bread and pasta into your diet if your carb count allows.  Low Carb Pasta and Bread would be better!

5th/6th Week

Starting in your 5th week, increase your daily carbs to 40 – 50.  Every 2 weeks you increase by another 10 carbs until you reach 100 or however many carbs your body needs daily to maintain your ideal weight.

keto, low carb, diet
Lower Your Carbs and Lose the Weight

It is perfectly fine to increase the number of weeks in each set from 2 to however many you need to achieve your weight loss goals; the lower your daily carb intake, the more rapid your weight loss!

PROS of Low Carbing

A low carb diet can be personalized to fit your individual health needs.  You can lose as much weight as you want in each cycle of the diet.

The longer you stay in each cycle will determine how quickly the weight falls off.

Results of your hard work are noticeable after the first week with the difference being in the way your clothes fit.

By week 2, others will start to comment.  This positive feedback will inspire you to keep going!

Discover a Healthier You

Low carbing has also proven to be an anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic diet that will lower your triglycerides (high levels put you at risk for a stroke), reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, lower your blood pressure and increase the level of good HDL cholesterol (helps remove the bad cholesterol) in your blood.

Little or no exercise needed!  Sure, you will lose more weight faster if you do exercise.  But, you can lose 30+ lbs in 6 months without changing your routine.

I know, because I did it!

CONS of Low Carbing

It is important to balance your diet so your body gets all the nutrients it needs to function properly.

People that begin a low carb diet tend to eat more proteins, because this helps them feel more satisfied.

Too much protein in your diet will SLOW DOWN your weight loss!  Half of your daily carbs should consist of vegetables and if you don’t eat much vegetables now chances are it will be hard for you to eat enough on a low carb diet to keep from getting constipated.

The 3 most common side effects of a low carb diet are keto flu, keto breath and constipation.  While unpleasant, none of these are permanent or long lasting.  There are steps you can take to minimize these side effects.  You can read about them here.

Eating out is more difficult on a low carb diet.  A hamburger is just not the same without the bun and skipping the fries at McDonald’s is truly unamerican!

You learn how to make better choices and how to substitute for low carb foods.  It only takes a few days for you to start dropping the pounds, so you have a strong incentive to stick to it!

Netrition - The Internet's Premier Nutrition Superstore!

Netrition –
The Internet’s Premier Nutrition Superstore!

Counting Calories Versus Counting Carbs - Pros and Cons
Craving water

H2O – Stay Hydrated!

If you are not a water drinker, you will become one!  You will start to crave water after your first week on a low carb diet.

To help with getting in the habit of drinking more water you can add sugar free flavorings, such as SweetLeaf Water Drops, which has zero carbs.


Tricky Nutrition Labels

At first, reading the nutrition labels can be a little overwhelming.  You will find sugar in just about everything.

Net carbs are the total carbs on the label minus the dietary fiber.  Remember, to check the number of servings per container!

Calorie Counting

Counting calories is similar to counting carbs.  Reading nutrition labels will become a huge part of your life.

In order to lose weight, you have to take in fewer calories than you burn.

First, you need to calculate your daily maintenance calories (the calories you are taking in now to maintain your current weight).

Next, you will subtract 1000 calories from that to determine your total daily calorie allowance.

Formula for Daily Maintenance Calories

To figure your daily maintenance calories take your current weight (170 lbs) times (X) 15.  That is how many calories you need to eat daily to maintain your current weight.  Next, subtract 1000 from that total.  This new total will be your daily calorie allowance to lose 1 – 2 lbs per week.

170 lbs x 15 = 2550 calories

2550 calories – 1000 calories = 1550 calories allowed daily

Building Blocks of Nutrition

Most pre-packaged food has a nutrition facts label that clearly displays the calorie content per serving.  If you are simply heating up a can of soup for lunch, the calories for that meal are easy to count.

But, for fresh meat, vegetables or when combining several ingredients you will have to do a little more work to get your total calories.

All foods contain 3 building blocks of nutrients.  If you know the amount of these building blocks, you can calculate the total calories.

  • 1 gram of Protein = 4 Calories
  • 1 gram of Fat = 9 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories

Nutrient Calculator – Fresh Meat and Vegetables

The USDA has a Nutrient Calculator that you can use to search for the nutrient content of foods and will list these building blocks to help you figure the calories in foods that are packaged without a nutrition facts label.

This calculator also lists some popular fast food items that will come in handy if you have to grab food on the go!

You will be able to print or download your search results to a CVS file.  Below is a search on 3 oz of 85% ground beef, which is about 1 serving.

Counting Calories Versus Counting Carbs - USDA Nutrition Search

PROS of Calorie Counting

You will lose weight on a 1500 calorie diet and can expect to lose about 1 to 2 lbs a week with little or no exercise.

The nutrition labeling on most foods is very convenient.  Your calories are listed right on the packaging!

All food is included in the diet, including sugar, as long as you don’t go over your calorie limit for the day.

CONS of Calorie Counting

Counting calories becomes difficult when preparing your own meals.

It is time consuming to look up each ingredient and calculate calories for the enter meal.

Fresh meat and vegetables do not have a nutrition label and will have to be calculated manually.

Lowering your calorie intake will make you feel hungry.

Low Carb Dietary Guidelines for Americans

There are no guidelines for counting carbs offered in the DPHP’s (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion) 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, but they do recognize the health benefits of a such a diet.

They are evaluating possible changes to the USDA food patterns in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines based on evidence of a low carbohydrate diet promoting health, normal growth and meeting nutrient needs.

Calorie Counting Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The recommendation of the USDA for calorie intake is 2000 for healthy men and 1500 for healthy women depending on how many calories are burned during normal daily activities.

Dietary guidelines recommend eating lean protein, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fruits, nuts and fat free dairy.

Counting Calories Versus Counting Carbs - Conclusion

So Which Is Better?

Whether you are counting calories or carbs, the goal is to lose the extra weight so you feel better and live longer.

Counting calories seems a little more difficult, but finding low carb substitutions for foods you love to eat can be difficult too!

Use the comment section below to let us know if you prefer to count calories or carbs.  Maybe your experience will help someone else.

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Thanks for reading!

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10 thoughts on “Calorie Counting vs Low Carb for Weight Loss – Pros and Cons

  1. I think both strategies have merit if you have the time and ability to count all that daily, but for me I went about my weight loss in a different way. I simply stopped eating anything that was in a package (except for a small amount of gluten free pasta periodically and brown rice). I focus most of my eating on fresh fruits and veggies, and I always start every meal with them.

    What I do is I make veggies for every meal, add just a small amount of fish or chicken (sometimes beans instead), and then I add a small amount of pasta or rice. Always a lot on the veggie side and a small amount of the meat and carbs.

    It works wonders. I lost 50 pounds just by cutting out the junk and increasing my fruits and veggies.

    1. Thank you Babs for the comment!

      I believe Pre-packaged meals are bad too. Eating fresh is the way to go; the more vegetables, the better!

      A moderate amount of red meat is also important to our bodies.

      All the Best,

  2. My big hurdle is the type of job I do, which consists of constant lifting and carrying for 8-10 hours at a time. I had to take my calories and almost multiply them since I’m burning at least 1,000 per shift, if not more. The good news for sure is the fact it’ll take weight off me and has done so, but the hard part was getting used to a new diet.

    I could probably test drive a keto method, simply by adding fat to my diet and slashing the carbs, but in such an atmosphere I’d be willing to start this on a vacation week to allow my body to get used to such a change. I loved your recommendations for the healthy, general population, plus the caloric intake for those looking to lose weight. And yes, with such recommendations they can be done with little to no exercise.

    1. Thank you for posting a comment Todd!

      Yes, it can definitely be done with little or no exercise. Society as a whole consumes way too much sugar. If we simply gave up all the added, refined sugar we would lose a significant amount of weight without going on a diet!

      Thanks again,

  3. You mention drinking water – I cannot express the importance of drinking water! People should be drinking water as if it’s their job. Though, I never knew how to calculate my daily allowance of calories. Thank you for this great insight! I look forward to putting this to use. I meet my boyfriends family for the first time this May and would adore to lose 10 pounds so I feel a bit more comfortable about myself.

    1. Thank you for your comment Cassandra!

      Yes, drinking plenty of water is so important to flush out the impurities!

      Keep me posted on losing that 10 pounds. I would love to hear about your experience.

      Thanks again,


  4. This topic is very good and unique to our living conditions. living healthy lifestyle is good but how do we have a good living life style?. We should watch our weight.when you watch your weight it decreases your the level of the fat in your body and we should make sure we take more vegetables I have being trying this and I have lost quiet a lots of weight.Am now using this medium to tell everyone that watching our weight should be our daily routine.

  5. I do have about 10 pounds I would like to lose before summer. I should be able to do it. However, I really hate dieting with a passion. I did do the keto diet years ago. However, it was brutal. Very low carb diet, but towards the end of cutting 25 pounds I felt like I was going to go crazy.

    Do you happen to have any recommendations for a diet that isn’t the keto diet? I want something that works just as well but isn’t so hard on me mentally.

    I fully understand that carbs are the “fat killer”, though.  So many dieting plans I see these days are just fad diets that don’t really work!

    1. Hi Garen!  A low carb diet, not necessarily keto,  can be altered to fit your individual expectations in losing weight.  You don’t have to cut your carbs down to 20-30 a day.  You can start with 50, which gives you quite a bit more options.  If you are not losing fast enough, cut the carbs even more!

      Yes, there are a lot of fad diets out there.  Mostly people trying to get in your wallet.  That’s another thing that makes the low carb diet so great!  You follow the plan you design for yourself.  No subscriptions to pay, no meals to buy…etc.

      Thanks for your comment.  Please let me know if there is anything I can help you with in your low carb journey!

      All the Best,


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