Which is better for fat loss? High carb or high fat? Chart showing breakdown of a high carb diet vs high fat diet.

The Best Diet for Weight Loss

nutrition Nov 11, 2022

When people are trying to lose weight (or, more accurately, lose fat), they tend to turn to the internet to find the best way to lose weight. But the list of best diets you find is often just a list of various fad diets like Weight Watchers, intermittent fasting, the Mediterranean diet, or whatever other popular diet.

The thing is, most of these diets only work in the short term because they require restriction of entire food groups. I've even seen people start a vegetarian diet or a plant-based diet solely for fat loss and end up miserable because they can't eat their favorite foods.

A while back, I made a silly TikTok about not being able to find the research supporting the keto diet as being a better method for fat loss than a high-carb diet⁣, and I was told that "I'm not looking hard enough."

Instead of continuing to go back and forth with some guy who thinks that keto is the best way to lose weight, I'm here to discuss different approaches to fat loss so you can ⁣decide which diet is the best diet for weight loss for you and your lifestyle.

Long story short, there's no significant difference between a low-carb diet and a low-fat diet if you want to lose fat — finding a non-restrictive and sustainable approach that puts you in a calorie deficit is the key to weight loss success.⁣

The people who are most successful at losing fat and experiencing healthy weight loss are those who focus on nutrient-dense foods and eat foods they enjoy without restriction. You don't need a crash diet to help you lose fat; you need a healthy lifestyle, and the health benefits (including weight loss) will come.


Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

Before we get into the thick of this, there's one thing I need to acknowledge: There's a significant difference between weight loss and fat loss.

Weight loss refers to a reduction in the overall body weight, which includes not only fat but also muscle, water, bone density, and other bodily components (aka poop). Water retention, glycogen depletion, muscle loss, and changes in food volume can all impact the number on the scale

You can sometimes achieve rapid weight loss through severe calorie restriction, but it may not lead to improved health or body composition. Rapid weight loss through an extremely low-calorie diet without a balanced approach (i.e., crash diets and fad diets) can lead to muscle loss and nutrient deficiencies.

Fat loss refers explicitly to the reduction in the amount of body fat while preserving or increasing lean muscle mass. A person will typically achieve fat loss through a combination of dietary changes (eating more nutrient-dense foods and fewer processed foods), exercise (particularly resistance training), and a focus on creating a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume).

In other words, in a fat loss phase, a person generally focuses on creating a healthy lifestyle.

Fat loss, when done in a healthy and sustainable manner, is associated with health benefits, such as a reduced risk of chronic diseases and improved metabolic health. Plus, it typically results in a leaner physique.

Since not everyone is familiar with the distinction between fat loss and weight loss, and many use the terms interchangeably, for the sake of this article, please note that when I refer to weight loss, I'm actually talking about fat loss.

⁣The Best Diet for Fat Loss: A low-carb diet or a low-fat diet?

The age-old question: Is a low-carb diet better than a low-fat diet? According to the random guy in my TikTok comments, keto is the way to go, but the science says otherwise.

Let's start by breaking down a meta-analysis study by Hall and Guo (2017). They looked at 32 controlled feeding studies (aka studies in which researchers monitored the food intake of every person) with a total of 563 participants. 

In each study, participants ate the same amount of calories and protein, but the difference was the percentage of calories they ate from carbs vs. fats. In other words, the difference was whether they ate a high-fat and low-carb diet or a high-carb and low-fat diet.

The researchers found that the people who ate higher carb, lower fat diets increased their energy expenditure and lost more body fat than those who ate lower carb, higher fat diets. 

But before you toss out your coconut oil, you need to know the details of this result…

The people in the lower carb, higher fat group burned ONLY 26 more calories per day. That’s equivalent to two peanut M&Ms! The researchers described this slight difference as "physiologically meaningless."

This means you can absolutely enjoy a moderate amount of healthy fats and healthy carbs and lose weight. You can even enjoy some of your favorite processed foods in moderation and obtain or maintain a healthy weight.

When it comes to high-carb vs. low-carb diets, neither is inherently better for fat loss. The better option is whichever one is more sustainable for you. ⁣

If you have performance goals, though, keep in mind that carbs are your body's preferred source of fuel.⁣ So, if you want to get stronger, run faster, or jump higher, you'll probably want to include carbs in your diet. 

Don't get me wrong. This post is not necessarily an argument against low-carb approaches.⁣ Overall, you should focus on what makes you feel your best, perform your best, and what makes staying consistent easiest.⁣

I will forever argue against promoting a low-carb, keto, or Atkins diet, or whatever else, to be the better option because there is no one best diet for success. It's highly individual and based on what you can do consistently to develop healthy eating habits.

The Keto Diet and Weight Loss

So, what does this research mean for the keto diet? 

Basically, this research tells us that the keto diet is not any better for fat loss than any other diet. 

With negligible exceptions, all controlled intervention studies to date that match protein and total calorie intake between ketogenic and non-ketogenic dieters have been unable to provide evidence that a "keto advantage" exists for weight loss. 

The question shouldn't necessarily be whether high fat or high carb is better for weight loss, but instead, the question should be which diet you prefer and which one makes you feel the best. And I'm willing to bet that most people feel their best when they can include starchy fruits and vegetables in their diets.

If you're following a weight loss diet that you found online that's making you eliminate entire food groups (and your favorite ones at that), chances are you will not be very successful in your long-term weight loss efforts.

Do Low-Carb Diets Get Better Weight Loss Results?

When new clients come to us at KJO Coaching and tell us they're afraid to eat carbs, we aim to teach them that they can eat carbs and make progress in their weight loss and fitness journeys. 

In fact, it's a lot more than possible! Eating carbs is often necessary for two reasons: 

  • First, carbs are the body's main source of energy, and you need to have energy to perform your workouts and function properly. 
  • Second, cutting out an entire food group is unsustainable for most people, so it's harder to stay consistent if you're restricting yourself from carbs. 

Additionally, carbs, such as whole grains, have many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, being rich in fiber, which is essential for digestive health, and improved brain health and cognitive function. Carbs are not something to be afraid of!

So yes, we're all about helping clients lose weight (and keep it off), feel more energized (and HAPPIER!), and build strength, all with the help of carbs!

Why Low-Carb Diets Can Be Problematic

The best diets are those that are sustainable, and the low-carb approach rarely is. People on low-carb diets often do them because they're looking for a quick fix, and someone once told them that they can lose weight quickly by cutting out carbs.

Now, I am aware that not all fad diets are low-carb diets, and I know that not all low-carb diets are fad diets, but after coaching since 2016, I see a frequent overlap, and it's problematic.⁣

The thing is, humans like clear guidelines, and "cut out carbs" is about as clear as it gets.⁣ It's easy to follow, so I can see why it's popular. But easy to follow doesn't mean it's better!

If you restrict yourself and cut out carbs, quick to follow are feelings of:⁣

On the other hand, something like tracking macros (grab our free guide HERE!) or flexible dieting has fewer rules, which gives you more control over what you eat.⁣

Unfortunately, many people interpret less restriction as "it must not work well."⁣

I encourage you to ask yourself, WHY?⁣ Why do you need strict rules to feel like something will work?⁣

The "research reality" is that the more you restrict, the less likely you are to be successful (like, there's actually tons of research on this!).

The 3,500 Calorie Rule for Weight Loss

While it's not technically a diet, another weight loss approach is the 3,500-calorie rule.

This rule was born out of the fact that 1lb of fat stores 3,500 calories. Following that rule, in order to lose 1lb of fat per week, you need to reduce your calorie intake by 3,500 calories per week.⁣ That's 500 fewer calories per day.

Things aren't quite that simple. If they were, I wouldn't have a job, and you wouldn't be reading this blog post. 


What You Need to Know to Lose Weight

Just like sustainable eating habits are highly individual, so are requirements for weight loss. I looked at seven different weight loss studies, and here's what I found.

First off, researchers suggest that we use a more dynamic model to determine weight-loss requirements rather than applying a singular rule to everyone (like decreasing calorie intake by 3,500 calories a week).

This model includes additional factors such as:

  • Baseline body composition
  • Age
  • Height
  • Gender
  • Degree of caloric restriction

A dynamic model that considers individual factors is a much better predictor of weight-loss trajectory for the same reason that fitness coaches are better than calculators. 

The 3,500-calorie rule is an oversimplification of weight loss. It doesn't know all the personal factors that influence your weight loss.

If the above study doesn't convince you, here are a few more reasons why weight loss is more complicated than simple math:⁣ When you lose weight, you typically aren't only losing fat. ⁣

What that weight loss is made up of (e.g., fat, muscle, water, etc.) is determined by other factors such as exercise (frequency, duration, type), protein intake, and hormonal health (e.g., testosterone, thyroid, cortisol), to name just a few!⁣

Metabolic Adaptation

Another consideration for the 3,500-calorie rule is metabolic adaptation.

In the simplest terms, even if you find a true deficit of 500 calories on week 1 of a diet, your body will eventually adapt, and that 500-calorie deficit (and related weight loss) will no longer produce the same effects over time.⁣

When you reduce your calorie intake, such as when dieting to lose weight, your body responds by slowing down certain metabolic processes. This is a survival mechanism that evolved to help conserve energy during times of food scarcity (when you’re eating less).

One of the key adaptations is a decrease in resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the amount of energy the body needs at rest to maintain essential functions like breathing, circulating blood, and maintaining body temperature. As your calorie intake decreases, your body decreases RMR to conserve energy.

Beyond RMR, your body also reduces energy expenditure during physical activity and other daily activities. You may become less active, fidget less, or expend fewer calories during exercise in response to calorie restriction.

Your body becomes more efficient at using the available energy, which can make weight loss more challenging as your body becomes better at holding on to its energy stores.

Metabolic adaptation is why you plateau and typically need to increase the deficit as your diet progresses.⁣

However, you can’t keep reducing your calories forever. You have to eat to survive, so occasional reverse diets are key to achieving weight loss and fitness goals.

Individual Considerations for How to Lose Weight

The 3,500-calorie rule assumes that every person (regardless of stats or current calorie intake) should decrease their daily consumption by 500 calories per day.⁣

With that logic, a man who is eating 3,500 calories per day would reduce his caloric intake to 3,000 calories daily (a 14% percent decrease), and a woman eating 2,000 calories per day would reduce her intake to 1,500 calories per day (a 25% decrease). That's over a 10% difference in reduction when applying this rule to two people. ⁣

Not to mention, you might not even need such a steep deficit to kick off your weight loss pursuits.⁣ A 500-calorie reduction is a lot. Some of the meals you’re having may not even be 500 calories.

You can probably be in a smaller deficit and still see progress.⁣

At KJO Coaching, we have our own rule:⁣ Eat as much as possible while still working towards your goals.⁣

And, of course, build a stronger body and mind along the way.

Losing Weight for Good

When you're trying to lose weight, would you prefer the quickest and easiest solution, or do you want a sustainable long-term solution?

Unfortunately, many people are in such a rush to lose weight that they don't even consider the quality, sustainability, or health implications of the diet they choose (hello, fad diets and quick fixes). 

They'll go through a process of yo-yo dieting that looks something like this:

Try the Mediterranean diet for a month or two, lose weight, and then celebrate by going back to their old eating pattern. They'll regain the weight they lost and decide the Mediterranean diet isn't the "right one." 

So they'll try Weight Watchers, intermittent fasting, the Atkins diet, or a plant-based diet, stick to it for a short time, and then, once again, revert to old habits. And, once again, regain the weight they lost. 

Instead of going back and forth with these quick-fix diets, at KJO coaching, we recommend a non-restrictive diet that works for you long-term and helps you create healthy habits. 

What is A Healthy Diet

Unfortunately, I did not make a typo when I referred to both approaches in the graphic above as "diets."⁣ Both the fad diet approach and the sustainable approach fit the definition of "dieting."⁣

We need to get more creative with terminology and better differentiate between these options. I hate that when I refer to a client's or my own "diet phase," using the word "diet" feels icky and wrong.

But if I said, "structured but flexible, responsible, a temporary caloric deficit that is adjusted over time and needs to be reversed out of,"⁣ instead, most people won't know what I'm talking about.⁣⁣

But words like "responsible" and "flexible" aren't typically associated with dieting.⁣ When someone hears the word "diet," they assume we're referring to the "Diet A" approach (listed in the first column in the graphic above). 

The assumption is that dieting MUST be grueling, restrictive, and a non-stop test of your willpower.⁣

If you pursue a 30-day fix, crash diet strategy, or eliminate entire food groups for the sake of weight loss, then yes, that assumption is correct. This is the same assumption held by the #antidieting camp of folks who (rightfully) see these methods as harmful and to be avoided.⁣

Why Quick Fix Diets Suck

If you choose to proceed with the "Diet A" approach from above, you're forced into restriction. You have to give up your favorite foods and potentially cut out entire food groups. 

Whoever created the popular diets like "Diet A" did it as a one-size-fits-all rather than considering the unique needs of each individual, and you, the dieter, must blindly follow the often arbitrary guidelines. With this approach, you'll find yourself slashing calories, cutting out food groups, and killing yourself with cardio. 

Sooner or later, you'll also start feeling anxious about eating out, and chances are, you'll develop an all-or-nothing mentality, which could lead to disordered eating behaviors such as binge eating

"Diet A" will also make you feel defeated. You won't see the results you're looking for, and this style of dieting often results in yo-yo dieting because it is unsustainable and ineffective since it focuses on a quick fix rather than creating healthy habits. 

The Best Weight Loss Diet

"Diet B" is the style we recommend at KJO Coaching. Following this healthy diet, you have flexibility with your food choices. 

We won't ever ask you to give up your favorite foods, and we embrace the importance of all food groups. Yes, even carbs!

The "Diet B" approach is person-dependent because, as I mentioned above, we all have different needs, and the cookie-cutter approach just doesn't work. An individualized approach means you'll learn about your body and food. 

What Works for Your Body

Learning about your body might mean you discover that your body doesn't like certain foods, but you won't need to cut out any foods unless that's the case. 

Sometimes, people come to KJO Coaching with the idea that their body doesn’t tolerate gluten/carbs, and that’s why they always feel bloated and sluggish. However, once they reduce how much processed food they eat and increase the amount of nutrient-dense food they eat, such as fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, and lean meat, their bloating and sluggishness disappear. 

They discover that it wasn’t the carbs that were causing them discomfort. It was the lack of nutrients.

Creating a Healthy Lifestyle

With the “Diet B” approach, you'll start with a slight calorie deficit rather than drastically slashing calories,  and you’ll focus on prioritizing healthy foods like lean meats, whole grains, and healthy fats. Although nutritious foods will be the primary focus of your diet, there will still be room for processed foods (which aren't inherently bad), like your favorite ice cream or candy.

We also don't want you to run yourself into the ground (literally), so you won't have to do hours of cardio. You might slowly increase your cardio, but we're all about sustainability here, so if your cardio does increase, it won't be a drastic change. 

The "Diet B" approach also allows you to eat out without anxiety. You'll be able to go to a restaurant or an event and enjoy your food without guilt. 

You won't feel like you have to be perfect. This healthy diet approach allows you to embrace off days and feel empowered by your choices. 

You're human, so there will be ups and downs, and a diet approach that allows you to accept and embrace this is a lot more sustainable than one that makes you feel guilty for every hiccup along the way. 

The "Diet B" approach is all about losing weight by creating healthy habits, focusing on nutrient-dense foods, and optimizing your overall health — as in reducing your blood pressure, improving heart health, and stabilizing your blood sugar.

A Personalized Diet

Recently, someone asked me what to look for in a good fitness coach, and I realized that a good coach is the opposite of a shitty diet.

A good fitness coach will consider your environment, mindset, dieting history, stress levels, current exercise, eating habits, and behaviors⁣. They will not provide a one-size-fits-all approach.⁣

The same goes for diets. What works for me, the other KJO coaches, or one of our clients may not work for you. The best diet that's right for you is the one that's suitable and sustainable for your lifestyle. 

Like a good fitness coach, a good diet will not give you a food list and rigid guidelines with the message that if obstacles trip you up, well, that's your fault.⁣ Instead, a good diet will teach you flexibility and sustainability and will not treat you like a robot with no life.⁣

A good diet will help you repair poor relationships with food and exercise, not create new negative thought patterns and exacerbate current issues.⁣

A good diet is something you can learn, either with the help of a coach or by yourself. 

You don't need a coach to be successful.⁣ And the purpose of this post is not to sell coaching services. The purpose is to teach you what to look for in a healthy diet that will give you long-term results. 

Sustainable Weight Loss

The most important thing to remember when entering a weight loss phase is that if your diet isn't sustainable, your weight loss won't be sustainable either. 

Figure out which style of eating works best for you, and use that approach. 

One caveat here is that we do have some evidence that consuming a large majority of your carbs from refined sources might lead to increased visceral and liver fat, which is not good for your overall health. 

But overall, you should focus on what makes you feel your best, perform your best, and ultimately, whatever makes it the easiest for you to hit your goals.


My body definitely likes carbs and performs well with them (they are our body's preferred source of energy, after all)⁣, but there's nothing wrong with preferring fats over carbs. 

If you want to learn more about macros, including what they are and how you can use macro tracking as a sustainable tool for weight loss, you should check out my FREE Macro Tracking Quickstart Guide.

This guide will teach you all the macros basics and how you can use them to reach your health and fitness goals without restriction. Click here to get yours. Or you can click hereand we'll calculate your macros for you for FREE. Just message us "calculate macros" and we'll send you your custom calorie and macro targets based on your lifestyle and goals. 

Connect with us!

Email: [email protected]

IG: @coachkaseyjo @kjocoaching


Hall, K. D., & Guo, J. (2017). Obesity energetics: body weight regulation and the effects of diet composition. Gastroenterology, 152(7), 1718-1727.

Lowe, M. R., Doshi, S. D., Katterman, S. N., & Feig, E. H. (2013). Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 57480. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00577

Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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