Let’s talk about low carb diets for a minute. Over the last few years, more and more ‘experts’ claim that carbohydrates are to blame for obesity and belly fat. But is there any truth to this? Are carbs truly that terrible? Is a low carb diet actually healthy?
What is a Low Carb Diet?
A low carb diet is an eating pattern that features near to no carbs. This means you should eat as little bread, rice and pasta as possible.
In truth, this will mean that less than 30% of your required daily energy will be coming from carbs. As a result you should be burning a lot of fat. Therefore, low carb diets are often promoted as the be-all and end-all when it comes to fat loss programs.
Advocates of low carb diets claim that this has to do with less peaking of blood sugar levels and a more stable insulin level. Without these peaks, you should be burning more fat and saving less.
In theory, this all sounds fantastic, right? But does it really work that great?
Why Does Low Carb Seem to Work So Well?
A low carb diet often shows great result in the first few weeks. You’re dropping in weight like there is no tomorrow and you think you’ve finally found the ultimate method to losing weight.
Unfortunately, nothing comes easy in life. A lot of people that follow a low carb diet tend to fall back to their original weight within months or even weeks.
A low carb diet decreases the amount of glycogen in your body. This causes the amount of water retention to drop as well. Therefore, most weight loss that is caused by a low carb diet comes from water loss, which can easily be quite a bit.
And then there is the matter of burning fat: the process that basically isn’t happening with low carb diets. There you go. So, once you’ve lost enough ‘weight’, you can go back to your old routine and gain your weight, which you’ve actually never lost.
Why is Low Carb a Thing?
I think by now it has become clear that low carb diets are not ideal for losing fat, to say the least. The low carb hype has been around or quite some while. This has to do with several studies dating from 2006 to 2008 that stated that low carb diets were more successful when it comes to losing weight, than regular western meal plans.
Years later though, it was proven that these ‘studies’ weren’t reliable at all. Even head researcher Krieger returned to his own conclusions. Eliminating carbs is not the main cause for weight loss during low carb diets.
Low Carb Diets are Difficult to Sustain
One of the most important reasons that people can’t maintain a low carb diet, is because almost everything contains carbs. Let’s say you’re going to a birthday party. Good luck on your low carb diet!
So, is Low Carb Dieting Healthy?
First of all, low carb dieting is not as successful as some claim by a long shot. Secondly, it’s not nearly as healthy as you would think.
A low carb diet often doesn’t contain enough vitamins, minerals and fiber, because of a lack in fruits, vegetables and grain products. In addition, low carb diets mostly contain animal products, which may increase the chance of health risks.
If you are really certain that a low carb diet is what you want to do, make sure to consult your dietitian.
What DOES Work?
Ah, now we’re getting to the part that most of you are interested in. If a low carb diet doesn’t work all that well, then what does actually work?
Recent studies have shown time and again that a low carb diet is based on creating a caloric deficit, i.e. eating less than your body needs. It has also been shown that an increased protein intake may result in slightly more weight loss.
This has to do with the fact that protein gives a feeling of satisfaction and fullness. In addition, ingesting more proteins will ensure that you won’t burn off that much muscle during your weight loss process.
So, are proteins the answer?
Well, no. A successful weight loss attempt depends on the right knowledge, coaching and support with changing habits. Often times, being overweight is a consequence of repeating unhealthy habits on a regular basis.
If you are serious about changing your diet, you must realize that it will take time and effort. Months, sometimes even years. You can’t just cut a group of macronutrients from your diets and hope for the best.
And What About Limiting Carbs?
Now that we know that low carb diets are very radical and difficult to maintain, I think it is a good time to talk a bit about limiting carbs. This often proves to be a solution.
With a carb limiting diet, you won’t eat 30% carbohydrates like you would with a low carb diet. Rather, you would cut down your regular carb intake by 5-10%.
This isn’t a major alteration to your everyday life and it is quite easy to maintain. In real life, a carb limiting diet would have you not drink soft drinks, for example.
If you don’t compensate your loss in carbs with other nutrients, this can be a very effective way to drop your body fat percentage, as well as your weight.
If you just want fast results, you should know that they probably won’t last all that long.
Losing weight is definitely possible with the use of a low carb diet, because it is easy to reach a caloric deficit. This will cause glycogen levels to drop and therefore water retention. The weight you’re losing therefore isn’t fat, but water.
To effectively drop in weight, you must burn fat. So, in short: low carb diets do not solve any problem.
Another thing that a lot of people aren’t paying attention to, is called the yoyo-effect. This basically means that you’re losing weight fast, to then gain it again because your meal plan isn’t working like it should. Eventually losing weight will become harder and harder.
A low carb diet is effective in a way that allows you to put on those tight jeans within two weeks. So if that’s your goal: by all means, go for it. To anyone that actually wants to lose fat: I don’t recommend a low carb diet.
Please, leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
Thanks for reading.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a low carb diet?
Usually, your carb intake should make up between 50-55% of your daily intake. With low carb diets, this percentage drops to below 30%. Without peaks in your blood sugar, your insulin levels will remain more stable and therefore you should be burning more fat.
Are low carb diets effective?
On the short term: very. You will lose weight in the forms of glycogen stores and the water that it retains. When it comes to burning fat consistently in the long run, a low carb diet can be difficult to sustain.
Are low carb diets healthy?
Low carb diets often don’t contain enough vitamins, minerals and fiber. This is because of a lack in fruits, vegetables and grain products. Low carb diets mostly contain animal products and therefore might increase health risks.
What is an effective alternative to low carb diets?
Limiting your carb intake by 5-10% has proven to be more effective than a radical ‘low carb’ approach, because of the simple fact that it’s easy to maintain. Yes, you might lose weight at a slower rate, but it will be consistent in the long run.