Low carb diets may sound like the fix-all when it comes to your weight, eat less carbs .. gain less weight. When you think of carbs, your first thought probably goes straight to pasta, rice, and bread, am I right? Yes, those are carbs but there is more to carbs than meets the hungry eye. Most of the carbs we associate with “weight gain” are simple carbs such as cookies, cakes, pies, sweets etc. But there is a whole world of carbs we are forgetting. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, fibrous oats, vitamin packed fruits and veggies, and calcium exploding dairy milk all fall under the carbohydrate category as well.
If you do not already know, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our bodies. They comprise of nearly 40-60% of our diet and sometimes even more if you’re extremely active. Carbohydrates contain the molecule “glucose”, which is used by our body to synthesize energy and thus make us move, work, dance, and play. Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that make up the building blocks of nutrition. More on the basics of carbohydrates here. Carbohydrates are so important to our body’s metabolism, if we don’t consume them we could be in danger of survival. That brings us back to the “Low-Carb Diet” and why you should NEVER fall for the empty promises it makes.
Disguised under different names but they all mean the same dang thing. Diets are diets and this one is no different, it might actually cause your health to die if you follow it for too long.
What Does The Low-Carb Diet Look Like?
The low-carb diet restricts you to having less than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day, typically it falls somewhere around 50-100 grams (this is less than 1 bowl of cereal and a banana). The diet rearranges your macronutrient profile and allows 50-60% energy from fat (or in some cases unlimited amount of fat) and 20-30% from protein (mainly in the form of animal protein). By no means is this a diet for vegans or vegetarians.
The induction period of the diet restricts the diet with less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, mainly to cause the body to go into ketosis. This means all fruits, breads, grains, starchy vegetables, and dairy products are off limits (except butter, cream, and cheese).
How Does It Work?
This diet will lead you lose weight, and yes it will be fast, but is it healthy? Are they losing weight in the form of fat or something else?
The main thought behind the low-carb diet is..
Carbs increase the production of insulin, causing metabolic imbalance and thus increasing obesity rates. Cut out the carbs and your body will reduce the production of insulin and instead promote fat breakdown into fatty acids to be used as the main source of energy for the body.
After the reserve of energy in the body is used up (within 24-48 hours), the body moves to fat as the next source of energy. The breakdown of fat into smaller molecules creates a component called “ketones”. The production of ketones in the body lead the kidneys to increase the elimination of salt and water in the urine. The weight loss one experiences within the first week of ketosis is actually the energy reserves in the body attached to water molecules, not the burning of fat stores.
Long Term Complications
This diet is not recommended for long term use particularly because of the side effects you can experience. Not only does this diet rearrange and manipulate your metabolism in a way that it was not designed to do, but eventually your body will start fighting back and consequences will commence. The low-carb diet is low in Fiber, Thiamin, Folate, Vitamins A, E and B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Potassium. This diet also contains little to no fruit and replaces it with animal protein. The increased level of meat consumption and saturated fats and cholesterol cause the body to have increased cholesterol (total and LDL), decreased HDL cholesterol and an over all increased risk for heart disease and colorectal cancer.
Dehydration is one of the most common complications as well as gastrointestinal symptoms, low blood sugar, vitamin deficiencies, low cognitive ability, changes in blood pressure, osteoporosis, and heart arrhythmias.
The build up of uric acid in the body from the production of ketones cause an increased risk for arthritis and kidney problems later on in life. Furthermore, there is loss of calcium in the bones due to little calcium coming in through the diet, this increases the risk for osteoporosis and weakened bones.
Some of the symptoms that can occur while on this diet include
- Urinating more frequently
- Lower cognitive function or brain fog
- Lower athletic performance
- Heart arrhythmia
So if you’re really looking to lose weight, let’s work together to create a meal plan that works with your body’s metabolism and not fighting against it. Finding the right balance of meals and types of food is important, not just simply cutting one macronutrient out of the picture. Stop dieting and start living with whole nutrition, giving your body what it needs.
Everything in moderation, my friends
Source: “Low-carb diets: what are the potential short- and long-term health implications?” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition
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6 Comments Add yours
Very good information. It can be confusing to know what makes a good diet and what foods to include
Great article!!! I’m starving for this kind of information on cleaning up my own diet.
Hey Jason, Thanks for the comment! I hope this post inspired you and gave you some information you were looking for. My last post “5 easy protein+carb combos” might be a good read for you too. Let me know what other posts you would like to see!
Great information!! I have family members that just started the ketosis diet. I plan to share this article with them.
Sorry but some of this is simply not true. The medical and health industry has been lying to us for decades. Ketogenic diets are not bad, and are very similar to how our ancestors ate before obesity, cancers, and heart disease took over. The only carbs humans should be consuming are from vegetables (green leafy ones specifically). Insulin resistance is the main culprit for these diseases, which is driven by glucose, sugar, and carbs. I will leave you with some documentation to review.
I do agree that avocados are great 😉
Hi Chris, Thanks for commenting and bringing up some great concerns. I appreciate your willingness to help and point out some discrepancies. Ketogenic diets are not necessarily bad at all, but this diet is not meant for everybody. In some instances such as epilepsy in children, cancer patients and some forms of obesity- this diet can be extremely helpful. However, the body metabolism uses glucose as a main form of energy and glucose does not come from ketones. Our ancestors ate similar to the ketogenic diet but don’t be fooled to think they were free of disease, they too had diseases such as heart disease etc. Carbohydrates are not bad, they have received a bad rep because of the simple sugars that have become overly processed during the years. Complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains, fiber, fruit) are wonderful sources of vitamins, nutrients, and macronutrients. By taking these wonderful sources of vitamins out of the diet, deficiencies can occur and other diseases can come about. A diet that is rich in whole foods and limited in saturated fat, processed foods and simple sugars is the best route to go. Yes, Insulin resistance is the culprit for several diseases but that does not occur in a healthy person who consumes complex carbohydrates. Insulin Resistance occurs in most sedentary lifestyles, a diet rich in overly processed foods including high amounts of sugar and saturated fats. Balance in life is key and we must strive to achieve a balance in the diet as well.