Could A Low Carb Lifestyle Be the Best Way to Achieve Your Weight Loss Resolution?
At its peak of popularity in the early 2000’s, the low carb diet was seen as something of a bizarre fad. Due to the number of celebrities rumoured to be following plans like the Atkins diet, and the way it was often portrayed in the media that low carb dieters lived off of cheese, bacon and little else, many were sceptical about whether this style of diet had any scientific reason for working, and were concerned about its long term health effects.
Now the celebrity low carb trend seems to have passed, it is a good time to re- evaluate this diet objectively. In truth, low carb dieting has been practiced for over 50 years, and is based on strong scientific principles. If you have tried more mainstream ‘low calorie’ or ‘low fat’ diets with little or no success, then low carb may well present the means for you to finally meet your weight loss goals, and it is also ideal for bodybuilders who want to cut fat and show off their muscles. However, you do have to truly understand how low carb dieting works, and follow it rigidly to ensure it works as planned and does not compromise your well being.
Why Do Low Carb Diets Work?
The human body is designed to be able to run on two different sources of fuel. The fuel it chooses first is glucose. Glucose comes into the body when you eat carbohydrates, and is stored in your muscles as a substance called glycogen, ready to be used when you move. The secondary source of fuel the human body can run on is fat, which, unsurprisingly, enters your body when you eat fat, and is stored in your body as fat. The body runs just as well on either of these fuels, though due to the nature of glucose, when you are powered by this you may experience peaks and troughs in energy relating to when and what you eat, caused by blood sugar ‘spikes’. You don’t get these when your body is running on its fat supply.
If you want to lose some of the excess fat in your body, then, the most efficient way to burn it off is to switch your body from being a glucose burning engine, to a fat burning one. The only way to do this is to deprive the body of carbs, and allow the glycogen stored in your muscles to be used up to nothing (a process which for most people takes two or three days). Once your body has begun to burn fat, it will continue to do so as long as there isn’t enough glucose coming in to tip the balance back. Burning fat leads to rapid weight loss.
What Do Low Carb Dieters Really Eat?
On a low carb diet, eating fat is not only not seen as a bad thing, it is crucial, because that is what your body is running on (and even if you have plenty of fat available in your body, you will go into ‘starvation mode’ if you aren’t eating one fuel source or the other, and this will hamper your weight loss). Low carb dieters therefore get to eat some things that people on a conventional diet would balk at. They are advised to leave the skin on chicken when they eat it. They can, in most cases, eat cheese (some low carb dieters find cheese stalls weight loss, but most can tolerate it). They can eat fatty meats like pork, duck and lamb without concern. The high fat content may make the low carb diet look unhealthy to outsiders, but remember that these are mainly natural, whole foods, not that different to what our ancestors who hadn’t worked out how to mill flour and make bread yet would have eaten.
Even in the very restricted, early stages of a low carb diet, the dieter can have some carbs (on Atkins, for example, you can have 20g a day of carbohydrate in the two week induction phase). This is not very much, but smart low carb dieters know to maximise the benefits they get from their carb allowance by using it to accompany their proteins and fats with leafy green vegetables. Eating greens keeps their fibre levels up, helps feed them with vitamins, and makes their meals feel more complete.
Is Low Carb Suitable For You?
Low carb living is something just about anyone can do, as after a little research, it is easy to remember and follow the rules. However, there are some people it tends not to suit so well, because it doesn’t meet their energy or taste needs. People who work out a lot may find that a standard, low carb diet doesn’t give them the fast burning energy they need to get their best performance, and may be better advised to try an adapted version like the Targeted Ketogenic Diet where you only eat carbs before heavy activity. People who have a very sweet tooth may find the diet hard to stick to, because there are only limited sweet foods you can have (even fruit is high in carbs). Vegetarians and vegans may also struggle to have an interesting and fulfilling low carb diet, because so many low carb recipes are based around animal proteins and fats, but it is not impossible.
If you want to start seeing the benefits of the low carb way of life for yourself, then the best place to start is to read up as much as you can about the science behind it and how to implement it in your life. Then, set a date and get started!