Low Carb Diets- Yes, they work. But I won’t tell you do do one.

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We’re still on the lookout for that magic button. The one that will give everyone abs and get you back in your ‘skinny jeans’ fast. The latest hot topic seems to be low carb diets- can cutting out carbs completely help us lose weight fast? Well… maybe. But also I don’t recommend it.

Where did all of this come from? Doctors found that obese patients lost considerably more body fat when on the ketogenic diet (high fat, low carb, moderate protein). So then what happened? Diet evangelists started creating mainstream low carb diets such as Atkins, Paleo and South Beach. All of these are focused mainly on a high fat, low carb and high protein intake… basically a bastardized version of keto.

So how does it all work? Well, like any diet, a low carb diet works because it is limiting your intake of calories. Science says that if you eat less calories than you use, you will lose weight. So low carb is basically just another way to limit your calorie intake.

Now, let’s talk about what carbs actually are. We have to remember that we are not just talking about bread and pasta. Potatoes are a carb. Fruit is a carb. Starchy veggies are carbs. Legumes are carbs. And all of those options are incredibly healthy- the problem is we tend to choose sugary and/or highly processed carbohydrates to fill our diets, and that is where the problem starts. Yes, a low carb diet cuts out cookies, cakes and pasta… but it also cuts out a ton of foods that have been proven to have various health benefits. 

So now that we understand what we are talking about- why would I NOT recommend a low carb diet? 

  1. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your brain and body. Your brain literally needs carbs in order to function- a low carb diet can make you feel sluggish or slow, and make it harder to focus. Do you exercise or practice any sports? Yes, at some point your body will start to use fat as fuel.. But that process takes a different amount of time depending on the individual, and most people find that their performance suffers when they eat a low carb diet. If you are trying to lose weight, the LAST thing you want is for your performance to suffer. 
  2. Low carb diets are not sustainable. On a low carb diet, there is no fruit, no grains, no potatoes, no starchy vegetables, no baked goods, no juice, no dairy and no legumes. That severely limits the range of foods that you can eat. In the short term, that might work for you…  but over-restricting certain foods has been shown time and time again to cause problems with disordered eating, binge eating and uncontrolled cravings. Willpower can only last so long. Not only that, but you can’t eat low carb forever! So what happens when you decide to start eating carbohydrates again? Do you get right back on the bread and pasta? 
  3. Low carb diets can cause nutrient deficiencies and health issues. Any diet that restricts entire food groups can cause deficiencies in various vitamins and minerals. As humans, our bodies are designed to eat a varied diet, with a range of macro and micro nutrients. Not only can low carb diets be missing key nutrients found in fruit, whole grains and legumes, but a low carb diet is also generally very low in fiber. Low carb diets can also affect your hormones- over the long term, a low carb diet can cause a raise in stress hormone and lower sex hormone and growth hormone. 

So then what CAN you do about carbs if you would like to lose weight? Look at carbohydrates in a different way. Choose better options, and in the right portion sizes. Switch your processed carbs like pasta, bread and cereal for legumes, potatoes and oats. Stop using carbohydrates as the base for a meal, and add in more vegetables or protein. Educate yourself on what a balanced diet looks like, and eat carbohydrates that fill you up and actually contribute to your health. A low carb diet IS a way to lose weight, but it isn’t the ONLY way. Need help figuring all this stuff out? This is part of what we do in nutrition coaching! Send me a message to start learning about how to make carbs work for you instead of against you. 

 

Interested in learning more about low carb diets? Read these articles:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/low-carb-diets

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089

 

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