Whenever I ask someone what they are following for weight loss, a common response is, “I’m doing a low carb diet.”
This idea has floated around since the Atkins diet phase and has seemed to settle into most people’s minds as ‘the way to lose weight’. Most people assume that carbs are “fattening”. Let’s see if you’ve heard some of these comments before:
- Carbs spike your blood sugar and insulin, which pours on the body fat.
- Carbs, especially grains and sugar, cause inflammation.
- Carbs are not essential to your diet, like proteins and healthy fats are.
These seem pretty logical and simple, right? Well, honestly, no. It seems as simple as “good” versus “bad” but let’s break it down a little more focused.
- Do carbs increase insulin levels? Yes
- Does increased insulin after meals cause weight gain? No, insulin is actually a hormone that helps keep you full so the idea that by itself it leads to fat gain doesn’t make much sense.
- Are carbs inflammatory? That depends. If we are talking about processed corn syrup then probably so; but if we’re talking about whole grains then the answer would be different.
- Can low carb eating help people lose weight? Of course it can! Because it’s less in carbs? Any type of meal plan that you are eliminating calories (here, it’s a whole nutrient), you will definitely drop weight.
- Can eating an appropriate amount of carbs help you to look and feel good? Most definitely, YES!
Now, let’s talk a bit about how not eating carbs can work against us.
If you’re using the idea of eliminating or cutting out carbs as a weight loss strategy alone, it will work well for some people. Like I said above, when you are reducing your daily amount of calories due to cutting back in any way, you will definitely lose weight. It just goes back to “less calories in equals a calorie deficit which then leads to weight loss”.
But let’s talk about the downside of cutting out carbs; most of us need some level of carbohydrates to function at our best over the long run. That initial weight gain you may enjoy can later be met with some highly negative consequences later. This applies especially to those who workout. I know if I cut my carb intake too much, I’m met with the crazy feelings of what we’ve coined, ‘hangry’. This reduction also can lead to: decreased thyroid output, increased cortisol output (aka; stress hormone), decreased testosterone, impaired moods and cognitive function, muscle breakdown and problems with our immune functions.
I’m not sure that some temporary weight loss is worth all the long term effects, what do you think?
Let’s summarize this into more simple results:
- You eat less carbs and your metabolism might slow down but your stress hormones go up. (this is not a good swap!)
- You eat less carbs and your muscle building hormones go down. (again, not good for long term toned bodies!)
- You eat less carbs and you feel grouchy, spaced out, sluggish, cranky and maybe even sick. (seriously???)
- You eat less carbs and don’t even lose that much weight in the long run and may even be met with worse results over time.
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*information gathered and found at Precision Nutrition