Carb: One of the most-hated words in the diet community, and an often-avoided food group for those looking to slim down.
You’ve no doubt tried cutting carbs in the past at one point or another. If you’re watching your weight, maybe you’ve sworn off carbs now.
At least you’ve attempted to cut down on your consumption of all things bread, pasta, rice, crackers, and cookies, because of the benefits promised by going “low carb”.
How much do you actually know about them though?
Do you know the truth about losing weight on a low carb diet?
Let’s take a closer look into the how’s, why’s, when’s of following a low carb diet.
The Basics of Low Carb
If you’re looking to lose weight, one of the most lauded dietary approaches is eating fewer carbs and higher amounts of fats and protein.
You’ll be eating more veggies, fruits, lean protein, and fats, and avoiding filling your plate with starchy foods like bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, and more.
The benefits? You won’t have to restrict or even count your calories, which is typically a much-hated chore among dieters, and you’ll still be eating a variety of foods.
It’s very possible to still feel completely satisfied and get a range of nutrients throughout your day.
Proponents of the low-carb approach have found that weight can fall off when you restrict your carbs. This is because by eating less carbs, you’re possibly going to lower your blood sugar levels, triglycerides, blood pressure, and regulate cholesterol.
When these levels stabilize, the hormone responsible for storing fat, insulin, also drops.
This means the body releases the glycogen stores to be used for energy and the weight begins to come off.
Your Body Becomes a Fat Burning Machine
When it comes to “low carb”, there’s no hard or fast rule of what that constitutes, but it can range from consuming anywhere between 100-150 grams per day (considered more moderate than low) than consuming as little as 20-50 grams per day.
This definitely means avoiding simple carbs like bread and pasta that can pack a huge wallop of carbs per serving while increasing greater amounts of fresh vegetables and fruit. One should of course always consult with a doctor before going low-carb, especially before dipping down into the 20-50 gram/day region.
When you go this low however, your body goes into what is called ketosis — a state where the body is forced to dip into using stored fat for energy, because using carbs for fuel is no longer an option.
There’s Such a Thing as Too Low
Even if following a low carb diet helps you shed the excess pounds, carbohydrates are a key macronutrient and food group for a reason.
While it can be tempting to assume the lower you go the better, there are good reasons why people have been eating them since the beginning of time — our bodies certainly need them!
Don’t get carried away with your low-carb diet to the point where you attempt to slash all of them from your plate. Even the lowest of low carb diets still should feature plenty of fruits and veggies (which are carbs).
Healthy carbs like whole-grain bread, oats, and other whole grains are a key component of a healthy diet as well.
When your body is forced to break down muscle for energy, the long-term result can be a slowed-down metabolism and decreased lean muscle. People will often experience an increase in weight after a while.
You might also be reaching for fat to add back in the calories you’re no longer getting from carbs. This can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system and cholesterol levels. This is why eating healthy carbs in moderation is key.
Carbs are also the main fuel for our brains, which is why if you’ve tried to follow a low carb plan, you may have felt fuzzy headed, cranky, or irritable.
This is why it’s best to consult with a doctor and follow what works for your own body while avoiding going too low, else you run the risk of depriving your body of vital fuel since carbs are the body’s preferred source of fuel.
Don’t forget, while low carb diets can certainly be a valuable tool in your overall weight loss routine, and can often be a part of a healthy lifestyle, alone, it isn’t a magic bullet.
There’s no replacement for a healthy, balanced lifestyle and diet full of real, wholesome foods, unprocessed food options, which includes plenty of fruits and veggies.
If you’re following a low-carb diet, the rules of exercising often, sleeping well, staying hydrated, and maintaining balance still apply.
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Nancy Moore is the founder and creator of Fitnessgrams. She created Fitnessgrams to be a haven for people looking to get fit, boost their health, lose weight, or improve their well-being. Here you will find experiences, workouts, information from the experts, healthy living tips, and tools to find well-being and balance.