What is the low carb diet and does it work? All over the internet and other media sources there is a war on carbs but what all the chatter about. What is the truth about carbs? I’ve been a personal trainer for many years and I eat carbs all the time. Are carbs bad for you? Not really. My goal is to outline the truth about the low carb diet and if it might be a good choice for you.
The late Dr Atkins came up with Atkins nutritionals in 1989. The Atkins diet was built around the idea that carbs are bad for you and will make you fat. Dr Atkins said that cutting carbs and replacing them with fat and protein will require your body to burn fat as a fuel source which will assist in fat burning.
With most of the clients I work with I find that low carb diets may help them stay in energy balance which in turn helps them lose weight. This is true for the short term but after a while the weight loss tapers off.
Most of the short-term weight loss is from the water weight that is lost from the low carb diet. When my clients choose a whole food diet with most food coming from plants they see better results. The diet with high quality carbs paired with minimal animal works better overall than a low carb diet for everyone that I train.
Here is my professional take on the low carb diet. After reading this you should be able to make an informed decision about trying a low carb diet.
When you’re on a low carb diet you might feel like you have low energy especially when doing a workout. If you like to exercise the low carb diet might not be for you. The body uses carbs as energy and carbs are easily accessed by the body for energy. Therefore, runner’s carb load before race day. In a power walking study, they found that participants had a reduction in performance after switching to a high fat low carb diet. Give it a try for yourself and see which diet provides more energy during your exercise program.
If you like to lift weights carbs are important for recovery because they act as protein sparing macronutrient. Eating carbs lets protein do what it needs to do which is build muscle. When you eat carbs, insulin is released into the body. Insulin has an anabolic effect on muscles helping them grow by sending nutrients to the muscles.
While you’re on a low carb diet you may feel tired during your daily activities. Carbs are an immediate source of fuel and many parts of the body use carbs to perform at optimal levels. When you cut carbs, you may feel tired, have headaches, feel light headed or experience nausea.
Low carb diets may also interfere with thyroid function causing you to have low energy.
If your goal is to train hard and have a lot of energy than the low carb diet not be for you.
Why does the low carb diet work for some?
When you cut out an entire macronutrient group it will most likely put you under the calories needed to lose weight. Some people are addicted to sugar and it’s better for them to cut sugar out altogether. Having a restrictive diet that limits the thing that your addicted to might be the only way to break the unhealthy relationship with junk food. When I work with clients I find that sometimes the low carb approach is the only thing that works for them.
If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like to work out that much but still wants to lose weight the low carb diet might a good choice. I wouldn’t recommend cutting carbs completely. Having 20%-30% of your food coming from good carbs is the best choice to get results.
If you’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked you might want to give the low carb diet a try because it might work for you.
Low carb diets are hard to follow
If you’re following a diet like the Keto diet you may find it hard to follow. Most people following a strict low carb diet tend to give up and some point and go back to how they were eating before. Therefore, I don’t like to recommend low card diets for long term results. The most important thing to keep in mind when picking a diet is if you will follow the diet. Nutrition needs to be a life time goal not something that will get you results quick only to leave to fail later.
Good carbs vs Bad carbs
Instead of low carb diets I like to tell my clients to focus on eating high quality foods. Examples of good carbs are apples, oranges, berries or whole grains. Examples of bad carbs would be processed breads, soda and candy. If you focus building a diet around complex carbs, protein and good fats you will see long-term results. A great resource to see if carbs are good or bad is the glycemic index.
The glycemic index is a system used to rank from a 1 to 100 on the foods effect on blood sugar levels. The lower the number the less blood sugar is released in the blood after eating. It’s a great way to check if something is a good carb or bad carb.
As a marathon runner, I will eat things high on the GI index because it quickly refuels my system after a long run. I recommend using the numbers as a guideline because it’s easy to follow and keeps you on track.
Carb cycling is something that I recommend for a lot of my clients. Instead of sticking with a low carb diet they focus on cutting carbs every 4 weeks during a rest week. When you’re doing a workout program it’s a good idea to give your body a break from the workout. During this time, I like to encourage my clients to do a one week low carb cycle. Carb cycling is a great way to shake things loose in a diet program without sacrificing the gains you made from the workout program.
Carb cycling is a more advanced from of dieting and it is a good idea to wait until you have better habits under you belt to try it out. Cycling carbs is a short-term strategy that shouldn’t be used for long periods of time.
The body does well with short cycles of low carb but long-term diets without carbs can cause problems in the body. Cutting carbs for too long will cause negative metabolic effects and lower performance while working out.
If low carb diets are bad what works?
As we said before the low carb diet is hard to stick to. The most important thing when it comes to a nutritional program is if you will stick to it. We recommend sticking to a diet full of fruits, veggies, nuts and whole grains. When most of your diet comes from whole unprocessed plants you will see long-term results. Getting in shape isn’t a race and focusing on the picture is key to success. Make produce aisle your best friend while shopping and you will do great.
We also recommend that you track what and how much you are eating. This is very important because if you eat too much of anything you will gain or stay the same weight. Use an app like my fitness pal to help you keep track of your foods.
What works is consistency and planning a diet with healthy veggies, fruits and snacks tends to make consistency easy.
Low carb diets are a craze right now but it isn’t the best idea for most of us. Low carb diets may make you feel tired and they’re extremely hard to follow. If you like to work out a lot carbs are important to keep your energy up during the workout. If you’re addicted to sugar low carb might be for you.
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