The Low Carb Diet For Weight Loss?
Is the low carb diet the best approach for weight loss? I’m sure you’ve come across it or even tried it once or maybe a few hundred times when trying to shift a few pounds and shape up?
In the last decade Carbs have become public enemy number one in the crusade for sustainable weight loss.
Like much of my previous content this article has come from the lack of solid advice online about losing body fat, proper ways to address nutrition, and how carbs fare when it comes to getting leaner.
I’ve been coaching people in nutrition and fitness for well over 10 years and I’ve tried every diet under the sun including low carb, no-carb and cutting those evil cretins out. But are they evil?
In this article we will get into:
-What is a low carb diet?
-The side effects of a low carb diet?
-Weight loss nutrition 101
What Is a Low Carb Diet?
A low carb diet is a diet that is low in carbs believe it or not 😛
Let’s touch on a few basics before we get ahead of ourselves so we’re all on the same page!
Before we get into the what the diet is all about, it’s time for a refresher on what carbs actually are.
Carbohydrates or carbs as most peeps call them are one of three macronutrients with protein and fat being the other two. The most common and abundant forms being sugars, fibers, and starches.
Fruit, vegetables, bread, pasta, rice, cereals, oats and other grains like rye and barley are all common types of high carb foods.
“Healthier” types of carbs are touted as non or minimally processed foods such as fruit, grains, vegetables, beans and deliver lots of micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre.
“Un-healthier” types would be more processed such as white bread, pastries, sweets, sodas and other foods that contain refined sugar.
Some camps such as the government recommend having up to 60% of your daily calories coming from carbs while other health buffs suggest ditching them completely and going for less than 5%.
This leaves everyone from your personal trainer, average joe and uncle bob arguing over what to do when it comes to carbs and fat loss.
Go full carb-ho or become an anti-carb nazi???
Why Cut Carbs?
The anti carb crews main argument is that our bodies can’t handle carbs and automatically converts and stores them as body fat. Insulin a hormone is released when we eat and is referred to as “The Fat Storage Hormone” by the Low-Carb-High-Fat (LCHF) guys such as the Ketogenic diet followers.
The Ketogenic or Keto approach promotes eating a high fat diet with moderate/low protein and even lower carb intake at around 5% of your daily total calories.
They say, by keeping insulin levels low the body can’t store carbs as fat.
They add you’ll also have stable blood sugar levels throughout the day so you don’t experience blood sugar crashes.
Insulin to the LCHF peeps is the devil himself!
They also point the finger at carbs for causing type 2 diabetes, bloating and causing you to be more hungry than you actually are….
Do You Need To Cut Carbs?
This is going to be one of the most important parts of the whole article for anyone who really want’s to lose weight, get lean and sustain it forever!
You DO NOT have to cut carbs out of your diet!
Carbs are nothing more than a macronutrient that contain calories.
Calories in VS calories out is what matters and has been proven time and time again to be the determining factor in weight loss as shown by science. Have a look at the literature HERE!
If you cut any macronutrient out of your diet and achieved results it was the reduction in calories not the food group you banned!
“But I cut out refined sugar and got results so what are ya on about”?
Again by cutting sugar out, you cut out lots of calories and therefore created a deficit…
For example a high sugar refined food such as chocolate isn’t just pure carbs! It’s also normally high in fat too so makes for a nice combo of high calories. Add that to the fact it tastes bloody delicious and you’re probably not gonna stop at one chocy bar.
With all the other food you’re scoffing and it’s game over for the waist line and a powerhouse for fat storage..
Cos you be in a calorie surplus baby!
Tasty AF + Eating a lot = Piling on the pounds
So back to answering the question properly…
No you didn’t cut out just sugar or carbs! You cut a boat load of calories, created a deficit and that equalled some progress.
Not only is cutting carbs unnecessary as we know it comes down to the amount of food and therefore calories you’re consuming, but it also is insanely hard due to the fact carbs are in so many foods.
Carbs are converted into glucose & glycogen and provide every cell in the body with energy. As long as you’re not in a calorie surplus and over consuming then it’s impossible to store them as body fat!
This again smashes the LCHF camps ethos that ‘Insulin’ is the devil. The cold hard truth is that Insulin is a storage hormone that metabolize protein, fat and carbs.
Think of it as an Uber…
Now if you over eat on carbs and the body doesn’t have any more storage room, it will be converted through a process called ‘de novo lipogenesis’ and stored as body fat.
So whose fault is it then? Insulin for just doing it’s job or your fault for stuffing your face and eating more than you needed?
Unfortunately you lose that round…
Insulin 1 – Piggie – 0
If anyone following a low carb diet got results it has zero to do with insulin and everything to do with calorie reduction!
Insulin is not the bad guy in fat storage! Over eating AKA: calorie surplus is!
You don’t have to cut carbs my friend, just find out how much you need and then eat the right amount for your goals.
The Side Effects Of A Low Carb Diet?
Lack Of Energy:
Low energy and full on lethargy is the classic effect of trying to go low carb. Carbs are converted to glucose and glycogen which is energy for the body and it’s preferred source to use. Without hardly any going in, you ain’t got the ooommphhhhh for much output.
If feeling tired and sluggish, being as weak as kitten and having horrendous physical performance sounds like your thing be my guest.
If on the other hand you like feeling energetic and being a go getter, eat dem carbs!
I cut carbs for a whole month back in 2013 to try and get lean as poss for a photo shoot. Hands down it was the worst month of my life and my girlfriend at the time thought she was dating a sloth! Let’s just say the only action the bedroom saw over that 4 weeks was bit of dusting 😛
The aim of being low carb is to get into ketosis. A state where the body is living off ketones which are water based molecules. Getting into ketosis can take a few agonising weeks and also comes along with a lovely side effect of some funky and foul smells coming from your mouth. If it wasn’t bad enough that you can never eat bread again, you can’t even moan to anyone incase you gas them to death! Bye Bye love life 🙁
The brain is a powerful machine that uses half of all the glucose (energy) in your body for it’s myriad of functions. Stop eating carbs and you stop that glucose supply to the brain which is going to result in headaches, brain fog and general confusion. Not the best news if you need your noggin to help you actually do semi important stuff like get out of bed and go to work. Then again if your job is sleeping maybe low carb is for you? LOL
Other side effects include induction flu, nausea, irritability, muscle cramps, constipation or diarrhea…. Yay! Can’t wait to join that party!
Weight loss nutrition 101:
When it comes to losing weight properly and completely being in control you will want to implement the next 3 steps.
Calories are units of energy measured in food an drink. To change your body in anyway will require a change in the amount of calories you’re eating.
Your body doesn’t know what is so called “clean” foods or “junk” foods. It only knows how much is going in vs going out. You need to be in a calorie deficit for fat loss. Try to make sure 80% of those calories are from whole unprocessed food and you’re good:)
All the calories you eat are made up of 3 macronutrients. Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. Your calorie deficit number needs to be divided between these 3 macros for optimal results.
Protein helps you maintain muscle, Fat aids optimal hormone function and Carbs give you energy. For everything you ever need to know about macros and why you need to track them go HERE and read my all in one resource.
To get that lean toned bod also involves training. The old school take on this was ‘cut carbs and do tons of cardio’.
This thinking is completely backwards and will lead to possible burnout and becoming skinny fat. Yikes!!!
Resistance training is going to be the main mode of exercise here in conjunction with the above nutritional approach of a calorie deficit and good ratio of macros. Execute this with consistency and you’re on the path to that dream body without all the unnecessary deprivation.
Q: What about good carbs and bad carbs?
A: Good carbs are normally referred to as less processed types such as brown rice or brown bread. Refined types such as white bread and white rice are often labelled bad carbs. The truth is they are both carbs and both contain calories. Both can help or hinder your results depending on the amount you eat.
My advice would be try to get the majority of your carbs from less processed sources due the fact they will be higher in vitamins and minerals. That being said you can have some processed carbs, refined sugar and some treat foods as long as they fit your numbers.
Processed carbs have also got a bad rap for spiking insulin more but this is irrelevant if you’re eating within your calorie number. Insulin can’t store calories that aren’t there!
Bottom line is don’t over consume or be in a calorie surplus and you won’t store fat. Boom!
Q: Can I eat carbs after 6pm?
A: YES!!! This ridiculous myth has been around forever and needs to be slayed once and for all. Your body doesn’t care what time you eat any food including carbs. It just cares how much! So if you want a sandwich or bowl of cereal at 11pm have it as long as it fits your numbers 🙂
Q: But I’ve heard some people lose weight very fast in the first few weeks of cutting carbs?
A: Maybe, but weight doesn’t mean body fat. When you cut carbs and deplete your glycogen (energy) the body also loses water. This is because every gram of glycogen is bound to around 3g of water.
Although the scale might of dipped it doesn’t mean you have lost body fat!
Cutting carbs is completely unnecessary for losing weight, getting lean and changing your body. Carbs give us energy, help us build and maintain muscle and also power that thing between our ears. Eat them. enjoy them but don’t overcome them.