Carbs are a macro-nutrient that your body needs. It is used as one of two fuel sources. The other being fat. Carbs get stored for later use, but too much of them will be stored in the form of fat on your body.
There are two types of carbs, simple carbs and complex carbs. The simple carbs are the ones that do the most damage with added weight. They contain one or two sugar molecules, are digested very quickly and will typically leave a craving for more. They usually pack a lot of calories and are associated mostly with sugar products and white flour foods.
Examples of simple carb foods:
Cakes, sugary drinks, sweet desserts, candy, cookies, white bread, pasta.
Complex carbs consist of multiple sugar molecules and are digested more slowly. These are foods like, green vegetables, whole grains, corn, beans and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Vegetables are usually very low in carbs which make them an excellent nutritious choice when keeping your carbs low.
A low-carb diet is a diet that restricts carbohydrates but is high in protein, fat and healthy vegetables.
Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet
The biggest benefit of a low carb diet is that eventually your appetite will naturally diminish. That is one of the issues with eating carbs especially simple carbs is that they digest fast and leave you unfulfilled.
Filling the gap from fewer carbs is usually through foods high in protein, fiber and fats and the benefits of that are fewer calories. If the plan is sustained there will be a drop in weight no question.
Studies show that people on low carb diets compared to low-fat dieters who also consume fewer calories, to keep the study comparable, finds the low carb people lose 2-3 times as much weight as the low fat participants.
One of the most notable differences in your appearance happens within the first two weeks of a low carb diet. In that initial period, your body adjusts to consistently lower insulin levels causing the kidneys to shed excess in sodium and subsequently water weight. In addition to the water weight loss, the lower insulin also provides the environment to burn fat more readily.
Other benefits of a low carb diet
- A large percentage of fat loss from an extended low carb diet comes from the abdominal area.
- Low carb diets are known to cause a drop in triglycerides which are fat molecules in the blood.
- With low carb diets, the gap in consumption is offset from proteins and fats. The fats, which are good fats, increase HDL, the good cholesterol.
- One of the best ways to lower blood sugars is through a low carb diet. It is also good for diabetes II and potentially reversing it.
- Blood pressure is also shown to be lowered as a result of a low carb diet.
A large percentage of fat loss from an extended low carb diet comes from the abdominal area. Click To Tweet
Low Carb Case Studies
There are many different types of low-carb diets, and studies show that they can cause weight loss and improve health.
New England Journal of Health 2003
The test was to see which group would lose more weight between a low carb diet group and a low fat diet group. It included 63 participants. The study endured 12 months.
The conclusion was the low carb group lost 7.3% of total body weight while the low fat group lost 4.5% of body weight with the biggest impacts at the 3 months and 6 month marks.
The low-carb group had greater improvements in blood triglycerides and HDL, but other biomarkers were similar between groups.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2003
The study tested a low carb diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on 53 obese healthy women for 6 months.
The conclusion – the women in the low carb group lose 18.7 lbs. while the calorie restricted fat loss group lost an average of 8.6 lbs.
The low-carb group lost more weight (2.2 times as much) and had significant reductions in blood triglycerides. HDL improved slightly in both groups.
Nutrition & Metabolism (London), 2004
The test compared low carbohydrate diet vs low fat diet on body composition and weight loss for men and women. The women were tested for 30 days and the men for 50. All diet groups were calorie restricted but not identical quantitatively.
Conclusion – the men in the low carb group lost the most weight despite the fact they ate more calories than the low fat group. Note: There are 9 calories per gram of fat while 4 calories per gram of a carbohydrate.
The low-carb group lost more weight. The men on the low-carb diet lost three times as much abdominal fat as the men on the low-fat diet.
New England Journal of Medicine, 2008
The study was among 322 obese participants who were split into either a low carb diet, low fat diet and the Mediterranean diet. The study lasted two years.
The conclusion was the low carb group lost 10.4 lbs., the low fat group lost 6.4 lbs while the Mediterranean group lost 9.7 lbs.
The low carb group had greater improvements in HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Tips to go Low Carb
1. Don’t skimp on healthy fat. People hear the word fat and the last thing they want to do is eat it. When you go low carb you have to fill the deficit. It is similar to carb cycling where you rotate low carb days up to high carb days. On the low carb days you would eat more protein and good fats. Going strictly low carb you will need to do the same.
Healthy fats are another energy source second to the carbs you’re restricting. They will help you stick to the low carb plan and also keep you full.
2. Eat frequently. Don’t go hungry as that is when you have the biggest potential to blow your plan. You have to keep your body energized and you need food to do that. Eating frequently also keeps the metabolism revved up and burning calories. Break 3 big meals into 4-6 meals with smaller portions same calories. Be snack ready with healthy snacks conveniently near by. See snack ideas.
3. Keep the focus on real whole healthy foods. Avoid the prepackaged stuff that says low carb as they normally have all kinds of substitute by-products and chemical fillers. Use quality protein from meats, fish, chicken, eggs. Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, organic natural butter (grass fed -Kerryman’s). Keep fruits to a minimum as they are typically higher in carbs and eat plenty of fresh vegetables.
4. Get some exercise. The low carb diet will help you lose 80% of your weight. Add a little exercise and accelerate the loss.
5. If you count your carbs you will have a better compass than counting calories. Use a mobile app to help you keep track. Try myfitnesspal.com as an example there are plenty of app choices. Pick one your are comfortable with and go for it. Going 20-50 carbs max in a day will be a challenge but something to strive for and will have to be carefully targeted with meal planning.
Low Carb Eating Concepts
What you eat is critical to your body composition and also your energy levels, mood, and performance. It will have an impact on you exercise regimen if your not fueled properly. Eating low carb is a balance and you will have to experiment to get it right for you.
The low carb diet is one of the fastest ways to lose weight. It is difficult to maintain but would be an excellent approach to dropping weight quickly and then transitioning into carb cycling. The challenge with low carb diet is maintaining it. Using carb cycling will extend the likelihood of your initial efforts.
Foods in your low carb diet
Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, high-fat dairy, fats, healthy oils and non-gluten grains.
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, chicken and others. Grass-fed is best.
- Fish: Salmon, trout, haddock and many others. Wild-caught fish is best.
- Eggs: Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs are best.
- Vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and many others.
- Fruits: Apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, strawberries.
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- High-Fat Dairy: Cheese, butter, heavy cream, yogurt.
- Fats and Oils: Coconut oil, butter, lard, olive oil and cod fish liver oil.
General Avoidance: Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup (found in many canned products, wheat, seed oils, trans fats, items labeled “diet and low-fat products” and highly processed foods.
While fruit is nature’s nutritious candy it is high in carbohydrates for most of them. Consider limiting your fruit to 1 serving a day if you need to have it.
Your best choices for low carb fruit is watermelon, followed by most berries (strawberry, blueberry, etc), and cantaloupe.
Succeed with Carb Cycling!