Low carbohydrate diets are becoming more and more popular these days, and Alex Simring would like to share his thoughts on the best and worst aspects of low carb diets.
The principle behind low carb diets is to switch from using sugar as fuel to using fat for fuel. This is acheived by starving the body of carbohydrates and increasing fat intake. The theory is that once starved of its preferred fuel source, sugar, the body will start to get its fuel by breaking down fat by a process known as ketogenesis.
The most famous example of this type of diet is the Atkins diet.
Simring considers the following to be the most important aspects of following a low carb diet.
1. Make sure that you are following a low carb diet under medical supervision. This diet is not for everyone and can have serious health consequences if not supervised properly.
2. Make sure that you follow the instructions closely. Don’t mix this diet with other diets. A common mistake that Alex notices is that people try to reduce carbs, but also try to reduce fat intake, and sometimes also try to restrict calories by starving themselves.
3. Increase fat intake, just as you are reducing carbohydrate intake. The aim is to severely reduce carbohydrates while simultaneously increasing fat intake. If fat intake is not increased, at least initially, the body will shut down and go into starvation mode. Your body will not effectively shift to fat burning mode, but instead shift to starvation mode. This is not only ineffective, but its also dangerous.
4. Don’t starve yourself. The whole point of this diet is that your body will naturally start to feel less hungry as you shift to fat burning mode. A common mistake people make is that because of the severe dietary restrictions, they find that there is nothing to eat… so they don’t eat anything! This starvation will generally lead to dietary failure – binge eating of anything and everything, and throwing away the diet without proper evaluation.
5. Planning. Simring points out that this diet is radically different to what most people eat on a day to day basis. You will need to read, learn and research exactly what to eat, and what to avoid. What is a carbohydrate and what foods need to be reduced. Plan you daily and weekly menu and you will significantly improve your chances of success.
Alex notes there are many concerns with this diet. In particular, although this diet is highly effective at short term weight loss, results are not great for long term weight loss. This is not necessarily a criticism of the diet, more so that most diet plans fail long term. The low carb diet may be more prone to long term failure than other sorts of weight loss programs, since the diet is quite extreme and not very compatible with modern day eating. I mean, who wants to give up or restrict eating bread, pasta, cereals and rice! The Atkins diet does try to transition to finding an acceptable level of daily carbohydrate intake in which to maintain weight levels.
Another common concern that Alex has found is in the high levels of fat intake. High levels of saturated fat are linked with hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. High fat intake in the short term, while coupled with carbohydrate depletion, has been shown to be an effective and relatively safe approach to weight loss, however long term consequences are unknown. It may be a reasonable option to increase all types of fat intake in the short term, particularly as the body undergoes shift from sugar to fat predominant metabolism. Longer term, it may be worthwhile to reduce trans and saturated fat intake, while maintaining dietary intake of mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These can be found in fish, olive oil, nuts & seeds and avacado.
Is this diet for you?
I suggest checking out this useful resource on low carb diets. Think into the future. Have a look at the maintenance phase of the Atkins diet, and ask yourself if this is something that you would be happy to follow life long. Low carb diets are most suitable for meat eaters, and if you love your meat you will find this much easier to achieve, particularly in the early stages. If you have co-exisiting medical problems, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes or renal disease, it is important to discuss dietary measures with your physician. Children, elderly and pregnant women should not embark on extreme dietary measures unless under the care of a doctor.
So, in summary, Alex thinks that the strengths of low carb diet are that if followed correctly, it is a highly effective way to lose large amounts of weight. However, it is an extreme diet. The potential downsides are a bumpy transition to permanent weight loss as well as possible adverse health consequences.
Post some comments on your thoughts.