Do Low Carb Diets Work?
By Brice Woodard, ABS Team Member
Low carb diets have gained tremendous popularity when the late Dr. Robert Atkins created the Atkins Diet. The Atkins diet is based around consuming a very low carb diet with moderate protein and high fat intake. This came as a pleasant change to the low-fat, high carb diets that preceded it.
While low carb diets do have their drawbacks, let's take a look at some of the benefits.
Protein has many functions in the body including muscle repair, enhanced fat loss, increased fullness. Lowering carb intake leads to eating more meats which are high in protein. Protein also has the highest thermogenic effect of all macronutrients. This means you'll need more calories to digest protein than carbs and fats.
Fat isn't the enemy that it's made it to be. Fat is essential for many hormonal functions that are critical for basic functions. Fat is also great for satiety. Fat slows down the digestions and absorption of food which means you stay full for longer.
Eating fewer carbs will result in lower sugar as well. Sugar is a carbohydrate and lowering sugar intake will help you reduce insulin spikes. Insulin, when secreted into the blood stream, takes the broken down glycogen in your system and uses it for cell repair. When too much insulin is released on a regular basis, the glycogen will be stored as fat instead.
While cleaning up your diet and adding more vegetables is certainly contributing to weight loss, there is another reason weight loss happens so quickly on low carb diets. When your body stores glycogen, which is the broken down form of carbohydrates, it stores water with it. In fact, for each gram of glycogen your body stores, it stores 3-4 grams of water with it. When you start to burn stored glycogen as a result of not eating enough of it in your diet, you're losing more than just the glycogen. You lose the 3-4 grams of water along with the gram of glucose.
While the benefits of low carb diets are compelling, there are some adverse effects you should be aware of. Knowing these will allow you to make a more informed decision on whether a low carb diet is for you.
Your body prefers carbs as a source of energy. They can be quickly broken down into glucose and utilized for what the body needs. When glycogen levels get low, your body uses a process called gluconeogenesis. In a nutshell, it allows your body to create glucose from lipids and amino acids from proteins. This is great when your body needs glucose for essential brain functions. The downfall is your body is lazy. The body takes its time to convert, and you are in a state of limbo. You feel lethargic and foggy-headed.
Once your body switches over to using fats as a primary source of energy, weight loss will begin to stall. This can cause frustration and could lead to a different style of eating. Consuming carbs again will result in rapid weight gain due to the water uptake required for glycogen. Binge eating is more common after this and can lead to even more overeating.