The Ins and Outs of Low Carb Dieting

 In Blog

When it comes to dieting, people love nothing more than to give themselves a specific label. We’re all familiar with the different groups; you know, “vegan,” “paleo,” “low fat,” and of course the ever popular “low carb” contingent. Whenever anyone gets wind of the trend called low carb dieting they rush to ask me: do low carb diets work?

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                Well, the short answer is yes, low carb diets do work and can help improve blood markers of health (cholesterol, triglycerides) and weight loss. In a two year study comparing a low fat diet, a low carb diet, and the Mediterranean diet, it was found that the low carb diet had the greatest weight loss (1). Subjects had managed to keep 10 pounds off over the two years while increasing their HDL cholesterol. In another study, a low carb diet went head to head with a fat restricted diet. After 6 months, the low carb diet had reductions in their blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and increased their HDL cholesterol (2).

So technically it would like low carb diets and weight loss go hand in hand, right? Not so fat. I can tell you from analyzing plenty of client’s diets over the years, that just about everyone underestimates how many carbs make up their diet.  The average newbie at UEFP reports a carb intake between 55 and 70% of their total energy intake, and shockingly, 50% of that is usually in the form of sugar. Knocking out the refined carbohydrates and replacing them with fruits and vegetables goes a long way to losing weight. So is it a matter of low carb dieting or is it just cleaning up the diet that lets the magic happen?

To be honest, it’s probably both. One advantage to low carb dieting is it gives you a chance to get a grasp on your insulin sensitivity. If you’re insulin and blood sugar are basically mimicking a roller coaster at Cedar Point and going up and down throughout the day, then you’ll probably have trouble losing weight. Low carb diets will help stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels, resulting in a healthy hormone profile.

But here’s the issue with low carb dieting and it’s a matter of metabolism. In fact, we should refer to low carb diets and as a low carb high protein diet, because when you lower your carb intake, you need to make sure that adequate protein is in the diet. Furthermore, you have to make sure that you put yourself on a high fat diet. As a rule of thumb when you have a meal, consider these rules:

High carb meal = Very small serving of healthy fat

Low carb meal = High serving of healthy fat

Constant low carb dieting may help you drop some pounds in the short term, but it will destroy your metabolism in the long run. So for every 3-5 days of low carbing, it would be wise to introduce what we call a “refeed” day of high carbs. This will help keep your thyroid functioning at optimal.

Low carb dieting is like anything else – it works, just not forever. Just make sure you take on a smart approach with it.

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1. Shair, I., Schwarzfuchs, D., Hekin, Y., et al. “Weight Loss with A Low Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low Fat Diet.”(2008) The New England Journal of Medicine.( 359.3): 229-241

2. Foster et al. “Weight and Metabolic Outcomes After 2 Years on a Low-Carbohydrate Versus Low-Fat Diet: A Randomized Trial” (2010). Annals of Internal Medicine 153; 3 147-157 [/toggle]


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