Is the Low-Carb Diet Worth it?


Carbohydrates are all the talk these days. One side says that lowering or removing carb consumption is healthy and increases fat loss while the other side states that carbs are your metabolisms primary source of energy, thus meaning the removal of the nutrient is unhealthy and unnecessary. However, the topic could use a little light being shined upon it. What are these carbs you hear so much about, and what do the health officials have to say about this conundrum?


What is a Carbohydrate?

A carbohydrate is a natural organic substance that is found in most of the foods you probably consume, and they are known as one of the three primary macronutrients your body requires, protein and dietary fats being the other two. The common types of carbs are sugars and starches, but people often forget about cellulose as well. Your metabolism uses them in the form of glucose, and glucose is stored as glycogen within your muscles and liver.

The human body is going to use these as the source for energy throughout the day, and people often consume a higher amount an hour prior to physical training, which could be cardio, weight training, Crossfit, etc. The entire world is primarily running off of carbs for energy level maintenance. An interesting fact to consider is that water binds to carbs, so when you eat a lot of carbohydrates you gain water weight, and when you eat less carbs you lose water weight primarily. This explains why low carb diets work so well the first month.


What are the Foods known as Carbs?

Carbs are often misconstrued as being only foods such as bread, rice, and pasta, but in reality there are other groups aside from grains such as fruits and vegetables. Some people don’t know this and state they are on a low-carb diet while eating a bag of apple slices, which isn’t necessarily bad if they are watching the amount being eaten. Remember, even healthy foods eaten in higher amounts cause weight gain just like the unhealthy foods!

diet carbsSo to recap, you have whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and lentils for the healthy carbs, and then the unhealthy ones are typically your processed foods i.e. anything that comes in a box or can pretty much that do not state it’s organic, which are what makes up most of the foods in the average home. Please note, if the packaging label says something like “all natural” then it doesn’t mean anything. Anybody can say their product is natural, but a product that is organic has to have been certified by inspection, which make them legitimately healthy for you.


Why Remove Carbs if they are Important?

You will generally hear the reason for the removal of carbs for weight loss, and studies have actually proven that fat loss is able to occur with the low-carb diet. The reason why it possibly could work for you is because once you take carbs away, your body needs another energy source, which is going to be the fats in your adipose tissue. So what happens is known as a metabolic switch, and this is when your metabolism switches from using glucose to fat for energy production. You may have heard it being called something else such as the cyclical ketogenic diet.


The Bad News about Low-Carb Diets

Yes, there is unwelcoming news when it comes to a low-carb diet regimen. The results previously discussed sound like something you would want, but removing a substantial amount of carbs from your diet can cause frequent headaches, muscle cramps, constipation, and even cause you to feel lightheaded. This is even worse when you walk into the gym, rack on the weights for the squat rack, and then all of a sudden see black spots and collapse. The scenario is actually an accident that has happened.

Then you also have to note some of the other researches that have shown low-carb diets to assist with short term fat loss, but for long term results people gained the weight back twice as fast! Stanford School of Medicine performed this study and came up with these results, and the research even stated that the fat loss was due to water imbalance and not fat reduction.

The reason for this is because low-carb diets usually cause the metabolic disorder ketosis, which is the precursor for the chemical build-up of ketones. These ketones are the cause for an excess in the excretion of water and sodium from the body, thus the reason for the change in your weight scale. This was discussed previously, but the information needs to be given emphasis.


So what should you do with Carbs?

fat loss dietEat them! Quit blaming the food when you are the person consuming too much of the carbs in the first place. Willpower is king in this scenario. Yes, carbs inhibit the release of serotonin, which is what makes you crave that sweet little doughnut sitting behind the glass in the gas station, but you don’t have to eat it. Learn to control your portions and eat smaller amounts of whole grains while also remembering that fruit consumption needs to be monitored as well.

Here is an example that you could think about when you have that craving for a doughnut. A glazed doughnut generally has 240 calories, 140 of those calories come from fats and 1 gram of fiber. Now you have the apple, which contains 78 calories. Here is the good part. The apple has ZERO calories of fat and contains 3.6 grams of fiber. Tough choice on what to eat, right?

In the end, it is essentially your decision on how you want to go about getting back into shape. You can cut back on the amount of unhealthy simple carbs you eat, or follow the low-carb diet and possibly place your body at risk of developing health problems. Every person has a different body, so who knows, maybe you will do well following the low-carb diet.

Brian Pankau

Brian Pankau

Experienced personal trainer and strength coach

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