A low carbohydrate diet, or a low carb diet for short, is a diet plan that some dieting gurus recommend for fast weight loss. Low carb diets are not the same as a no carb diet. Low carb meals do not eliminate carbs; they simply limit your daily intake of carbohydrate. How much carbs you take in will depend on the low carb diet plan you’re following and the specific phase you’re in.
A low carb diet is also known as a high protein diet. Protein-rich foods have little or no carbohydrate. Consequently, low carbohydrate diets often recommend that you eat high-protein foods instead of high-carb foods. For this reason, a low carb diet is, more often than not, a high protein diet.
Counting Carbs: The Essence of a Low Carb Diet
The theory behind a low carb diet comes from a study by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) which said that 45 to 65 percent of your calorie intake should come from carbohydrates. If you are on a 2,000-calorie diet, 900 to 1,300 calories should come from carbohydrates. There are 4 calories in every gram of carbohydrate. Thus it follows that a person on a 2,000-calorie diet should consume from 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates each day.
A low carb diet, on the other hand, prescribes a carbohydrate intake that is less than the USDA-recommended level. Most low carb diet plans drastically reduce carb intake during the initial phase. The Atkins low carb diet, for instance, has a 2-week induction phase where nutritive carbohydrate intake is severely limited to 20 grams a day. That’s only 4% carb calories on a 2,000 calorie diet or 5% carb calories on a 1,500-calorie diet.
Note: Nutritive carbs are carbs that may be directly used by the body as a source of energy. It doesn’t include other carbohydrates, like fiber, that the body can’t use as fuel.
After the initial phase of a low carb diet plan, carbohydrate intake is gradually raised. Once the maintenance stage is reached, prescribed carb levels are significantly higher than the prescribed carbs at the initial stage. Nevertheless, the maintenance-stage carb levels of low carb diets are still below USDA recommendations.
Low Carb Diets and Weight Loss
Low carb diets supposedly do two things:
• Low Carb Diets Prevent Weight Gain
After a high carb meal, blood sugar levels rise and the pancreas releases insulin. Insulin causes the sugar in the blood to be absorbed and stored in the cells. This mechanism normalizes blood sugar levels. However, this leads to fat storage and, in the long run, leads to weight gain.
With a low carb diet, blood sugar levels do not rise. There is no need for insulin in this case. When there’s no insulin, sugar is not stored in the cells. In theory, therefore, you can prevent fat storage and weight gain by staying on a low carb diet plan.
• Low Carb Diets Promote Weight Loss
Low carb diets cause weight loss by inducing ketosis. Ketosis is that stage where the body breaks down fat in the body to use as fuel.
When there’s not enough glucose from a high carb food intake, the pancreas produces glucagon. This signals the liver to start using up its glycogen stores. Once all the glycogen has been used up, the liver starts metabolizing fat. In a state of ketosis, therefore, we start metabolizing fat and we start losing weight.
How Low Carbohydrate Diets Lead to Weight Loss
A low carb diet generally leads to weight loss. Before ketosis, for instance, excess water is lost when the liver uses up its glycogen stores. Water weight makes up the bulk of the weight lost at this stage.
A low carb diet recommends foods that are high in protein and fats (with preference for monounsaturated fats) because the body takes longer to process these macronutrients. Consequently, the body feels fuller longer after a fat- or protein-rich, low carb meal. This makes it relatively easier to prevent diet crashes. When you’re not hungry, you’re much less likely to binge on empty calories. It also helps that a low carb diet also effectively reduces a person’s appetite.
Conclusion About A Low Carb Diet For Weight Loss
Low carb diets alter the calorie-burning sequence which leads to weight loss. In most peoples’ daily diets, carbohydrates make up a significant percentage of their daily calories. By reducing the daily carb intake the supply of these calories become exhausted sooner and the liver begins to promote the chewing up of fat calories. By staying on a low carb diet with a prolonged net calorie deficit,weight loss will ultimately follow.
There are many low carbohydrate diet plans or weight loss programs you can follow. Atkins, Protein Power, South Beach Diet, and Zone Diet are just some of the more popular variants. Any of these low carb diets can help you lose weight. Just remember that each of these low carb diets has its own set of risks and benefits. Consult your doctor before you go on a low carb diet plan.