These days many so-called health experts are touting low carb diets as the ultimate solution to weight loss, the same way they touted low fat diets not so long ago. And just as science has proven that many fats are actually healthy and some fat is essential to the diet, we know that many carbohydrates are actually healthy for you.
Low Carb Diets Help With Weight Loss…
True, if you starve yourself of carbohydrates, you will more than likely lose weight. The initial weight you lose when you start a low carb diet is largely water weight lost through glycogen and sometimes lean muscle tissue. Once your body adjusts to the diet, you’ll soon find yourself gaining weight again, often even more than you started out with.
Why carbs are essential
Carbohydrates are actually essential to human functioning. Most cells can use fats, proteins or carbs to produce energy but some rely specifically on carbs to function. This is particularly true in certain areas of the brain.
No one type of food causes weight gain. Weight gain is actually caused by too many of the wrong type of calories being consumed, compared to the amount of calories being burned, and even protein can be turned into extra weight if you eat too much of it. A healthy diet combines carbs, fats and proteins, with portions that make you feel good.
Why a low carb diet causes low energy
Carbs are transformed into glucose during the digestive process. This glucose is stored in cells of all kinds. It provides energy to your cells and your organs. Without carbs we quickly become lethargic and unable to concentrate. An extreme depletion of carbs can even lead to nausea and dizziness throughout the day.
Another important factor is what you actually replace the carbs with. Replacing carbs with red meats or other foods high in saturated fats(we’re looking at you, egg yolks) can actually be far worse for you than sticking to a high carb diet. The key to health is to eat a varied diet. The only foods you should really be avoiding at all costs are candy and saturated fats.
How carbs improve your exercise performance
Getting enough carbs in your diet is essential to high performance when you’re exercising. Carbs provide energy to muscle cells and encourage protein retention and synthesis. This is essential for anyone looking to build muscle instead of simply losing fat.
A low carb diet depletes glycogen in your muscle cells and makes you more lethargic. Restricting carbs too much can make it difficult to even get to the gym, let alone successfully complete a workout.
Over time the body becomes carb depleted and is forced to burn through other sources of energy, such as fat. This sounds like a good thing—after all, fat loss is the primary goal for most people—but this kind of diet can lead to overly high creation of ketones. This isn’t dangerous for everyone, but people with existing medical conditions can develop ketosis, a debilitating condition which makes the blood acidic and can quickly become fatal.
Why carbs have a bad reputation
The tricky thing about carbs is the sheer number of foods containing high amounts of them. Bad carbs, much like bad fats, can wreak havoc on your body, putting you on an energy rollercoaster. Many of these are the foods we typically associate with the word ‘carbohydrates”—breads, pizza and all manner of desserts come to mind.
These junky foods are much like a bottle of soft drink: they contain lots of calories, but you’ll be lucky to get even a fraction of your daily nutrition from them.
What are healthy carbs?
Healthy carbohydrates are actually contained in many vegetables, fruit and other healthy foods, including whole grains. They are also called complex carbohydrates because they contain lots of nutrients and often include high amounts of fiber, a special type of carbohydrate that aids the digestive system.
Here are some examples of healthy carbs:
- Oats (purchase raw oats instead of instant oatmeal)
- Whole wheat bread (stay away from white bread)
- Whole wheat pasta
Slow release snacks
Snacking is crucial to maintaining energy levels through the day so you’re less tempted to rely on sugary treats to give you energy spikes. The ideal snack combines protein and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide instant energy and protein gives you the steady stream of energy you need to keep your willpower high and stay out of the candy aisle.
You should have two snacks per day between meals. This will also help you avoid overeating during any of your meals, especially dinner.
Avoid “Low Carb” Foods
Like low fat foods, low carb foods typically use unhealthy substances like corn syrup or sugar to add the flavour taken out when the carbs are removed. These foods can also contain a host of nasty man-made chemicals designed to increase flavour. The best way to get healthy is by eating more foods that are inherently healthy, not foods you have to take the bad stuff out of to enjoy.
A general rule of thumb to go by is ask yourself this question: Did this food item ever walk, swim, fly or grow and does it look fairly similar to it’s original form?
If the answer is yes, it’s more than likely a good food choice.
A low carb diet may sound like a great idea, but a balanced diet is the best sustainable way to lose weight and become healthier in the long-run.