Do Low-Carb Diets Really Work?

Do Low-Carb Diets Really Work?

Around two decades ago, low-fat diets were believed to the best strategy for a successful weight loss. The weight loss fanatics who were looking to lose a few pounds and get into shape eliminated all of the fat out of their diets. We then saw the creation of a whole range of foods that are still in existence today. More recently there has been a huge increase in the popularity of low carbohydrate diets amongst those attempting to shift some unwanted body weight. Do these low carbohydrate diets really work?

Ketogenic diets

The Atkins diet was the innovator of the ketogenic diet fad. Specifically those following this diet plan had to restrict their carb intake to below 20 grams per day, for the first two weeks. After this initial restriction in carbs the body goes into a state of ‘ketosis’ and this is a catalyst to mobilize fats so that it is burnt as a fuel. These ketones are supposed to stop you from feeling hungry and are eventually secreted in your urine.

Many of the ketogenic diets that are being advertised as the ‘magic bullet’ for weight loss tend to control the amount of carbs consumed. However, this diet type tends to ignore the amount of calories, cholesterol, and saturated fats that are eaten. Not controlling these three critical areas of your diet can lead to excessive plasma ketones in your blood stream, which is the by-product of the incomplete breakdown of fat. This is triggered by the restriction of your carb intake. This mechanism is supposed to accelerate your weight loss.

The downside of ketogenic diets

The major down side of ketogenic diets is that they promote muscle tissue loss because of the reduction in the overall carbohydrate intake. This cannibalization of the muscle tissue is broken down simply as follows:

  • A reduction in carbohydrate intake leads to the muscle tissue being used as fuel to maintain blood glucose levels.
  • This process is called ‘gluconeogenesis’ and is very counterproductive to your weight loss goals.

If you want to lose weight, then you really need to preserve your muscle tissue, as there is a direct correlation between the amounts of muscle mass that you have and your metabolic rate. In a nutshell the muscle tissue needs calories/energy to survive and this concept keeps your metabolism revved up and you looking lean!

The research

Three clinical trials examined the effect of the Atkins diet, low carbohydrate diet, and some low fat diets on overall weight loss. The results indicated the following key benefits:

  • The low carb diet was very effective for achieving weight loss for the morbidly obese
  • The low carb diet had a better blood sugar and lipid control than the low fat diets

This does add some credibility to the low carb diet in comparison to the low fat diets in terms of improved health and weight loss benefits. Bear in mind that the Atkins diet does not restrict the amount of dairy products and meat that you can consume. In the short term this can lead to a reduction in your glycogen stores and this can make you feel fatigued and lethargic.

In conclusion

If you are going to eat a low carb diet, then don’t leave out adequate amounts of protein which will sustain your muscle tissue, increase your fiber intake from dark green vegetables and eat the right fats e.g. Omega 3-s from oily fish. This basis strategy will ensure that your weight loss is sustainable and successful in the long term.