Low Carb Diets
Your quick guide to the weight loss frenzy that is the Low Carb Diet
It's little surprise that people are searching harder than ever for new and easy ways to shed a few pounds. Well, let's face it - we're talking more than a few pounds here! In fact 31% of Americans are considered overweight, compared with only 23% in 2004. Low carb diets are all over the place at the moment and the chances are that you've stumbled upon this article via one of the many low carb diet resources on the internet.
This article aims to provide you with a balanced guide to the concept of the low carb diet and what it can do for you.
Low carb diets fuss over carbohydrates, what are they?
Low carb diets focus on energy usage and in particular controlling levels of energy obtained and released from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. Carbohydrates fall into two groups: simple carbohydrates, such as common sugars present in honeys and syrups. Then we have complex carbohydrates, which are present in whole grain breads etc.
Generally, simple carbohydrates get absorbed into the body's bloodstream at a faster rate than complex carbohydrates. They are a quick and accessible source of energy. However an exception is fructose, a sugar and simple carbohydrate, which is actually released into the bloodstream at a very slow rate, comparable to many complex carbs. Complex carbohydrates are often referred to as slow release carbohydrates. Low carb diets are, in the main, concerned with reducing the simple quick release carbohydrates.
Low Carb Diet Concept
Naturally, the body will use simple carbohydrates such as sugars mentioned above as a main energy source. The aim of a low carb diet is to condition the body to start using fat as a primary source of energy instead of carbohydrates.
Additionally, a low carb diet will rid the body of a lot of stored water. Carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscle tissues as Glycogen. Chemically speaking (don't get scared!), one molecule of glycogen requires three molecules of water for storage. So, as the body naturally stores carbohydrates as a source of energy reserve, it is also storing a lot of water. When you start a low carb diet, your body will begin to use up your carbohydrate reserves and release with it all that associated water. As a result of this, weight loss in the first instance of a low carb diet is rapid. In the first week of a low carb diet, it's quite easy to lose at least four pounds.
Thirdly, a lot of calories actually come from carbohydrates. Imagine the effect of cutting out cake and ice-cream etc. So even though the emphasis is placed on the carbs, a low carb diet is often a low calorie diet as well, just by its very nature.
The down side to the low carb diet
Ok. So, we know the upside of the low carb diet is that you're likely to lose weight very quickly. But what about the downsides? Well, we did say this was going to be a balanced look at low carb diets after all!
Some of the better known low carb diets encourage the dieter to ingest greater levels of fat. There often isn't any differentiation made between the types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. The American Heart Association has long had health concerns about low carb diets such as Atkins because the dieter is encouraged to eat more animal produce which, in the case of steak for example, is high in saturated animal fats. The effect on the heart must be taken into consideration if you're considering a low carb diet.
Not all parts of the body can use fat as an energy source. The brain for example uses glucose - a sugar that is avoided on a low carb diet. Ketones are produced to fuel these parts of the body. If the low carb diet cuts out too many carbs, the body will enter a state of ketosis. The down side here is that ketones will make your breath smell.
On a low carb diet muscle tissue may decrease as described above. Exercise must be taken to reduce muscle wastage. Muscle tissue is a major factor in metabolism and burning calories. A low carb diet can decrease the amount of muscle tissue and therefore actually make it harder to burn fat.
A balanced diet is paramount to good health. A given low carb diet may not always be that well balanced. For example, fruit is a good source of essential nutrients. However a low carb diet may require that the intake of fruit be reduced.
A low carb diet may also require a higher level of protein intake. This can put a strain on your kidneys.
Should you even be considering a low carb diet then?
Despite some of the "less attractive" concerns mentioned above, the fact remains that the low carb diet concept is working well for many many people. Cutting out carbs completely could never be considered a balance diet. However, it's not disputed that reducing your carbohydrate intake can be beneficial to a weight loss diet. It's the extent to which you do this that should be thought about and researched with great care. It's important to read around and explore the low carb diet options before committing yourself. Look out for reviews of the most common low carb diets here on Carbohydrate-Counter coming soon.
This article is in no way meant as a source of medical advice. As always, you should never consider embarking on a low carb diet without consulting your doctor first!