Fat Loss Lies #8

Fat loss lie #8: Zero carbohydrate or very low carbohydrate diets are the best way to lose body fat.

No diet issue has created more confusion and stirred up more controversy than the low carbohydrate vs. high carbohydrate debate.

Contrary to what certain diet “guru’s” tell you, carbohydrates are not fattening.

It is a flat out LIE to say “carbohydrates are fattening.” What’s fattening is eating more calories than your body can utilize at one time.

However, it’s true that some people lose weight more quickly on a low carbohydrate diet (that’s not the same thing as saying carbohydrates are fattening.) It’s also true that almost every bodybuilder or fitness competitor uses some variation of the low carb diet to prepare for competitions.

Low carb diets work, but they’re not the ultimate answer to permanent weight loss. At worst they are unhealthy. At best they are a temporary tool that should only be used for short periods to achieve specific fat loss goals (preparing for bodybuilding competition, for example).

Even for people who respond well to less carbs and more protein, there are many drawbacks:

1) Very low carb diets are difficult to stick to. If you remove carbohydrates from your diet for a long period of time, you are setting yourself up for cravings and bingeing. The more you cut back the carbs, the bigger the rebound will be when you put carbs back in. That’s why 95% of people who lose weight on low carb diets gain it all back (plus a little extra for interest!)

2) Very low carb diets are unbalanced and missing many nutrients. It’s never healthy to remove entire food groups from your diet for a prolonged period of time. A healthy diet is one that has balance between protein, carbs and fats and includes a wide variety of foods, not an overemphasis on one food or food group.

3) Very low carb diets may be unhealthy. Many low carb diets like the anabolic diet or the Atkins diet, suggest eating large amounts of saturated fat. (no pancakes allowed, but bacon, sausage and whole eggs for breakfast is just fine). In the absence of carbohydrates you can eat fat with protein and still lose weight, but it’s never smart to eat large amounts of saturated fat. If heart disease or health problems run in your family, you’re asking for serious trouble.

4) Very low carb diets cause your energy levels to plummet. Not only will you feel tired and irritable without carbs, but it will also affect your training: Low carbs = low energy. Low energy = poor workouts. Poor workouts = poor results.

5) The weight loss on a very low carb diet can be deceiving. You will definitely lose weight if you don’t eat carbs, but much of the weight will be muscle and water. Suppose you lose 5 lbs in one week on a low carb diet: That sounds impressive, but if one pound is fat, two pounds is water and two pounds is muscle, what good is that? Your goal should never be weight loss. Your goal should be to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week while maintaining your lean body mass.

Most people will lose fat simply by adding aerobic exercise to their schedule and by “cleaning up” their diets. By “cleaning up” your diet, I mean that you have mastered all the nutritional basics like eating small frequent meals, controlling portion sizes, cutting down on saturated fats, avoiding sugar and junk foods, etc.

What I’m saying is that a low carb diet should be considered a “last resort.” If you’ve already tried the conventional approach to dieting (which works for most people) then you might want to consider low carb diets as an alternative.

The conventional fat reducing diet looks something like this:
55% carbohydrates
30% protein
15% fat

If you choose the low carb approach to dieting, the best method is to decrease your carbohydrates moderately. Never cut your carbs out completely. It’s not necessary, it’s not healthy, it’s hard to stick to and it’s no fun! It’s usually not wise to go to extremes in anything and this is as true for dieting as with anything else in life: moderation is the key.

The “moderately” low carb diet might look something like this:
40% carbohydrates
40% protein
20% fat

Competitive bodybuilders might decrease the carbohydrates even further, but only for short periods right before competitions. They may also “zig-zag” their carbohydrate intake up and down so that they’re not on low carbs all the time. Every few days or so, they have a high carb day.

My advice to you is forget about those diets that suggest you must go into ketosis or require you to limit your carbs to miniscule amounts, such as the common recommendation of 30 – 70 grams a day. Carb cutting, when taken to the extreme, will do more harm than good.

Lori Braun
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Lori Braun
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