An Introduction To Low Carb Dieting
This is part II of our article on low carb dieting. If you missed part I, please click here!
Should you consider a low carb dieting?
Despite the growing popularity of low carb dieting, not everyone needs to drastically restrict carbs, especially as is required in the initial stages of most popular low carb diets.
If you are hypoglycemic, severely overweight, suffering from vacillations in blood sugar/energy levels and displaying other characteristics of insulin resistance (also known as “metabolic syndrome”) then an extreme low carb diet makes good sense.
If you simply need to lose a few pounds, you probably don’t need to restrict carbs to the extreme. However…
I would argue that everyone will benefit from a smart carb diet—i.e., the removal of all highly refined, highly processed, nutrient deficient carbs (like breads, buns, bagels, cereals, muffins, crackers, sweets, and so on), and replacing them with high fiber fruit, vegetables, legumes, and grains.
For individuals who are overweight and hopeless, I generally recommend purchasing Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution, and reading it cover to cover to fully understand the low carb concept before diving headfirst into the diet. To repeat something I said earlier…
“I personally have seen the greatest transformations in people implementing the low carb diet.
In several cases, these diets have been doctor monitored and have lead to decreased bodyweight, a vastly improved blood lipid profile, and a decrease in cholesterol levels.”
The Low Carbohydrate Contradiction
It seems bizarre that a diet based upon the foods we’ve been taught are dangerous can be so helpful.
And while fatty foods are calorie-dense, they are also very satiating, keeping you satisfied longer. And because they don’t have much effect on blood sugar levels, they don’t lead to the insulin imbalances that cause cravings (oftentimes you’ll consume fewer calories on low carb diet for these reasons). So it’s really not surprising that low carb diets are more effective than the typical low fat diets.
Another benefit of an extreme low carb diet is that it forces your body to switch from a machine that runs on carbs/sugar, to one that runs on fat (being in a state of “fat burning” is often referred to as “ketosis”). In order for this to happen, extreme carbohydrate restriction is required, and must be maintained. Even with the various low carb lifestyle products available, it is very difficult to sustain an extremely low carb diet for long (the most I managed was 8 weeks).
Bottom line on implementing the low carb diet?
Make the decision based on your unique situation, and recognize the impracticalities of long term carb restriction. Perhaps all you need to do is cut out the bad carbs and replace them with good carbs?
One of my favorite things about the low carb diet is that it’s easily customizable.
On non-training days, for example, I’ll eat a lot of lean protein, and a lot of salads — complete with green onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumber — as much as I want. On weight training days, I’ll increase my carb intake slightly during the day, and add a moderate glycemic carb to my pre-workout meal (this ensure my muscles have the necessary fuel for a good workout). My post-workout meal contains plenty of moderate-to-high glycemic carbs to enhance recovery.
As long as you realize low/smart carb eating can be quite flexible, you won’t make the wrong choice. If you’re trying to make the choice between a low carb or a low fat diet, the low carb diet wins every time.
Or, for a different take on low carb dieting, check out my review of Jim Stone’s “Stop Cheating On Your Low Carb Diet.”