There have been around 20 human studies conducted on the subject of low carb diets, and almost all of them have have shown that low carb diets beat out other diets for weight loss. While this may seem pretty straightforward, there has been a ton of controversy surrounding carb-cutting for years. Sure, there's some pretty astounding statistics such as The Atkin's Diet, that claims followers can lose up to 15 pounds in 2 weeks, but is the low carb lifestyle really worth the hype? We've taken a look at the pros and cons of a super low carb diet to see just how beneficial it can be!
- No hunger pangs: Okay, it might be a challenge to cut out the cookies and potato chips, but the hardest part about any diet is feeling like you are starving. Luckily, a low-carb diet is usually reinforced by a high-protein diet, and protein tends to keep you full and focused. Protein, especially lean meat, typically contains less calories than carbs, so you end up eating lower calorie meals than normal, even though you feel much more satisfied.
- Faster Weight Loss: Low carb diets brag that participants lose weight much faster when carbs are restricted. Especially within the first couple of weeks, the body sheds all of the excess water, and insulin levels plummet as sugar-intake reaches an all-time minimum. The kidneys also kick into gear and do away with any excess sodium that has been stored.
- Reduces abdominal fat: While it may not be possible to wish away that extra thigh jiggle, studies have shown that low carb diets are actually capable of reducing harmful abdominal fat. This, in turn, reduces metabolic problems such as diabetes and the risk of heart disease.
- Reduces triglycerides: Triglycerides are fat molecules that are a heart disease risk factor. Elevated triglyceride levels are caused by carb intake, especially carbs that contain fructose. Cutting back on carbs decreases triglyceride levels and actually helps to maintain a healthy heart!
- Increases your "good" cholesterol: Eating healthy fat is essential in keeping our good cholesterol levels up, but most diets demand that you cut back on fat intake. Low carb diets encourage the consumption of healthy fats, which increase our good cholesterol.
- Lowers your blood sugar and insulin levels: Low carb diets cut out a lot of unnecessary sugar found in carbs, which can cause insulin and blood sugar levels to spike. By eliminating these sugars from your diet, you can treat and possibly even cure type 2 diabetes!
- It may not be true weight loss: Sure, low carb diets are associated with rapid weight loss, but only in the first two weeks. Some researchers argue that this could just be water weight. Low carb diets are typically only effective for 6 months or less, mostly because people tend to give up, or reintroduce old favorite foods back into their diet.
- It has to be a lifestyle: "Low carb diet" is actually misleading, because in order to keep the weight off, you have to maintain a low carb lifestyle. For most, this diet can be a real challenge to maintain long term.
- Depletes stores of healthy glycogen: Healthy glycogen is found in muscles and the liver, and if those storages are depleted, then your body could wind up massively dehydrated. This can also lead to the loss of muscle, which can contribute to a decrease in your basal metabolic rate. Basically, your metabolism will get lazy. Low levels of glycogen can also cause fatigue, making exercise unappealing.
- Lacks fiber and other important nutrients: Animal products may be full of protein but they are definitely lacking in fiber. Since you will be eating a lot of these products (lean meats, eggs, cheese, etc.), you will be missing out on a crucial source of nutrients,which can put you at risk for certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.
- It gives you permission to eat the "bad" foods: Since your carb intake will be limited, your source of fuel is going to be food that is high in protein, and often in fat as well. Junk food like bacon, cheeseburgers (minus the bun), steak and cheeses will no longer be off limits, and people often have a hard time controlling themselves when eating these foods. The higher intake of fat from these foods can also increase bad cholesterol.
If a low carb diet sounds like the diet for you, make sure you carefully evaluate the pros and cons with a doctor before you begin. Any diet this drastic is worth a second look!
Interested in learning more about low carb diets? Check out our sources:
Harvard School of Public Health, Authority Nutrition, World Fitness, Livestrong, US News: Health