Lets start with some truth before we dive in here. Low-carb diets DO work for weight loss and fat loss. Ground-breaking, I know, so I'll repeat this once more...Low-carb diets work. Studies are starting to reveal just how effective carbohydrate manipulation is for diets, and these benefits include lower blood sugar, blood pressure, insulin response, as well as increases in HDL!
Seems like a great idea, right? Let's dive into this truth a little further. Let's talk about WHY low-carb diets and carb cycling diets are both effective and safe for most people.
Reason #1: Better Insulin Response:
Here's another truth; carbs don't make you fat...eating them in EXCESS makes you fat.
Insulin is what I call a "Master Hormone". Other "Masters" include testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone(s), and cortisol.
Insulin is important because its primary job is to regulate blood sugar and energy storage. Basically, insulin tells your fat cells when to produce and store fat, while also telling other cells to pick up excess glucose (blood sugar) in the blood and to use it for energy instead of storing. Insulin also increaseslipogenesis (storage of fat) and it inhibits lipolysis (burring of fat).
It really is that simple, guys. The body is amazing; we just need to fuel it the right way and it will do what it's supposed to do. Low-carb diets result in an almost instant impact on insulin levels, decreasing them and making them more sensitive to how it utilizes carbohydrates for energy rather than storage. Long story short, taking in too many carbs each day causes your insulin levels to become more resistant. Not good for the waist-line or overall health.
Reason #2: The Effects are Immediate
One gram of carbohydrate retains roughly three grams of water. As we all know, most carbs come hand-in-hand with sodium (chips, fries, pizza, the list goes on...), and sodium holds water in the cell, leading to bloat and discomfort.
So, when you're on a low-carb diet, the pounds drop fast, especially within the first 2 weeks because your insulin levels are dropping. When insulin levels drop, the kidneys work harder to get rid of any excess sodium in the blood, and with lower blood sugar both your muscles and your liver drop some in their glycogen stores, leading to water loss. It's all a chain reaction.
But let's be honest, dieting is tough, especially in the first 20-30 days. If you want immediate satisfaction, low-carb diets are the move for you. You'll feel and see the pounds drop...but this is mostly water weight and loss of bloat, so the effects are most notable in the waist line. Awesome, right?
Reason #3: Opportunity to Increase Your Protein (and Fat!)
You know how important protein is, the positive effects on your health include muscle building and repair, among others. When eating a low-carb diet, you have to supplement your calories from somewhere, and that means eating more protein and healthy fats (eggs, steak, chicken, fish).
But that's not it. The benefits of a higher protein, higher fat diet include feeling full longer, deceasing the desire to binge on junk, reducing that bloated feeling, eradicating that sleepy feeling after eating...it's a good choice. Not to mention, with all of that hard work you're putting in at the gym, that extra protein will help you increase and maintain that lean mass.
Less appetite + less desire for junk food = better diet adherence and overall results!
You might ask yourself, "but if I'm losing weight, why do I want to maintain (or increase) any kind of mass? Lean mass consists of all the highly metabolic tissues of the body (muscle, bones, connective tissue, organs, etc.) And these tissues require a lot of energy to do their job, demanding a lot of calories (energy) to do that job. So putting on lean muscle doesn't only improve your movement, but you'll look and feel better too. It keeps you moving forward, toward that weight loss goal.
Reason #4: It's SO Easy to Follow
We all know how to eat like an adult. We know what a carbohydrate is. We know what we should and shouldn't be shoveling down if we want to lose weight. Modifying fat is tricky because it's not obvious in a lot of foods; for example, it's used to increase flavor and shelf life of many products. Carbs are less easily hidden. A carb is a carb is a CARB.
So, after your first 3-4 weeks of a low-carb diet, you should start toslowly add back in some carbohydrates into your diet. You'll be amazed at how efficiently your body utilizes them. Diets are meant to constrict you, but their modelled after what you should be eating every day. A restrictive diet with a goal attached to it, like weight loss, requires sacrifices in order to work. Once you've reached your goal, enjoy your carbohydrates in moderation. But be mindful of when you eat them; they're best consumed before or after physical activity.
Key Take Away: Carbs do NOT make you fat. Eating too many carbs makes you fat. Low-carbs diet work.
It's important to note that some people will struggle with this type of diet, especially vegetarians as a majority of protein is consumed in the form of a carbohydrate. But for most dieters, this is a very effective way to reach your goals.