The low carb diet plan is one of the most talked about and well known weight loss diets around. Various low carb foods are now commonly found in everyday supermarkets in addition to the health food and supplement stores they’ve always been in. Some restaurants even have a special section on their menu just for people on this type of diet.
This is probably why when the average person decides they want to lose weight, one of the first thoughts that enter their mind is the low carb diet plan. The question is, is it right for you?
In this article I will explain what this diet plan is, if it actually works, if it’s actually necessary for weight loss to happen, and whether or not you should use it. I’ll also cover some low carb foods and explain the difference between “good carbs” and “bad carbs.”
What Is The Low Carb Diet?
The idea behind the low carb diet plan tends to vary slightly depending on who you ask, but here’s what I’ve heard most often. Eating carbs raises blood sugar and insulin levels. This is what proponents of this type of diet claim is the sole cause of weight gain. So, with this in mind, eating less carbs will lead to either weight loss or just the prevention of weight gain.
Another common answer you’ll get to this question is that your body’s preferred source of energy is carbs (this is true). So then, if you start following a low carb diet plan that restricts foods that are high in carbohydrates in favor of mostly low carb foods, your body will be forced to use glycogen and stored body fat for energy instead, which is a process known as ketosis.
Again, depending on exactly whose version of this diet plan you’re using or who’s explaining the supposed reasoning behind it, the specifics will sometimes vary (usually to support their method).
Does The Low Carb Diet Plan Actually Work?
Yup, if your goal is weight loss, it works. This is a fact. Many people have successfully lost weight by following a diet low in carbs. I don’t deny or argue this one bit.
However, here’s the thing. You know the description of the idea behind the diet that I gave a minute ago? Yeah, well… it’s mostly bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, there is some truth to the reasoning behind eating a diet low in carbohydrates, it’s just that when it actually causes weight loss, most of that previously mentioned stuff has little to do with it.
Confused? Let me explain…
The REAL Reason The Low Carb Diet Works
No matter what you’ve heard or read, only one aspect of your diet actually causes fat gain or fat loss, and it’s NOT carbs. Instead, it’s calories.
If you eat more calories than your body needs, the unused calories that were left over will be stored on your body as fat (this is called a caloric surplus, and it’s the cause of weight gain). If you eat less calories than your body needs, your body will be forced to burn your own stored body fat for energy instead (this is called a caloric deficit, and it’s the cause of weight loss).
What I just described is referred to as the law of thermodynamics, and it’s not my opinion or a guess or an idea. It’s a scientifically proven fact. Calories are the key… not carbs.
So then, if what I’m saying is true, why does the low carb diet plan work? How could it cause weight loss if it’s about eating less carbs, not less calories? Simple. Guess what happens when eat mostly low carb foods and greatly reduce the amount of carbs in your diet? You end up greatly reducing the amount of calories in your diet.
THAT’S what causes weight loss. It’s the lower calories you’re eating, not the lower carbs. You could reduce the same amount of calories from protein or fat, healthy foods or unhealthy foods, good carbs or bad carbs… and you’d STILL lose weight just the same. Why? Because it’s always about total calories, not the source of those calories.
Also bare in mind that people tend to lose a lot of weight early when starting a low carb diet plan, but again not because of what you think. See, people often see these first few pounds get lost and think it’s amazing fat loss results. In reality however, it’s just an initial loss of water weight, not fat.
One of the funny side effects of making large increases or decreases to your daily carb intake is that your weight will instantly go up or down as a result of water… not fat. So those first few pounds of water you quickly lose when starting this type of diet plan will come right back when the high carb foods come back.
What Does This All Mean?
Well, it means that while this type of diet plan can work for losing weight, it’s just completely unnecessary for the average healthy adult. The one and only weight loss requirement is eating less calories. If you want to create this effect by making a drastic and pointlessly annoying reduction to your carb intake, go for it.
But… why the hell would you want to do that?
Why put such a tight limit on only carbs (the nutrient most people enjoy and crave the most) when you can just put a moderate limit on your overall calorie intake and then get those calories from a healthy, proportionate and enjoyable amount of protein, fat AND carbs? Why eat only low carb foods and torture yourself by overly reducing the one specific nutrient we all love more than any other?
In terms of weight loss, I see absolutely no good answer to these questions, unless of course you just don’t enjoy carbs or would just prefer not to eat them in high amounts. Fine with me, but for most people, I’d rarely ever recommend a typical low carb diet plan. Instead, my article about How To Lose Weight and the Diet Plan Guide explain the diet I recommend.
But, that is all just my opinion. Some people (for whatever reason) might just want to do it low carb. If it works for you and you can sustain it happily, then by all means… go for it. Once again, it’s perfectly fine by me. But if this doesn’t describe you, then it’s just not a diet you should ever use.
Low Carb Foods
Now at this point, if the low carb diet plan is STILL something that appeals to you, then you’re probably interested in finding some low carb foods to fill your daily diet with. Well, for starters, most foods high in protein and/or fat will usually contain very few carbs.
Meat, chicken, turkey, fish, cheese and eggs are all common examples of low carb foods. Beyond those, you have a huge market of specialty foods and products that are basically low carb versions of foods that are typically very high in carbs (like bread, cereal, etc.).
The best place to get foods like this is Netrition, which is probably the most popular shopping source among people following a low carb diet plan. They sell low carb products ranging from…
- Sweeteners & Syrups
- Candy & Chocolate
- Bake Mix (for pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc.)
- And more.
You can check out their full assortment of low carb foods here: Netrition’s Low Carb Products
Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs
The final thing you’ll probably want to know about the low carb diet (or really just carbohydrates in general) is the difference between so called “good” sources and “bad” sources. Now, to most of the people using the terms good and bad to categorize these foods, here’s how it breaks down…
- Bad carbs would be considered simple and/or high glycemic. This includes sugar, white bread, white rice, white potatoes, white pasta, most cereals, crackers, cookies, chips and similar snack foods.
- Good carbs would be considered complex and/or low glycemic. This includes beans, oatmeal, vegetables, sweet potatoes and the whole wheat or whole grain version of many of the “bad” foods listed above.
The difference between the two is the speed at which they are digested. “Bad” carbs digest much more rapidly than “good” carbs and cause a larger spike in blood sugar levels.
Now, while there is some truth to all of this, it’s not quite as black and white as some low carb diet fans make it out to be. For starters, their direct role in fat loss and fat gain is damn near equal. Meaning, as long as total calories remain equal, you can just as easily lose weight eating bad carbs or gain weight eating good carbs.
Why? Because again, it’s about calories, not carbs or types of carbs. The true big role the above “good vs bad” distinction plays in weight loss is that of hunger control. The slower a food digests, the more full and satisfied you’ll be (and vice-versa). My article about how many carbs to eat per day touches on this as well.
Is This Diet Plan Right For You?
Honestly, that’s a question only you can answer. I just try to provide some info and my personal opinion so you can make your own decision.
Yes, it works for weight loss. But no, it’s not actually necessary for making it happen. Yes, some people prefer to reduce carbs and not bother with calories. But, some people prefer to “bother with calories” if it means they can still eat some of their favorite high carb foods on a daily basis.
So, for some people, the low carb diet plan is still very appealing (especially with the use of the specialty foods I linked to earlier). For others however… not so much. You already know my opinion on the matter, and hopefully now you know enough to form your own.
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