You may have heard of carb-cutting as being an effective way to lose weight quickly. Perhaps you have even tried it?
Cutting carbs can actually help you lose weight. However, this approach to weight loss is often not only unsustainable, it can actually be quite detrimental to your health.
So before making any dramatic changes to your diet, it’s important to have a good understanding of all the facts, including the importance of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients in your diet, alongside protein and fats. Carbs are your body’s preferred fuel source and provide vital energy to all the different organs (including your brain!).
There are three types of carbohydrates:
This is the simplest form of carbohydrate, and includes fructose, sucrose, and lactose. Simple sugars are easily digested and absorbed into the body.
This means they spike your blood sugar levels and give you a quick burst of energy that quickly burns out. This type of carbohydrate is also easily converted into stored energy, also known as FAT.
Simple sugars are often known as the “bad carbs.” Examples of simple sugars include soda, fruit juice, white bread, pastries, candy, etc.
This is a complex form of carbohydrate that is made up of numerous sugar units bonded together.
It takes longer for your body to digest and absorb, which means that it provides a slower release of energy. This type of carbohydrate is more likely to be used for energy, rather than stored as fat.
Complex carbs are often known as the “good carbs.” This is because they provides more nutritional value, and have a slower release of energy. This doesn’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike and drop rapidly.
Examples of complex carbs include vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains such as oats and quinoa.
This is another complex form of carbohydrate, found in complex carbohydrate foods. However, unlike sugars or starch, it can’t be broken down as it’s passed through your digestive system.
Soluble fiber actually dissolves in your body and becomes a gel like substance. It decreases blood sugar and also lowers blood cholesterol.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve. It speeds up the passing of food through your digestive system. This is the type of fiber that keeps you regular.
How low carb diets work
If you reduce the number of carbohydrates you consume, you lower the level of insulin being released into your body.
Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for regulating the use and storage of carbs (glucose) into fat.
When you eat less carbs and your insulin levels are low, your body reverts to a state of ketosis. This means that your body turns to fat stores as a means of energy. This, ultimately results in weight loss.
As I mentioned, cutting carbs to lose weight does actually work. But it my opinion that it is not sustainable and can have consequences.
Why carb cutting can set you back
Though you may notice some immediate results when cutting carbs, the drawbacks are likely to set you back in the long term.
If you suddenly stop fuelling your body with its preferred energy source you will notice a few things happen.
You will likely notice that you feel more hungry, and more often.
Complex carbs provide fiber. Fiber is the thing which keeps you feeling full. You may have heard that fat and protein can keep you feeling full, but none of them work the same as fiber.
Foods high in protein and fat typically do not contain any fiber (or only very small amounts). So you may find that by going super low carb, you will have trouble feeling full, and it may even affect your bowel movements.
INCREASED CONSUMPTION OF PROTEIN AND FAT
If you decrease your carbs, it makes sense that you will need to eat more protein and fat. Even though there is nothing wrong with reducing simple carbs and upping your lean protein and good fat intake, there are some drawbacks to consider.
Too much protein is actually detrimental to your health. Protein contains nitrogen, which your kidneys work hard to filter out. Though your kidneys are designed to do this, too much protein will place your kidneys under stress and can cause damage.
High protein foods such as meat and dairy are also very high in cholesterol and fat, which is difficult for your liver to process.
Good fats are essential to your health and wellbeing, but they are still very high in calories. If you are eating more calories than you use, you are going to end up storing it as fat. The same as you would carbs.
REDUCTION IN FRUIT AND VEGGIE INTAKE
Fruit and vegetables are both carbohydrates, and are essential to a healthy balanced diet. If you significantly decrease your carb intake, it’s likely that you will also decrease your fruit and veg intake (although not guaranteed).
Your body needs a variety of different fruit and vegetables on a daily basis in order to get all the essential vitamins and minerals you need.
So if you are looking into reducing your carb intake, try to keep your daily 1-2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of veggies.
DECREASE IN ENERGY LEVELS
You might experience a lull in your energy levels, especially in the first few weeks as your body adjusts.
This will be noticeable both physically and emotionally, as you become more tired and more prone to mood swings. If you don’t have the energy, you might also struggle with your workouts.
The bottom line
Though your body can survive on a low carb diet, I don’t think it’s healthy or sustainable in the long term.
If you would like to assist in your weight loss efforts by reducing the number of carbs you consume, try reducing the number of simple carbs you eat whilst continuing to eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and some whole grains.
Remember, complex carbs are your friends; it is the simple carbs you can do without.