If you’ve ever tried to lose weight or alter your body composition, you’ve probably tried to go low carb or have been told to go low carb. If you’ve followed me for a while you would know that I don’t promote low carb diets or recommend them to my clients.
But, they’re a super popular diet and tool for weight loss. So why don’t I like them?
Am I just a Nutritionist that is anti-diets and anti-low carb? (answer: no!)
And if it’s not good, then why do your friends get results?! I’ll explain WHY and the pros and cons
How does going low carb equal weight loss?
Carbs are stored in the body as glycogen. Each gram of glycogen comes with 3 grams of water attached.
So, when you cut carbs or go low carb you lose your stored glycogen and the water stored with it.
This means that the weight you’ve lost is likely water weight and not true fat loss.
This water weight will return when you start eating carbs again. This isn’t you yo-yoing, going backwards or failing at the diet, it’s a normal physiological response to eating carbs and is water weight, not fat gain.
When you cut out carbs you stop consuming many calorie-dense foods like cakes, chocolate, burgers, chips, pizza etc. By reducing your intake of these foods, you might also be reducing your overall calorie intake and thus creating a calorie deficit and losing weight. (Which you could also do by reducing your intake of these foods as a whole, not just when going low carb)
When you make the decision to cut carbs you may also have the mentality of “I’m going to lose weight” “I’m going to try really hard and change my diet”.
You’re starting a health kick or new phase where you want to get back on track and you also implement other health-promoting habits.
You might start exercising more, drinking more water, consuming less alcohol and discretionary foods. You start doing other habits that contribute to weight loss (create a calorie deficit) alongside the new diet.
The low carb diet isn’t necessarily the only thing that’s contributing to your weight loss.
You are removing an entire food group from your diet.
If you remove a large portion of your diet, any part (a food group, a meal etc) you are eating less than before. Therefore, you’ve created a calorie deficit and will lose weight.
Why shouldn’t you go low carb?
Carbs are delicious
Carbs are also whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, wholemeal bread and pasta. They are fruits and vegetables, legumes and beans. Carbs are some of the healthiest foods!!
By cutting them out you might lose weight, but you might not be healthy.
We need these fibre rich foods for fibre, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. They help keep us feeling full, lower our cholesterol, reduce our risk of developing certain cancers and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
You can lose weight without going low carb.
There are other healthier more enjoyable weight loss tools out there, so why not utilise those?
It might not be good for your relationship with food.
If you’re cutting out carbs because you see them as bad, and you are demonizing them, this can be dangerous and unhelpful in the long term.
What happens when you end the diet? Usually, your mindset stays the same. You still subconsciously see carbs or food as good and bad.
If you eat a slice of bread, you’ll think “oh I’m going to put the weight back on because carbs are bad, and I have to cut them out if I want to lose weight.”
You no longer see bread as bread, you see it as bad food and something that you should restrict.
Long term when you want to go out for pizza or ice-cream with a friend, this mentality is not helpful or enjoyable
With all that being said, if you want to go low carb, it is possible to do it in a healthy way. It wouldn’t be cutting out carbs completely, but it’s possible and something that a Nutritionist or Dietitian can help with to ensure you’re doing it in a healthy and non-damaging way
My personal and professional weight loss preference is to include all foods as part of a balanced diet that is enjoyable and sustainable. Whilst also achieving the weight loss that you desire. If you’re needing some help with finding what balance is for you, head over here