Overrated Low Carb Diets
By: Darren Anderson
News flash, ''Carbohydrates don't make you fat! Eating too much makes you fat. Carbohydrates will not make you gain weight any faster than eating the caloric equivalent of either protein or fat. Have you ever heard the expression, ''What weighs more a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks?'' Obviously they both weigh the same, but its funny how many of us say a pound of bricks. Likewise, which of the following has a higher probability of making a person gain more weight, 3000 calories of chicken or 3000 calories of cupcakes? The answer is that there is no difference. 3000 calories is 3000 calories no matter what constitutes the source. Energy doesn't just disappear because it came from something other than carbohydrates, our body has to metabolize it one way or another. The law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed only transferred. So either that energy is used to conduct physiologic processes or it is stored.
So why all the hype about low carb diets? Mainly it has to do with the quick fix trend. Everyone wants instant gratification without having to pay the price of dedication and hard work. In general we as a society are lazy and we spend most of our waking hours being sedentary. Who has time to be concerned about exercise and watching what we eat, we have long work days, and have families to care for. This is why low carb diets are so appealing. They are easy to follow and work relatively fast. There is no denying you can lose a large amount of weight quickly on a low carb diet. However, what many people may not know is that water constitutes the majority, roughly 75%, of the weight, leaving only 25% of the weight loss resulting in actual fat reduction.
Besides the illusion that you're losing fat, there are also many undesirable side effects that these ''low carb professionals'' fail to mention when suggesting that we eat like carnivores. First, as I mentioned above, most of the weight loss is not fat loss, it's actually mostly water weight. Second, it is very possible that you can slow down your resting metabolism. Third, when neglecting important foods such as fruits and grains you are putting yourself at risk for becoming deficient in many important vitamins and minerals. Lastly, if you are an athlete you will greatly reduce your ability to perform at your highest potential.
When you take into consideration that our bodies are capable of storing 300 - 600 grams of carbohydrates or even as much as 1000 grams in individuals who are either extremely muscular or obese. Our bodies need three grams of water for every gram of carbohydrates stored. That adds up to anywhere from 900 - 3000 grams (2 - 6.6 pounds) of water weight alone. When you lose 5 - 7 pounds of body weight the first week on a low carb diet, you can expect that only two pounds of that is fat. So when we start a low carb diet and exhaust our carbohydrate stores we also lose water because the water is no longer necessary for storage. It is practically impossible to lose more than three pounds of fat in one week unless you are morbidly obese. There are approximately 3500 calories in one pound of fat. So to lose three pounds of fat in one week you would have to find some way to eliminate 10,500 calories (3500 calories × 3 lbs of fat = 10,500 cal). So in order to lose 3 lbs of fat per week we would have to eliminate 1,500 calories from our diet per day (10,500 ¸ 7days = 1500 cal/day)! See how it is not possible. What happens when we start eating carbs again? Simple, we gain all that water weight back. Our weight fluctuates up and down.
Carbohydrates are very important substrates for many physiologic mechanisms throughout the body. Most importantly, carbohydrates are an energy source for the central nervous system including our brain. When carbohydrates are no longer available our body needs a back up generator. That back-up generator is a process called gluconeogenesis which means the body begins to manufacture carbohydrates from other materials in the body such as muscle proteins, or breaking down lean tissue in order to supply other tissues with energy. Thus we turn our bodies into catabolic factories. Our metabolism may even begin to slow since you are destroying muscle, one of the most metabolically active tissues in the body. This makes us especially vulnerable to future weight gains. In times of carbohydrate deprivation the body will also resort to producing ketone bodies from fatty acids. This is great for losing fat weight, however, this can lead to a dangerous condition known as ketosis which causes disturbances in the body's normal acid-base balance. There is even research that suggests that ketosis and low carb diets may even lead to osteoporosis, kidney problems, and don't forget bad breath.
Additionally, Foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates are important sources of vitamins and minerals essential to your well being which you deny your body while on low carb diets. Fruits and grains contain important anti-oxidants which are necessary for disease prevention. There have also been numerous studies that suggest high intakes of fruits and vegetables are associated with decreased risks of some forms cancer and heart disease. There are also high levels of vitamin B found in many grain foods such as bread. B vitamins are important in many metabolic and neurological processes. These are just to a small handful of reasons not to deprive your body of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and the list goes on and on.
Low carb diets can lead to decreased athletic performance. In any athletic event, the majority of energy expended comes from carbohydrates. An athlete is unable to perform at full potential without the immediate availability of carbohydrates. Without adequate carbs the body has to rely on creating the carbs before they can be used for energy. In turn the body has to work at a lower rate as to not exceed the rate of carb manufacturing.
Are there good and bad carbohydrates? The answer to that question is undeniably, yes. Fortunately, you can look forward to my next article which will discuss how to differentiate between "good" and "bad" carbs and when it is ok to have ''bad'' carbs.
In the mean time, practice keeping your diet well balanced, and eat in moderation. The Food Guide Pyramid is a good source for creating a meal plan. The purpose of the Food Guide Pyramid is to make sure that we are getting all our recommended daily allowances of essential nutrients. Good luck! If you have any questions regarding this article just send me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org.