The Dilemma of Low-Carb Diet
Calorie restriction and increased physical activity can certainly make you shed 0.5 to 0.7 kg a week. For this, you need to restrict your calorie intake from 500 to 750 each day.
Low carbs diets are gaining popularity for their potential in shedding pounds over a short span. Therefore, a considerable population is following a low-carb diet to effectively reduce weight over a short duration.
Cutting carbs is what strikes us first when we put on a few pounds. It is so because it’s more convenient to cut on carbs. Also, many of us are willing to switch to a high protein and high-fat diet for sensory satisfaction for which a low carb diet can also be described as a 'low carb, high protein' or 'low carb, high fat, diet depending on the choice of macronutrients.
Interestingly, cutting calories from carbs may not be the only reason to lose weight with low-carb diets. Some studies reveal that extra protein and fat consumed instead of carbs helps you feel full longer so that you cut those extra calories to lose weight. This also reduces your blood glucose level to manage diabetes.
While we reduce carbs consumption in our diet, the physiological changes occurring in our body try to match metabolic fuel from the diet. The increased energy expenditure and reduced body parameters result in short-term loss of body fat.
In general, low-carb diets restrict grains, cereals and legumes, dairy, most fruit, and certain vegetables that are rich in carbs. The energy intake is shifted to food higher in fat and protein, such as meats, poultry, cheese, butter, cream, and oils.
International food authorities have recommended 45% to 65% of total calories from carbs for adults. That reduces calorie intake to 45% in low carb diet.1
In absolute terms, a non‐keto low carb diet allows having 50 g to 150 g of carbohydrates, while a keto low carb diet or very low carb diet allows having a maximum of 50 g of carbs, with this latter variant as observed being more effective for short duration weight loss. With 50 g /day of carbs, the keto diet leads to high production of ketones in the liver and blood as an energy source.2,3
In contrast, a low-fat diet or balanced weight‐reducing diet considers all macronutrients in required portions with 45% to 65% carbs, 10% - 35% by protein, and 20% - 35% fat.4
Hence, there is room for flexibility from lower to higher intakes of carbohydrates, fat, and protein in a balanced diet.
These dietary interventions help you make better food choices, in terms of improving the nutritional quality of macronutrients you consume. For instance carbohydrates from refined grains can be replaced by whole grains, protein from processed meat can be replaced by fish and eggs and unhealthy fat from butter or refined oil can be replaced with healthy fats from olive oil.
The calorie intake from quality sources can manage your calorie deficit and help you reach a static weight.
What does a balanced diet include?
A well-balanced diet includes a sufficient quantity of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and healthy oils along with adequate proteins from poultry, fish, and meat.
A balanced diet also limits your intake of high-calorie dietary choices of processed meats and sugar‐sweetened beverages, with little or no alcohol.5
Excluding carbs completely from the diet can exclude all benefits associated with it. This can make sustainable health difficult to achieve.
Drawbacks of low carb diet
Low-carb diets, especially those that are extremely low in carbs, can certainly lead to effective short-term weight loss more effectively than a low-fat diet. This strategy is considered to be superior to other dietary interventions for rapid weight loss in the first 6 to 12 months.6,7
However, a number of studies have revealed that extending a low-carb diet beyond 12 months might not be that effective.
Some studies claim that low carb diet decreases the risk of heart disease and diabetes, reduces triglycerides, increases high‐density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or good cholesterol, and improves blood sugar levels over one year and even four weeks.8
However, low-carb is followed with potential side effects over a short duration including:
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Lack of Appetite
- Bad Breath
- Muscle Cramp
- Hair Loss
- Mood Disturbances
- Increased LDL (low‐density lipoprotein) Or Bad Cholesterol
- Impaired ability to Concentrate
Extreme restriction of macronutrients, with very low carbohydrate diets, results in an imbalance of macronutrient intake, suboptimal micronutrient intake, and potential side effects over a period of time.
A 25 yr follow-up on the association between carbohydrate intake and death rate suggests that the risk is lowest among those who consumed a balanced carb diet containing 50% to 55% carbs.9
What do you need to do?
If you wish to follow a low-carb diet, the most appropriate way is to incorporate through a rapid induction phase of 2 to 4 weeks, with 20 to 50 gms of carbs to induce nutritional ketosis.
Include vegetables that grow above the ground and are lower in carb content. Additionally, carbs from whole and processes food should be completely restricted.
Once you have achieved your health goals, slowly add healthy carbs from whole, unprocessed vegetables and low-glycemic, high-fiber fruit (i.e., berries).
If you are interested in trying a lower-carb diet, try to include some fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
A healthy balanced diet that contains optimum carbs and fat is a less restrictive way of achieving long-term health. While an unhealthy low-carb and low-fat diet might sound interesting if you wish to lose weight in the short term. However, such a diet is associated with short-term health benefits but long-term risk factors.
This suggests that the quality of the diet matters, not just the macronutrient itself.
Different dietary interventions work for different groups of people, so following a low-carb diet plan can be helpful in some cases and cause adverse effects in other cases.
If you have any medical conditions you should consult with your doctor or dietitian before trying a restrictive approach like this.
Plan your healthy low-carb diet on DrTrust360 to get back your body metrics.