Before we discuss how a low carb diet can lead to weight loss and how much weight you can lose by following this diet plan, we first need to understand what are carbohydrates.
What are Carbohydrates
Our foods consist of different nutrients. The major groups are proteins, carbohydrates also called carbs and fats. Then there are different vitamins too which are required in small amounts. There are two types of carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are those which have simple sugar molecules and which are digested quickly and energy is released into the bloodstream quite quickly. We need these when we are feeling really hungry. In that case, carbohydrates provide quick energy. Some examples of simple carbohydrates are honey, sugar, pastries, biscuits and white bread.
Whereas complex carbohydrates are those which have complex sugar bonds which take time to break, digest and become part of the blood stream. You feel less fatigued and less hungry between meals when you eat complex carbohydrates. Some examples include oats, brown rice, barley, rye and spelt.
Regardless of the type of carbohydrate, all extra carbs are stored in the form of fats in your body which of course cause obesity.
What is Low Carb Diet
A low carb diet puts limits on carbohydrates in your and encourages more use of protein and fats in your diet. There are different types of low carb diets with different limits on daily carbs but the main idea behind all of these is the same. This is used for losing weight. However, there are other benefits too aside from weight loss when you follow a low carb diet. You may use it to change to healthy eating habits. Or you might like the foods that are part of low-carb diets.
The main idea behind low carb diets is to decrease carbs consumption, which lowers production of insulin levels in the body. And with less insulin being produced, body uses more energy from the fats already stored in the body and all this results in weight loss.
What you eat on a low carb diet
Generally speaking, low carb diet has focus on the following foods:
- Meat. If possible grass fed organic meat is best.
- Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots etc
- High-fat dairy like butter cheese, yogurt and heavy cream
- Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds
- Fats and oils like olive oil, lard, coconut oil etc.
Which Foods to Avoid
When you are following a low carb diet plan, the following foods need to be avoided:
- All sugar based foods like soft drinks, ice creams, candies etc.
- Gluten containing grains like wheat, barley, spelt rye etc. Also includes pastas and white breads.
- Foods containing trans fats, hydrodtenated fats or partially hydrogenated oils
- Vegetable oils like soybean, sunflower, canola oils etc.
- All artificial sweeteners need to be avoided. For sweet taste, use Stevia as a replacement.
- Many dairy products, cereals and crackers etc.
- All processed foods. As a general principle, do not eat foods that are made in a factory.
How many carbs on a low carb diet are allowed
A typical low carb diet will limit your daily intake of carbohydrates between 60 to 130 grams which means that you need to get between 250 to 500 calories from carbs. Some low carb diets restrict carb intake to even lower than 60 grams a day.
However, dietary guidelines recommend that at the minimum 45 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from carbs. Therefore, if you are on a 2000 calorie diet, then you need to eat at least 230 grams of carbs a day which will provide you with around 900 calories from carbs.
How much weight you lose with low carb diet
There is not doubt about the fact that when you restrict your calorie intake, which low carb diet plan does, you do lose weight in the short term. And when you are following very low-carb diet, then you will experience significant short term weight loss.
However, when we consider it in the long term ( one year or more), the benefits of low carb diet are not miraculous. If you eat a balanced diet with calorie deficit and regular exercise, you lose as much weight as you do with low carb diet. There might a difference of one pound.
However, cutting back on carbs and calories is not the only contributing factor to weight loss. Some studies have suggested that you eat less because you compensate low carb intake with extra proteins which keep you feel fuller for a longer duration of time.
Risks of Low Carb Diets
Some of the possible health issues you might experience when you cut your carbs drastically include:
- Bad breadth
- Constipation or diarrhea
The risks are greater with extreme low carb diets which may lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies and other stomach related issues.
A process named ketosis starts when you limit your daily carb intake to below 20 grams. When your body does not find enough sugar for performing functions, it breaks stored fats and in the process ketones are built up in the body. And ketosis causes effects like headache, nausea, bad breath and physical and mental fatigue.
When you follow a low carb diet plan, you restrict sugars in your diet which can have positive effect on your health but if you plan to follow a strict low carb diet, then you need to consult it with your health professional because of the possible negative effects on your health if you follow it in the long run.