I”ve come across a lot of this kind of thinking recently; that to lose any weight, the only approach that will work is low carb. This post will hopefully show you some of why that is a common knee-jerk reaction, and why it”s often misguided.
Carbs are necessary to function. They provide the most accessible source of energy for your body – in other words, it doesn”t have to make much effort to generate usable energy from most carb sources. Proteins and fats require a little more of your body. Side effects of “going low carb” (typically meaning having less than 50g of carbs per day) include headaches, bad breath and dizziness. If that doesn”t show you how much your body needs carbs for adequate function, then what does?!
There is a process known as “ketosis”, which many low carb diets aim for and extol as being the holy grail of fat loss. Done properly, by a knowledgeable person who is already in control of their eating habits and is insanely disciplined, it can work. Chances are, though, that YOU aren”t that person.
So why is low-carb such a popular approach?
Mainly because in the Western world we”ve got our food balance all out of whack. We”ve gone way too far in favour of carbs, in most cases, and some people”s diets consist of 80% carbs. Put simply, they”re too prevalent and too more-ish, and are the key constituent of too many foods that are truly awful for you – most cereals, cakes, chocolates, crisps etc.
You can probably see that not all carbs are created equal. Maybe the distinction should be made between foods that are decent nutritionally (potatoes, vegetables, fruit) and foods that aren”t (crisps, cakes, cereals).
Carbs tend to form a huge part of our diets – bread as an accompaniment to meals, pasta and potatoes taking up half a plate with no green veg to be seen. This is the real problem, and why the low(er) carb approach can work – it removes some nutritionally defunct calories from a diet.
Aim to get your carbs from good sources – sweet and normal potatoes, vegetables, some (not an excess of) fruit, pasta and wholegrain bagels. Unless you”re heavily into your training, and need the excess energy, try to keep the servings of potatoes and pastas down to fist-size, and not the whole plate!
Don”t treat carbs as some kind of pariah. Simply cutting carbs out of your diet alone will not make you lose fat. Ultimately, it”s a calorie deficit that will do that. Removing the nutritionally-barren carbs (chocolate, crisps, cereals, white breads) from your diet, and replacing them with good fats and proteins, however, will always lead to positive mental and physical results.