Low-carb diets are a popular way to lose weight. While not recommended for athletes and highly active individuals who need high levels of carbohydrates for energy, low-carb diets can help most people slim down over time. Of course, a low-carb diet should be coupled with exercise to lose weight more effectively. Healthy eating habits and regular physical activity greatly increase your chances of shedding those extra pounds.
Low-carb diets call for elimination of all simple carbohydrates, limiting caloric intake. You cannot eat foods like white bread, grains, white rice, pasta, soda, juice or starchy vegetables such as potatoes or sugar-rich fruit. These kinds of foods contain large amounts of simple carbohydrates which are great for a quick energy boost but also fattening if eaten in excess.
The Medical Concept
The concept behind low-carb diets relates to blood sugar levels. Simple carbohydrates contain relatively large amounts of calories and convert quickly into sugar in the blood stream after consumption, triggering a release of insulin. The increased insulin levels prevent fat breakdown as the metabolism redirects itself to burn off the sugar molecules rather than the excess fat deposits stored in the body. In other words, eating lots of carbs limits your body's ability to metabolize stored fat, making it harder to lose weight. By cutting carbs out of your diet, you allow your metabolism to burn off more fat.
Foods You Can Eat
Remove carbohydrates from your diet and replace them with healthy substitutes. Eat dairy products, fish, poultry, eggs, meat and vegetables. Many version of low-carb diets exists. Some popular fads include the Atkins diet, the Zone diet and the Protein Power diet. You do not necessarily have to follow one of these diets. The key is simply to reduce your intake of carbs and choose healthy low-carb foods as alternatives.
According to the Mayo Clinic, low-carb diets may help you lose more weight than you would with a strictly low-fat or low-calorie diet. Low-carb diets may also lower cholesterol levels. However, the weight loss results and health benefits of a low-carb diet depend on what sort of foods you eat and your level of physical activity. For instance, the Atkins diet allows you to eat low-carb foods high in saturated fat such as bacon and ribs. Though low in carbs, the overall health benefits of this diet are less than a low-carb diet consisting of only lean protein and vegetables.
Why it Works
Low-carb diets help you lose weight in a variety of ways. First of all, limiting carbs can help you limit caloric intake in general since carbohydrates contain relatively large amounts of calories. Low-carb diets also lead to loss of water weight. Your body burns off glycogen when you initially cut out carbs from your diet. Glycogen contains lots of water molecules, and you will urinate more often when it is burned off, leading to a loss of water weight. Another factor is decreased appetite. Low-carb diets call for foods rich in healthy fats and protein which take longer to digest. This makes you feel fuller for longer, limiting your appetite and caloric intake. When combined over time, these factors contribute to effective weight loss.