How Low-Carb Diets Work

How Low-Carb Diets Work

Humans evolved (see what I did there) over millions of years without eating huge amounts of carbohydrates. The only foods eaten were the ones that could be hunted and gathered. These foods did not include pure starch in the form of bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, these starchy foods have in comparison only been eaten for a short amount of time.

Around 100 to 200 years ago, the industrial revolution saw factories that could manufacture large amounts of pure sugar and white flour – rapidly digested pure carbohydrates. Unfortunately, (or fortunately depends on how you look at it) our genetics have yet to adapt to this new food. 

In the 80s, the fear of becoming fat became such an obsession that all foods became “low-fat”. The problem with this is if you eat less fat you need to eat more carbohydrates to feel satiated. Food manufacturers around this time were also adding cheap High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) into the low fat food products to stop them tasting like cardboard. This I believe, other resources suggest was the beginning of the obesity and diabetes epidemic. America – the most fat-phobic country in the world was hit the hardest and is now the world’s most obese country.

What we are left with today are complete misconceptions and a fear of real food with natural fat contents.

The science made easy:

All digestible carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars in the intestines. The sugar is then absorbed into the blood, raising the blood glucose levels. This increases the production of the hormone insulin; our fat storing hormone insulin is produced in the pancreas. In large amounts it prevents fat burning and stores surplus nutrients in fat cells. After a few hours or less this may result in a perceived shortage of nutrients in the blood, creating feelings of hunger and cravings for something sweet. Usually at that point people eat again. This starts the process again: A vicious cycle leading to weight gain.

On the other hand, a low intake of carbs gives you a lower, more stable blood glucose, and lower amounts of insulin. This increases the release of fat from your fat stores and increases the fat burning. This usually leads to fat loss, especially around the belly in abdominally obese individuals.

A high fat low carbohydrate diet makes it easier for the body to use its fat reserves, as their release is no longer blocked by high insulin levels. This may be one reason why eating fat produces a feeling of longer-lasting satiety than carbohydrates. Research shows that when people eat what they want on a low carb diet, calorie intake generally lowers.

So the good news is that there is no need to count or weigh food! You can forget about the calories and trust your feelings of hunger and satiety. If you don’t believe it, just try for a couple of weeks and see for yourself.

No wild animals need to count calories. And still, as long as they eat the food they are designed to eat, they stay at a normal weight and they avoid illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Why as mammals, would we be any different?

Scientific studies also show that not only is weight improved on a low carb diet, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol profiles (HDL, triglycerides) are also improved.

As with any major changes to diet, if you stop eating sugar and starch completely you may experience some side effects as your body adjusts. For most people these side effects such as headaches, fatigue and irritability tend to be mild and last just a few days.

The side effects quickly subside as your body adapts and your fat burning increases. Side effects can be minimised by drinking more fluids and by increasing your salt intake (try Himalayan salt). The reason for this is that carbohydrate-rich foods may increase the water retention in your body. When you stop eating high-carb foods you’ll lose excess water through your kidneys. This can result in dehydration and a lack of salt during the first week, before the body has adapted.

Hope this makes sense to you all.

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