When I start a consultation with a new client, nine times out of ten they tell me that they have been on, read or been told to go on a low carb diet to lose fat quickly. I was once one of these people. I used to live on a low carb diet. Diets like the Atkins diet have been made famous by celebrities like Kim Kardashian for their role in shifting baby weight quickly, so many people jump on the band wagon with little knowledge or guidance on the impact of what they are doing to their bodies with such a drastic diet change. As a result, I thought I’d tackle the issue, so here are 4 reasons why you should reconsider cutting carbs from your diet in your effort to shift the fat and what to do instead.
Low carb diets aren’t sustainable
Low carb diets are notoriously difficult to stick to. Why? Because carbs are bloody delicious! Since we like to enjoy ourselves, our lifestyles tend not to suit being on a low carb diet. It can become very boring going out to lunch with your friends and only being able to have a salad. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to be mindful of your diet and total calorie intake, but when you aren’t low carbing it opens up a lot more room for flexibility and just straight enjoyment. This means that if you did have some potato with your steak you don’t have to feel guilty about it! Guilt comes from labelling foods as simply good or bad and is often the cause for people to quit their diet all together, because everything seems to just be seen as bad. Low carb diets can also have a big impact on your emotions and behaviour, making some people feel very down and tired, however a lot of people believe this is just how dieting is meant to feel. This just isn’t true! Whilst you are likely to feel some hunger, you don’t need to feel unwell. Feeling that way will only make it more difficult to stick to your diet over a long period of time, especially if you have a demanding, busy lifestyle.
Low carb diets aren’t necessary
There isn’t any concrete proof that a low carb diet is better for fat loss. A study from 2003 shows that over a period of 3 months a low carb diet was more effective at losing weight, however over the long term (12 months) there was no difference in weight loss between a high carb diet and a low carb diet when calories were kept the same. Of course we have to take studies with a pinch of salt, but from experience I agree with these results. Yes, a low carb diet can be effective and useful for a very short period of time for losing weight quickly but over the long haul, you can lose just as much weight eating a more balanced macronutrient approach. If your goal is to look your best year round then a more balanced approach is a much better choice!
Carbs actually help to create sexy curves
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source when weight lifting. If you want to build curves then you need to do some form of weighted resistance training in order to build muscle. If you don’t have a supply of energy to fuel your workout then you won’t be able to train hard enough to effectively and efficiently grow that muscle. A low carb diet also means that your muscles will look flat rather than rounded. Consuming carbs before your workout further contributes to the full, pumped appearance brought upon by increased blood flow. Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose, which is then stored as glycogen in your muscles. I have previously been on a low carb diet and noticed that even if I trained very hard it was difficult to get a pump, my muscles never looked like they were improving which was incredibly demotivating and I found it hard to continue when my dietary discipline didn’t seem to be reflected in my results.
Cutting carbs could cause health issues
I won’t go into detail on our hormones and what they do – but cutting carbs can mess them up and cause imbalance. Going too low can cause irregular periods, halt weight loss, cause tiredness, irritability, lack of concentration and loss of sex drive. Who wants any of them!? My motto is ‘bread is life!’ Anyone who knows me, knows if you take bread away from me I am not a happy girl. There is a noticeable difference in my mood and ability to focus when I have skipped carbs.
So what does this mean for your diet?
There are two things that are more important to achieving your body shape goals then carbs, total calories and protein. Keep your protein levels high and make sure you are eating the right amount of calories you need to achieve your individual goal each day. Then just keep it balanced! The body loves balance, all three food groups were created because we need them all. There are some days where I have more carbs than others. I have more when I am more active and less when I am resting, but overall the amount I have in a week is still quite high. Body aside, your mental state also deserves the freedom having more carbs gives you- being a hangry bitch is not fun for you or anyone around you!
However, what we need to keep in mind is that everybody is different. I am currently losing body fat consistently each week eating on average 150g carbs per day but that number isn’t transferrable to anyone else or guaranteed to give the same results. No single diet is so perfect that it will give everybody that sticks to it exactly the same amazing results. Our genetics, hormones, body type, etc all play a huge factor in how our body reacts to the food and activity we give it. This means that an element of trial and error is required when applying any dieting principles. Some people’s bodies can tolerate and need higher levels of carbs than others, only by starting at a moderate amount and slowly increasing over time to see how much you need and how it makes you feel can you be sure. Listen to your body and take appropriate measurements to track progress against your own specific goals
What to do next?
Firstly you should try to prioritise quality carbs over sugary ones- sweet potatoes, potatoes, wholegrain rice and oats are great choices. Having said that, the odd Nutella crumpet every now and then doesn’t hurt as long as it fits within your daily calorie and macronutrient allowance (carbs, protein and fats).
If you are considering a low carb diet, I would reconsider and think about adopting a more balanced macronutrient split whilst always keeping your protein intake steady. If you need help calculating your macros try using my basic macros calculator or for an even more detailed summary you can use this one.
If you are currently on a very low carb diet, don’t drastically increase your carbs overnight. A better approach is to increase them slowly over a number of weeks so your body has time to adjust to the change. This way you are less likely to rebound and store the extra food as fat. If you feel like you need a more structured intervention to your current diet you can contact me for more specific advice tailored to you and I would be more than happy to help you reach your goals.