A Closer Look at Low Carb Dieting

Protein Foods

A Closer Look at Low Carb Dieting

Let’s take a look at some of the nutrient ratios that the popular low carb diet programs recommend.

During the 1980s and 90s, the Pritkin diet recommended 70 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein and 10 percent fat. Other programs falling into this category are the Dean Ornish’s “Eat More Weigh Less” program, Robert Hass’s “Eat to Win” and vegetarianism.

When the right types of carbohydrates are eaten, this is a healthy way to eat. However, it’s too lopsided in favor of carbohydrates. You can’t call it a balanced diet. When you are looking to shift your body composition from fat to muscle, it’s important to know that many people simply don’t respond well to high carbohydrates. Some extremely carbohydrate-sensitive people actually see increases in cholesterol and triglycerides when their carbs are too high.

High Fat, High Protein, Low Carb Diet

Low Carb Diet Foods
Low Carb Diet Foods

On the other side you have a high fat, high protein, very low carb diet. The Atkin’s Diet is the most popular. Others include Protein Power, The Carbohydrate Addicts Diet, Sugar Busters, The Ketogenic diet, Th Anabolic Diet and a whole host of other programs that impose strict regulations on the amount of carbohydrate you can eat.

The basic assumption of the very low carbohydrate approach is that carbohydrates cause fat storage because they increase insulin production. Insulin is portrayed as a fat-storing monster that makes everything you eat turn into fat. The objective of these programs is to control insulin by cutting out carbohydrates. This will supposedly cause rapid body fat loss.

There is some truth in these arguments, but unfortunately, the information has been distorted. Contrary to what certain diet gurus tell you, carbohydrates are not fattening. What’s fattening is eating more calories than your body can use at one time.

A very low carb diet fails to keep body fat off permanently. It’s nearly impossible to stay on low carbohydrates for a long time. It’s also up for debate whether the very high saturated fat levels allowed in these programs are healthy.

Moderate Carbohydrate Restriction

Moderate carbohydrate restriction will usually speed up fat loss. A very low carbohydrate diet is not the ultimate answer to permanent fat loss. At worst it’s unhealthy and causes muscle loss.  At best it’s a temporary tool that should only be used for short term periods for specific fat loss goals.

The flaw in the very low carbohydrate approach is the assumption that everyone is carbohydrate sensitive. According to research, only 20 to 30 percent of the population is carbohydrate sensitive. Only a fraction of them are seriously carbohydrate sensitive. The best way to look at very low carb diet is as a last resort for those with extreme difficulty losing fat the conventional way.

Author: Jeni

Certified by the Professional School of Fitness and Nutrition in March, 1995; honored for exemplary grades. Practicing fitness and nutrition for over 20 years. Featured in the Feb. 1994 issue of "Shape" magazine. Featured in Collage in the spring issue of 1995 Low fat recipe's published in Taste of Home, Quick Cooking, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, among others. September, 2001: Featured in "Winning The War on Cholesterol" By Rodale Publishing